Dan Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Mon Aug 18 13:04:12 UTC 2003

> My conclusion from this state of affairs is that the term "iteratives"
> should not be used at all -- once a term has been widely and
> prominently
> used in two different senses, it is usually better to give it up and
> use
> alternatives (e.g. just "pluractional" and "repetitive").
> Martin
> --
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
> Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz
> 6	

I don't think I agree with Martin on this suggestion. Terms are always
going to be used and misused in various ways and to abandon a term
because it has become confusing will simply increase confusion
exponentially. I suggest that terms be defined when they are used. If
one wishes to use the term 'iterative' for an action which occurs only
once, that is fine, so long as the linguist defines the term clearly at
the outset of his/her study. If there is a contrast in a single
language between multiply repeated events vs. simple, single repeats,
then different terms should be used and defined.

Much the same ambiguity is found already in IPA symbols. A [p] in
Piraha, for example, is not a [p] in Portuguese. They are similar, but
not identical. I wouldn't be helping my fellow linguists if I failed to
note this distinction. But I would also be remiss if I invented another
symbol, since the two [p]s both fall under the broad intention of the
IPA symbol, [p]. (They are both voiceless bilabial stops, but in Piraha
the lips are flatter.)

All of our terminology is simply a set of approximations, always in
need of fine-tuning on a case-by-case basis. The failure to recognize
this and to believe that a single term can be used in a more or less
constant sense across languages is one of my pet peeves with
typological research in general.

-- Dan Everett

Daniel L. Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Postgraduate Tutor and Postgraduate Admissions Officer
Department of Linguistics
University of Manchester
Manchester, UK
M13 9PL 	
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Department Fax: 44-161-275-3187

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