[FUNKNET] Query on structural properties

Stuart Robinson stuart at ZAPATA.ORG
Fri Dec 18 21:31:44 UTC 2009

As the saying goes, "Don't feed the trolls".

On Fri, 18 Dec 2009, Paul Hopper wrote:

> 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
> and
> Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities
> Department of English
> Carnegie Mellon University
> Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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