Eitan Grossman eitangrossman at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 11 21:33:06 UTC 2004

Dear Typologists,

Perhaps this would be an opportune moment to raise a question that has often
bothered me. In many languages, the finite verb (understood as a personal
marker + the verbal lexeme + the nexus between them) may indeed constitute
an independent utterance:

Modern Hebrew: halaxti "I went", elex "I'll go"
Coptic: afsotm "he heard"

However, actual linguistic usage is often different. In certain registers of
spoken Modern Hebrew, for example, an independent pronoun is indispensable
"ani 'alaxti" (I went), "ani (y)elex" (I'll go). The functional spectrum of
such constructions aside, how would one best analyze their internal
structure in terms of nucleus-satellite analysis? In other words, if the
appositive pronoun is obligatory and in agreement with the explicit
person-marker of the finite verb, should one analyze this as a discontinuous
element, or is there any possibility of analyzing one or the other as
nuclear, and the other as satellital? Is there any synchronic justification
for analyzing one as prior, or "motivating", with regard to the other?

As an aside, one might mention that "ani yelex" (I'll go) rather than the
normative "ani elex" is not simply assimilation of the verbal prefix to the
front vowel in the personal pronoun, as one finds it even when elements such
as "gam" (also), "od" (still), "lo" (negation) come between the two
elements. This, to my way of thinking, testifies to a close syntactic
juncture between the two elements, rather than to the result of analogical
levelling. This phenomenon could perhaps be compared to (modern) Celtic
mutations, which signal syntactic relations rather than sandhi phenomena.

I'd be glad to hear your opinions on this matter, which is to my mind a more
troubling problem of linguistic analysis than any that terms such as
"pro-drop" (and the way of thinking that goes with them) provide.


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