positioning of 'property concepts' in the NP

Yury Lander yulander at YANDEX.RU
Tue Mar 30 08:44:10 UTC 2010

Dear Fritz,

Adyghe (Northwest Caucasian) is sometimes considered to be such a language. Here - roughly - canonical adjectives follow the noun, while noun modifiers and verb modifiers precede it. However, on a closer inspection, the picture turns out to be more complicated. The main problem is that Adyghe is a polysynthetic language, where some "syntactic" functions are served by morphology - or, at least, at the word level. Some adnominal modifiers constitute with their head noun a tighter polysynthetic complex (recognizable due to a number of structural and morphonemic criteria), let's say a word.


1) Adjectives and their "head" nouns obligatorily constitute a single word N-ADJ. E.g., house-big.
2) Non-referential noun modifiers and their "head" nouns obligatorily constitute a single word (some would say, a compound): N(Mod)-N(Head). E.g., wood-house (wood-house-big, etc.). It may be relevant for you that the same position is occupied by "relational adjectives", recent borrowings from Russian which are clearly adjectives in the donor language. But of course, this is a rather marginal case.
3) Verb modifiers (heads of "participial" relative clauses) sometimes constitute a single word with their "head" nouns, even if these verb modifiers have their own dependants. But they need not do so. V-N or [V N]. E.g., there standing house or there standing-house ('a house that is there').
4) Referential possessors are cross-referenced in the polysynthetic complex (which in that case seemingly cannot contain a verb modifier) and are marked with their own oblique case. POSSESSOR-OBL possessor-N (where small possessor means a cross-reference person/number prefix). E.g., John-OBL his-wood-house-big.

Demonstratives precede the nominal complex, and there is also a class of quasi-adjectives like 'today's', which also precede the nominal complex. These quasi-adjectives, however, definitely constitute a formal class which is very different from adjectives.

Anyway, within this nominal complex adjectives follow the noun, while noun and verb modifiers precede it. But if we take a broader perspective, then we'll see that independent modifiers always precede their heads, but adjectives never serve in this way.

Best wishes,

29.03.10, 12:56, "Frederick J Newmeyer" <fjn at U.WASHINGTON.EDU>:

> Dear all,
>  I wonder if I might deflect the discussion from academic publishing for a moment. I am looking for an example of a language manifesting something very specific -- a language which might or might not exist:
>  1. In this language 'property concepts' (to use a neutral term) are encoded in part by a distinct category 'Adjective' and also by what are uncontroversially Nouns or Verbs in terms of their catgeory assignments.
>  2. In this language, within the Noun Phrase, Adjective modifiers of the Noun appear on one side of the Noun that they modify, whereas Noun or Verb modifiers appear on the opposite side of the Noun that they modify.
>  Does anybody know an example of such a language?
>  Thanks!
>  --fritz
>  Frederick J. Newmeyer
>  Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
>  Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University
>  [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

Yury A. Lander
Dept. of Languages, Institute of Oriental Studies
Rozhdestvenka, 12
Moscow 107031 Russia

Email: yulander at yandex.ru
URL:   http://yulander.narod.ru

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list