preposition stranding / Somali

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Mon Oct 26 23:16:15 UTC 1998

I agree with Mauro Tosco about the dubiousness of the French examples
quoted by Paul Hopper as instances of preposition stranding, and for the
same reasons.

Back to Somali.  Part of the problem here is the larger issue of the
overall analysis of Somali syntax.  As I see it, Somali has an interesting
and typologically somewhat exotic (to me, anyway) syntax, but when all is
said and done, a predominantly head-marking sentence structure consisting
of a quite highly developed (obligatory) predicate nucleus (with
incorporation (?) of a focussed argument) and all-round pro-drop for other
arguments, which therefore may or may not appear as explicit NPs, but in
any case are often (obligatorily) indexed within what I am calling the
nucleus of the clause.

There seems to be a tradition current in contemporary Somali grammar,
followed inter alia by J.I. Saeed in his reference grammar (1987), of
analysing the Somali sentence quite differently, by treating what I call
the clause's nucleus as the SENTENCE per se, and calling the unincorporated
NP arguments "extrasentential", whatever that is supposed to mean.

Depending on which analysis you adopt, the resulting description of any
Somali sentence will differ radically.  This is therefore a pressing
problem, with wider implications, for a typologist, inasmuch as typologists
generally take (descriptions of) linguistic systems, compare them with
other (descriptions of) linguistic systems, and make generalizations on
this basis.  So garbage in, garbage out.  I'm not calling anyone's analysis
garbage, just pointing out that it is crucial to clarify how the
description to which one is committed relates to the descriptum.

In the view taken by Saeed and Tosco, the verb is preceded by a pronoun
(realized as zero if third person singular) preceded by a preposition.  Any
NP coreferential with that pronoun is said to be "extrasentential".

In the view I humbly propose (as an interested bystander with very little
knowledge of Somali), the "pronoun" is an index, the "preposition" is an
appendage of the verbal group or clause nucleus, and the "extrasentential"
NP is an argument whose presence is non-obligatory (as in pro-drop).

Take the last example given by M. Tosco (here with his glosses):

ninkii  ayaan la        shaqeeyey
man+Art FOC+I zero+with worked
"that man, I worked with (him)", i.e., "I worked with that man"

I'd suggest "glossing" this as:

ninkii ayaan la shaqeeyey FOCUS.SPI1s I-co-worked

(SPI1s = first-person-singular subject person index).  The _la shaqeeyey_
bit, "I-co-worked", is indexed (by zero) for a third-singular argument,
namely _ninkii_ "the man".  No adposition.  (Ergo, no adposition stranding,
if that's still what we're arguing about.)

So we have two very different possible approaches to Somali.  This is about
as much as I'm able to figure out.  I'd be fascinated to know what anyone
else thinks.

Alan R. King, Ph.D.
alanking at
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