LT: Category Check

Matthew Dryer dryer at BUFFALO.EDU
Tue Dec 18 16:38:18 UTC 2012


Two points.

First, Martin's suggestion of "term check" does not really apply to the 
second part of what Frans said: discussion of typologically unusual 
categories in particular languages is presumably discussion of the 
category itself, independent of what term we apply to it.

Second, Frans' wording implies that categories can be polysemous or 
homonymous.  But it is not categories that can be polysemous; it is 
terms for categories.  This may seem like a quibble but I think that 
failure to distinguish categories from labels that we linguists might 
apply to such categories is often a source of confusion and 
misunderstanding.

Matthew

On 12/17/12 8:24 AM, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
> This is an excellent proposal, if by "category check" one means "term 
> check". The grammatical terms that we use are often confusing, because 
> they have different meanings in different authors or in different 
> traditions. Terminological reflection can help remedy this situation.
>
> But I think one should be careful to avoid the impression that the 
> grammatical terms we use are anything other than convenient tools used 
> by linguists. Categories of languages are language-specific entities, 
> and they cannot be "polysemous" or "homonymous".
>
> Here are some further comments on the "Diversity Linguistics Comment" 
> blog: http://dlc.hypotheses.org/332
>
> Greetings,
> Martin
>
> On 16/12/2012 18:48, Plank wrote:
>> CALL FOR PAPERS
>>
>> We invite submissions for a new regular feature of LT, CATEGORY 
>> CHECK.  The remit is a dual one:  (i) to acquaint the typological and 
>> wider public with the more unfamiliar categories from the languages 
>> of the world, be they phonetic, phonological, morphological, 
>> syntactic, semantic, or pragmatic;  and/or (ii) to explain 
>> categories, familiar or unfamiliar, that are polysemous or homonymous 
>> or just unclear in current descriptive and theoretical practice.
>>
>> Contributions must be theoretically informed and crosslinguistically 
>> firmly grounded.   Also, we expect an awareness that comparability 
>> across languages and theory-dependence are real issues.
>>
>> Although contributions should be concise, and authoritative rather 
>> than argumentative in style, they will be more detailed than the 
>> typical entry in a linguistic dictionary or encyclopedia.  Without 
>> rendering conventional scholarly research redundant, crowdsourcing 
>> (e.g., through lingtyp) can be useful to ascertain crosslinguistic 
>> distributions.
>>
>> Submissions are welcome at any time, and they will be peer-reviewed 
>> like all submissions to LT.
>>
>> Many previous contributions to LT have effectively served some such 
>> purpose:  remember mirativity, interrogative verbs, delocutive verbs, 
>> senary base (numeral systems with base 6), the labial flap?  There's 
>> lots more that one could think of, and that some languages have 
>> thought of.  Categories some of us have been thinking of 
>> as candidates for CATEGORY CHECK include these -- and feel free to 
>> expand the list:
>>
>> allotive [sic;  with epenthetic /t/: "opérateur d'altérité")
>> aorist
>> associative
>> avertive, frustrative, apprehensional
>> case assimilation
>> collective
>> conative
>> conjunct/disjunct
>> deponent
>> diphthong
>> endoclitic
>> equative
>> floating tone
>> generic
>> gerund
>> imprecative/optative
>> inchoative, inceptive, ingressive;  terminative, cessative, 
>> completive;  continuative
>> initial mutation
>> interrogative inflection
>> inverse
>> inverse number marking
>> laryngeal
>> lenis/fortis
>> logophor
>> metathesis as a grammatical device
>> oblique
>> obviative
>> polarity
>> prospective, proximative;  retrospective
>> remote/immediate (past, future, imperative;  hesternal, hodiernal etc.)
>> supine
>> template, templatic morphology
>> tonal case marking
>> trills
>>
>>
>> Over categories that want checking don't forget the other periodical 
>> features of LT, other than regular articles and book reviews: 
>>  Debate, Target Articles with Peer Commentary, the Universals 
>> Register, Language Profiles, Family Portraits, Area Surveys.  Only 
>> the opportunities for Obituaries come uncalled for.
>>
>>
>> for the Editorial Board of LT
>> Frans Plank
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> Frans Plank
>> Sprachwissenschaft
>> Universität Konstanz
>> 78457 Konstanz
>> Germany
>>
>> Tel  +49 (0)7531 88 2656
>> Fax +49 (0)7531 88 4190
>> eMail frans.plank at uni-konstanz.de <mailto:frans.plank at uni-konstanz.de>
>> http://ling.uni-konstanz.de/pages/home/plank/
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>
> -- 
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at eva.mpg.de)
> Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
> D-04103 Leipzig
> Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616
>
>
>
>

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