"simple juxtaposition"

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Tue Nov 25 16:20:52 UTC 2008

I agree with Claude that prosody can be compared across languages, and 
that typologists working on syntax should make more and more use of 
phonetic information. But I would not say that gathering information in 
a phonetics lab is "easy".

Easy typology consists in work that is based on reference grammars, and 
all large-scale typological work so far has been of the "easy" kind, for 
reasons of limited funding.

What I'm worried about is the tendency to say that well-studied 
languages (like, say, Swedish) are different from poorly studied 
languages (like, say, Papuan Malay) because we happen to know that 
Swedish has a particular prosodic property, while we know virtually 
nothing about the prosody of Papuan Malay.

Limiting ourselves to segmental information at least makes sure that we 
are not comparing (Swedish) apples with (Papuan) oranges, because we 
know enough about segmental marking in both languages and how to compare it.


claude-hagege wrote:
> Dear Hartmut, Östen and Martin,
> In my opinion, Hartmut is quite right. Prosody can easily be compared 
> across languages, provided we resort to precise measures, in Hz and 
> seconds, of intensity variations, melodic curves and time-sharing.
>    Such measures are available in any good phonetics lab. Any linguist 
> who wishes to make sure that prosodic arguments he uses are solid 
> should not hesitate to work in this way (if I may refer to a work of 
> mine in passing, I did so in "On categories, rules and interfaces in 
> linguistics, The Linguistic Review 21, 2004, 257-276).
>    Let us at last stop ostracizing prosody when it appears that it 
> plays an important role as a function-marker.
> Best
> Claude Hagège
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Martin Haspelmath" 
> <haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE>
> Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 3:03 PM
> Subject: Re: "simple juxtaposition"
>> No, Hartmut, don't worry. What I mean is that prosody cannot be 
>> easily compared across languages.
>> It's fairly easy to compare segmental overt marking (genitive, person 
>> affixes), especially with the absence of segmental marking 
>> (juxtaposition).
>> In practical terms, Andrew and Irina will have to ignore prosody in 
>> their definition of juxtaposition at this point, so for them 
>> Västerbotten Swedish will count as juxtaposition.
>> Martin
>> Hartmut Haberland wrote:
>>> Really Martin, do you /mean/ that intonation (prosody) is no overt 
>>> marking? Has the "written language bias in linguistics" taken over 
>>> for good? Even Bloomfield knew that /'black 'bird/ vs. '/blackbird/ 
>>> contrast not just in meaning but also in form - and /not/ because of 
>>> the difference in spelling.
>>> Hartmut
>>> Martin Haspelmath wrote:
>>>> I disagree with David and Östen:
>>>> David Gil wrote:
>>>>> Re the Västerbotten dialect: I would tend to agree with Östen Dahl 
>>>>> that, as compounds, they don't really belong in the same boat as 
>>>>> true syntactic juxtapositions.
>>>> Östen Dahl wrote:
>>>>> I also think that "simple juxtaposition" is not a wholly adequate 
>>>>> label for these constructions, which are rather to be seen as a 
>>>>> kind of incorporation involving among other things "compound" 
>>>>> prosody.
>>>> Whether "simple juxtaposition" is an appropriate label for 
>>>> Västerbotten (Swedish) Pelle-äpple 'Pelle's apple' or not depends 
>>>> on the definition of "simple juxtaposition" as a comparative 
>>>> concept. Typologists are free to define their comparative concepts 
>>>> in whatever way they want, and they cannot assume that 
>>>> "juxtaposition" exists as a pre-established category (innate or 
>>>> otherwise given in advance, independently of the linguist).
>>>> Recall that this is how Andrew Spencer and Irina Nikolaeva define 
>>>> the concept "simple/pure juxtaposition":
>>>> "by means of pure juxtaposition, without any other morphosyntactic 
>>>> marking (agreement, adpositions, case marking etc.)"
>>>> This is not a very precise definition (it is unclear what exactly 
>>>> is meant by "morphosyntactic marking", and especially by "etc."). 
>>>> However, the interpretation that many readers would think of first 
>>>> is in terms of "overt marking" (usually by segmental marking, but 
>>>> possibly by stem change, as in the Welsh example). But there is no 
>>>> overt marking in Swedish, so this does fit Andrew's and Irina's 
>>>> definition. Östen points to "compound prosody", implying that 
>>>> "simple juxtaposition" should not have "compound prosody". But such 
>>>> a move does not work in typology, because "compound prosody" is not 
>>>> a universally applicable notion. Comparative concepts need to be 
>>>> defined in terms of universally applicable concepts.
>>>> Östen also suggests the label "incorporation", but how this is 
>>>> different from juxtaposition is unclear. Often it is thought of in 
>>>> terms of non-referentiality of the incorporee, but in Västerbotten 
>>>> the incorporee can evidently be referentil (Pelle-äpple).
>>>> Martin
>>>> P.S. I think the term "simple (or pure) juxtaposition" is somewhat 
>>>> confusing, because it suggests that "complex juxtaposition" also 
>>>> exists. In fact, however, juxtaposition is universally understood 
>>>> in the Spencer & Nikolaeva sense: as expression of a relationship 
>>>> between A and B by putting A next to B without any overt coding. 
>>>> Juxtaposition is thus "simple"/"pure" by definition.
>> -- 
>> 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
>> Glottopedia - the free encyclopedia of linguistics
>> (http://www.glottopedia.org)

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

Glottopedia - the free encyclopedia of linguistics

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