[Lingtyp] Coexpression of source and agent

Bohnemeyer, Juergen jb77 at buffalo.edu
Sat Jul 21 11:22:02 EDT 2018


Dear Martin et al — There may be another reason not to apply the term ‘syncretism’ to the phenomenon at issue in this thread: the latter presumably involves metaphor and thus constitutes (at least initially) an instance of polysemy. In contrast, the term ‘syncretism’, as I understand it (I’m not a historical linguist), involves loss of formal distinction among paradigm cells, which would thus constitute a case of homophony (with respect to the formerly distinctly expressed cells in the now simplified paradigm).

(There doesn’t seem to be a theoretical reason to assume that syncretism and polysemy are mutually exclusive, though. If syncretism is indeed defined in terms of a morphological merger, then such mergers may well occasionally be motivated by metaphor or metonymy. However, that doesn’t seem to apply to any of the cases discussed in this thread so far.)

Now, the proposed ‘coexpression’, as I understand it, would be a hypernym of, and coverterm for, polysemy, homonymy, and semantic underspecification (as in the case of _linguist_ not distinguishing gender). This would lead to the following terminological network:

                        coexpression
                          |                 |
underspecification           ambiguity
(a.k.a. vagueness)           |            |
                             polysemy       homonymy

Syncretism would then be a particular instance of homonymy, presumably restricted to morphological paradigms, as opposed to homonymy in lexical items (with the understanding that sound mergers can cause both syncretism and lexical homophony).

Enough terminology for a Saturday morning! — Best — Juergen



> On Jul 21, 2018, at 6:20 AM, Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de> wrote:
> 
> Dear all,
> 
> A side comment on terminology: The term "syncretism" is not only opaque, ugly and ambiguous (it originally referred to merging of case distinctions in Indo-European, which was likened to religious syncretism, in a strange metaphor; it can still have this purely diachronic meaning referring to Indo-European cases) – it is also impractical because it does not have a good corresponding verb (cf. ??"Malay dari syncretizes source and agent"). 
> 
> Moreover, it is typically associated with inflection (cf. the Surrey definition: " The term 'syncretism' refers to the phenomenon whereby a single form fulfils two or more different functions within the inflectional morphology of a language": http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/syncretism/).
> 
> (And syncretism seems to have been construed as a relation between forms: cf. the original title of this thread "syncretism between forms encoding source and agent" – a very cumbersome formulation.)
> 
> I would like to propose replacing the term "syncretism" by "coexpression" when it is not used in a context of inflectional morphology (and maybe also in that context). The term "coexpression" is transparent and clear – and it can be used for all kinds of situations where one form corresponds to two meanings or functions.
> 
> It has the transparent corresponding verb "coexpress": "Malay dari coexpresses source and agent".
> 
> This term was first used in our 2014 paper on semantic role coexpression patterns (Hartmann et al. 2014), and was taken up in David Gil's recent paper on DO/GIVE coexpression. It was inspired by Alex François's (2008) term "colexification" (also used in Johann-Mattis List's new CLLD database on colexifications: http://clics.clld.org/). 
> 
> A colexification pattern is just a special kind of coexpression pattern – and one might also want to coin the term "coexponence" for inflectional morphology, for a situation where a single vocabulary item coexpones two feature values; i.e. for what has been known as "inflectional syncretism".
> 
> Finally, a semantic map could be called a "coexpression map", allowing us to be neutral between different interpretations (cf. different terms such as "conceptual map", "cognitive map", "implicational map", which will confuse many students).
> 
> Best,
> Martin
> 
> ***************************
> 
> References
> 
> François, Alexandre. 2008. Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages. In Martine Vanhove (ed.), From polysemy to semantic change: Towards a typology of lexical semantic associations (Studies in Language Companion Series 106), 163–216. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 
> 
> Hartmann, Iren, Martin Haspelmath & Michael Cysouw. 2014. Identifying semantic role clusters and alignment types via microrole coexpression tendencies. Studies in Language 38(3). 463–484.
> 
> 
> 
> On 21.07.18 11:47, David Gil wrote:
>> In Malay/Indonesian, the ablative "from" is expressed with dari.  And in some but not all varieties of Malay/Indonesian, dari is also used to mark agents, typically, though not exclusively, in "passive" or "passive-like" constructions.  
>> 
>> More specifically, the use of dari to mark agents is characteristic of Eastern contact varieties of Malay; I have heard it in, among other places, Papua, Halmahera, Ambon, Maluku Tenggara and Timor.  And it is also attested in the Kirinda subdialect of Sri Lankan Malay.
>> 
>> (It should be noted that in many such cases, dari is but one of two or more alternative strategies for flagging agent phrases.)
>> 
>> David
>> 
>> On 21/07/2018 01:06, Ponrawee Prasertsom wrote:
>>> Dear all,
>>> 
>>> I am exploring research possibilities on the language of motion events.
>>> 
>>> Does anyone know of a language that employs the same form (in any strategy--case, preposition, syntactic roles etc.) that for coding source (the starting point in a motion event, as in: I walked *from* my house to school) and agent? 
>>> 
>>> Related references would also be highly appreciated.
>>> 
>>> Sincerely,
>>> 
>>> Ponrawee Prasertsom
>>> 
>>> Graduate Student
>>> Department of Linguistics
>>> Chulalongkorn University
>>> Bangkok, Thailand
>>> 
>>> 
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Lingtyp mailing list
>>> 
>>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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>> 
>> -- 
>> David Gil
>> 
>> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
>> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
>> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
>> 
>> Email: 
>> gil at shh.mpg.de
>> 
>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
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> 
> -- 
> Martin Haspelmath (
> haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
> )
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
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> &
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> 
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> 
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