Applying Leipzig glossing rules

Fejes László fejes.laszlo at
Sat Oct 10 02:56:52 UTC 2009

Dear Riho, dear Collegues,

it was a great pleasure for me to read Riho's letter because he
discusses problems I have also faced. Following the Leipzig Glossing
Rules is a good practice to avoid the inconsistency of glossing we can
find in the literature on Uralic languages. However, the LGR give just
the basic rules, which means it is highly underspecified which gives
us freedom and which consequently leads to chaos again.

I think Riho and his seminar's suggestions are quite reasonable and I
could not argue in favour of any other way of glossing, except for a
minor and alternative way of glossing zero morph(eme)s. I think
grammatical categories which cannot be linked to any surface morph
could be given in brackets if the unmarkedness is to be stressed, cf.

North Saami
(5)     Dasgo ii oktage olmmoš dahkkojuvvo vanhurskkisin
       for NEG.3SG anyone human do-PASS(-CONNEG) righteous-ESS
       ‘No one will be made righteous…’

(6a)    tyške tol!
       this-LAT come(-IMP.2SG)
       ‘Come here!’

(6b)    tyške ot tol mo?
       this-LAT NEG-2SG come(-CONNEG) Q
       ‘Won’t you come here?’

However, this variant, although equal to the one suggested by Riho,
reflects another way of thinking about morphology (a more traditional
structuralist way).

In addition to the problems mentioned by Riho, LGR lack to suggest
glosses for many morphological phenomena existing in Uralic languages,
e.g. for cases. Therefore, it would be useful to form a small group
which should elaborate a more specific glossing system for Uralic
languages which all the researchers could follow. This project would
be similar to the earlier projects for the unification and
simplification Finno-Ugric transcription in the seventies.


László Fejes

2009/10/9  <rgruntha at>:
> Dear Uralicists,
> yesterday, we had a discussion on Leipzig glossing rules
> ( at the PhD
> seminar of our department. After launching this encoding principle the
> typologists maintain that, as in linguistic research in general, the
> glossing rules should be adapted to individual languages only by taking into
> account language-specific characteristics. This recommendation is very
> flexible and gives the research of individual languages full freedom to make
> case-specific applications when and where-ever needed. However, we discussed
> a couple of more general questions in the light of the Uralic language
> family and tried to find applied glossing rules that would be acceptable for
> as many Uralic languages as possible. Given that doing research on Uralic
> languages would be more consistent, if shared principles were applied
> according to common rules in the research of the same languages, we tried to
> find subsequent principles to be followed.
> Firstly (A), OBJECT CONJUGATION is morphologically one of the most complex
> categories in those languages that have it. The Leipzig glossing rules (Rule
> 4, examples (11 and 19)) suggest that there are two alternative ways to
> encode morphosyntacically cumulative forms. Accordingly, the Erzya example
> (1a-b) can be glossed in two ways:
> (1a)    rivez'  s'ovn-i-z'e             ver'giz'-en'
>        fox     abuse-PRET-3SG.A.3SG.P  wolf-GA
>        ‘The fox abused the wolf.’ (MSFOu 84: 279)
> (1b)    rivez'  s'ovn-i-z'e     ver'giz'-en'
>        fox     abuse-3SG>3SG   wolf-GA
>        ‘The fox abused the wolf.’ (MSFOu 84: 279)
> (GA = genitive-accusative (genitive in the position of object))
> The previous one (1a) follows the linear encoding principle but is robust
> and implies that the agent-like and patient-like constituent are segmentable
> at least at a semantic level. In our group the latter one (1b) was
> considered as the better alternative from the viewpoint of many Uralic
> languages, because it is more explicit and shows the hierarchy between the
> agent-like (subject) and patient-like (object) consituent. However, it is
> often the case that if the object is morphologically distinguishable as it
> may be in the languages of Siberia, it is located before the agent-
> (subject-)marking morpheme, on its left side.
> Consequently, from the viewpoint of morphology it would make more justice,
> if the arrow | > | was turned around | < |. This should work both for
> Mordvinic (examples 2a-c), Ugric (Mansi in example (3), Hungarian in example
> (4)) and Samoyedic. There is also the point that the Ob-Ugric and Samoyedic
> languages distinguish between the number of the object (SG/DU/PL) but not
> the person.
> Erzya
> (2a)    kunda-si-n'ek
>        catch-3SG-1PL (alternatively catch-3PL-1PL)
>        ‘We catch her/him/them.’
> (2b)    kunda-sin'ek
>        catch-3SG<1PL (alternatively catch-3PL<1PL)
>        ‘We catch her/him/them.’
> (2c)    rivez'  s'ovn-i-z'e                     ver'giz'-en'
>        fox     abuse-3SG<3SG   wolf-GA
>         ‘The fox abused the wolf.’ (MSFOu 84: 279)
> Mansi
> (3)     am tuw towləγtasum, nooŋx ti puuγaslum
>        I there wing-FREQ-PRET-1SG, up this catch-PRET-SG<1SG
>        ‘I rowed there fast, I caught it up.’ (Kálmán 1976: 81)
> Hungarian
> (4)     lát-lak
>        see-2SG<1SG
>        ‘I see you.’
> We tested the same applied glossing principle on Nenets, but unfortunately,
> here I have to leave it to specialists of the Samoyedic languages to make
> the test publicly. Note that in Erzya the glossing with hyphens in example
> (2a) is problematic, because -n'ek (1PL) is segmentable, whereas -si
> actually does not match with 3SG nor 3PL one to one.
> Secondly (B), connegative forms of verbs are seldom marked overtly. The
> Leipzig glossing rules, for instance, do not include an abbreviation for
> connegative forms. However, in the Uralic languages the connegative verb
> form often diverges from the verb stem and could therefore be encoded.
> Moreover, the connegative usually corresponds to imperative 2SG forms that,
> in practice, always have to be encoded. So, in our view the connegative
> should be encoded as well as in the North Saami (5) and Mari (6a-b)
> examples.
> North Saami
> (5)     Dasgo ii oktage olmmoš dahkkojuvvo vanhurskkisin
>        for NEG.3SG anyone human do-PASS.CONNEG righteous-ESS
>        ‘No one will be made righteous…’
> Mari
> (6a)    tyške tol!
>        this-LAT come.IMP.2SG
>        ‘Come here!’
> (6b)    tyške ot tol mo?
>        this-LAT NEG-2SG come.CONNEG Q
>        ‘Won’t you come here?’
> In sum, we found these conclusions useful and acceptable for the glossing of
> those languages we are concerned with. We look forward to the feedback of
> other Uralicists and your comments on both the suggested applying principles
> and the applicability of Leipzig glossing rules in general.
> With best regards from Helsinki!
> Riho Grünthal
> Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies
> P.O.Box 24 (Unioninkatu 40)
> FI-00014 University of Helsinki
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