[FUNKNET] Query on structural properties

Paul Hopper hopper at CMU.EDU
Fri Dec 18 16:04:58 UTC 2009

Dear Typologists and Funknetters,

It's interesting that many of the items on Dan's list would be good
quantitative characterizations of conversational English; they would be
statistical but not grammatical constraints. Dan's project might be
formulated as: How far along this continuum is it possible for a language
to go? (Is Spoken English a 'primitive' language?)

We learned last year in Funknet how a single angry "flame" can torpedo a
discussion group--Funknet has been basically quiescent for several months
now. A pity. The best way to deal with a flame is to ignore it.

- Paul

On Fri, December 18, 2009 08:17, Daniel Everett wrote:
> Folks,
> I am interested in beginnng a statistical study on the relative rarity of
> the following patterns (this query will not be the basis for the study!
> Just a tool to start gathering data). I am first interested in knowing of
> languages that have any one of the specific properties below.  Next I am
> interested in learning of any languages that are described by any subset
> of these. Please respond to me individually, rather than to the list as a
> whole.  I will post a summary if there are enough responses. I would
> particularly appreciate any suggestions for particular corpora to consult
> in rarer languages.
> Thanks very much in advance for your answers.
> Dan
> **
> 1. The language lacks independent  factive verbs and epistemic verbs (not
> counting the verb 'to see'). 2. The language has no morphosyntactic marker
> of subordination. 3. It has no coordinating disjunctive particles (no
> words like 'or'). 4. It has no coordinating conjunctive particle (no words
> like 'and'). 5. No unambiguous complement clauses (no strong evidence for
> embedding as opposed to juxtaposition). 6. No multiple possession (no
> structures like 'John's father's son' - whether pre or postnominal) . 7.
> No multiple modification (no structures like 'two big red apples').
> 8. No scope from one clause into another: 'John does not believe you left'
> (where 'not' can negate 'believe' or 'left', as in 'It is not the case
> that John believes that you left' vs. 'It is the case that John believes
> that you did not leave') 9. No long-distance dependencies:
> 'Who do you think John believes __ (that Bill saw__)?'
> 'Ann, I think he told me he tried to like ___'

Prof. Dr. Paul J. Hopper
Senior Fellow
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Albertstr. 19
D-79104 Freiburg
Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities
Department of English
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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