[Lingtyp] collective action marking

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Wed Jul 25 09:51:37 UTC 2018


Thanks for your very helpful and insightful comments.  You're quite 
correct that I had ignored aspectual effects, e.g. in (1), where the 
(individuating, non-collective) inference would indeed work much better 
in the progressive than in the past or perfect.

But here's where I still differ.  You write: "*I welcome any counter 
examples where "co-" indicates "variably"* rather than "together" (or 
"at the same time")", from which I infer that you're assuming that the 
proposed use of "coexpress" embodies such a "variable" component.  But I 
would question your presupposition that "coexpress" involves such 
variability.  To go back to the original example, when one says that "a 
form M coexpresses source and agent", this is NOT tantamount to saying 
that sometimes it expresses source and other times agent.  Rather, what 
it is asserting is that the form M HAS (as understood in the atemporal 
sense of a description of a linguistic fact) a range of meanings that 
encompasses source and agent.  Now it may sometimes be the case that in 
one sentence M is unambiguously expressing source while in another 
sentence M is unambiguously expressing agent. But by the same token, in 
(1) "Mary and John are cowriting this article", there may be points in 
time when only Mary is writing, and points in time where only John is 
writing, but this does not preclude the collective nature of the overall 
endeavor. Similarly, when we use "coexpress" in the way Martin and I are 
advocating, we allow for the possibility that it is NOT the case that 
sometimes M expresses source and other times agent, but RATHER that all 
of the time M expresses a single broad meaning that includes both source 
and target.  This is precisely why we need a cover term such as 
"coexpress" in addition to more specific terms such as 
"vague"/"macrofunctional", "polysemous"/"polyfunctional" and "homonymic".

Another objection to "coexpress" is that it requires a plural object 
rather than a plural subject (as is more commonly the case with "co-").  
But there are examples (albeit a bit hard to come by) where a verb with 
"co-" does require a plural object.  One obvious albeit frozen case is 
"collect".  Another potentially better example would be "collocate", 
though the active transitive usage seems to be rare; the best cited 
example I could come up with was "to marshall and collocate in order his 
batallions" (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/collocate), and that's 
characterized as "obsolete".  (Though if I had a better internet 
connection, I suspect I could find more examples.)  So I don't consider 
this as a reason to reject "coexpress".

I realize that for some people this is all a lot of "hair-splitting".  
But it's the nature of the scientific enterprise that one person's 
hair-splitting is another person's crucial distinction.  Ultimately, 
nobody's trying (or at least should be trying) to impose their 
terminology on anybody else; rather, what we should be doing is using 
reasoned argumentation to convince other people that one's proposed 
terminology is better, and to lead by example.


On 25/07/2018 13:25, Daniel Ross wrote:
> All I intended to contribute here (in my earlier message) was that 
> English "co-" seems relevant for comparison. The rest is probably 
> tangential, as may be my reply below.
> But I'm puzzled by a few points in your response, David:
> First, (1) > (1') is a valid inference, if we interpret "write" in the 
> sense that "cowrite" is interpreted-- as part of the writing process. 
> This is especially easy as an inference with the progressive (as in 
> your example), although I can see why "Mary wrote the article" is 
> strange, but still may be valid depending on how loosely we interpret 
> "write" in academia ("Mary can say she has now written something in 
> [the journal] /Language/?"), so I think some of the quirkiness here 
> comes from how we use the term "cowrite" in academia in contrast to 
> "write" although that is not strictly necessary. The distinction is 
> probably a pragmatic one, where "cowrite" somehow has supplied an 
> expectation of "not by oneself", whereas likewise "coexist" does not 
> have an inference of "exist by itself" in your (3), etc. In summary, 
> there are some tricky details related to lexical aspect, grammatical 
> aspect, and other factors, but I think, broadly speaking, those 
> examples behave similarly. (Oddly, I'm actually arguing 'against 
> myself' here because you suggest that cowrite is the strongest in 
> support of my argument, but I'll address that in the point below.)
> Second, you're correct that my phrasing may have been misleading: 
> remove the word "exactly" if you wish, or more relevantly reinterpret 
> what I said as referring to a cluster of related meanings. It's 
> broadly the same as the other examples from other languages, and I'd 
> like to emphasize how much variability (e.g., reflexive, reciprocal) 
> there is in the examples given for other languages just in the emails 
> in the current conversation. I don't think English is more variable 
> than others. That's what I meant by English "co-" being the same-- it 
> functions similarly. Most importantly, what I meant to point out is 
> that this isn't some exotic function only found in unfamiliar 
> languages. Randy didn't give any examples from Kyrgyz in the first 
> email, but I imagine some of them would translate into English 
> relatively naturally with "co-".
> Third, no one has directly responded to what I said about the 
> semantics of "coexpress", and *I welcome any counter examples where 
> "co-" indicates "variably"* rather than "together" (or "at the same 
> time"). I'm not aware of any. If there are some, then "coexpression" 
> could fit that model. None in your message, nor given by others, have 
> the "alternatively" interpretation. "Corefer" does not refer to 
> ambiguous interpretations; "coexist" does not refer to an electron 
> being a wave and a particle; "costar" does not refer to a single actor 
> playing multiple roles. And so forth. (Your opaque examples also mean 
> "together" etymologically, not "alternatively".) Martin's closest 
> parallel suggestion was "coapply" but that still means "together", not 
> "alternatively"-- to coapply glue and tape does not mean choosing one 
> or the other in a particular context, but to do both. [Another example 
> might be "coteach" which could mean either (most often) share teaching 
> of a course together with someone, or (less obviously) teach two 
> topics in a single course, but never to teach two different topics in 
> different or alternating semesters.] "Coexpress" can literally never 
> actually express both things at the same time, whereas all other "co-" 
> words I can think of entail doing something "together"-- which 
> likewise is a "collective" interpretation (yes, vaguely with slight 
> variation, as noted above).
> Additionally, some of the differences you suggest may be related to 
> the fact that English collectives with "co-" do not require a plural 
> subject, a point of cross-linguistic variation I mentioned in my 
> previous message but haven't explored (e.g., if plural subjects were 
> required, would your inferences apply or not?). I would also guess 
> that as I hinted, the derivational/lexicalized nature of "co-" 
> explains some of the quirkiness in particular verbs like "cowrite" 
> (also "corefer"), whereas in some other languages it may be more 
> regular/productive (possibly also 'inflectional', although that 
> perhaps gets into unnecessary theoretical/terminological issues).
> The ways in which we agree include (at least):
> 1. Terms like "collectivity" are often used vaguely (though given the 
> multi-functionality/"coexpression"! of the same morphemes marking a 
> variety of functions, perhaps that is appropriate).
> 2. Looking at the semantics narrowly is important, and your 
> contributions are helpful.
> 3. My phrasing may have been misleading.
> Thanks for your comments-- I agree with your suggestions for 
> understanding these constructions better. My reply here (and I hope 
> your previous reply) should not be read as indicating that we mostly 
> disagree about this topic, because I don't feel that we do.
> Daniel
> On Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de 
> <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>> wrote:
>     Daniel and others,
>     In a 1996 article (reference below) I point out that the term
>     "collective" is used with a bewildering array of meanings.  While
>     the article deals exclusively with collectivity as marked on
>     nominal expressions, the same point is clearly relevant for the
>     cases of "verbal collectivity" being discussed in this thread.  In
>     particular, I would beg to differ with Daniel Ross' claim that "In
>     English, the (derivational) prefix 'co-' seems to have exactly
>     this function".
>     Consider the following four examples:
>     (1) Mary and John are cowriting this article
>     (2) These two noun-phrases corefer to each other
>     (3) These two species coexist in this region
>     (4) Mary and John costarred in the new movie
>     Each of these four sentences differs logically from the others in
>     ways that have to do with collectivity, as evidenced by the
>     following potential inferences:
>     (1') Mary is writing this article
>     (2') This noun-phrase refers
>     (3') This species exists in this region
>     (4') Mary starred in the new movie
>     (1) > (1') is not a valid inference.
>     (2) > (2') is a valid inference, but is weird (in ways that I
>     don't have time to go into).
>     (3) > (3') is a valid inference.
>     (4) > (4') is a valid inference.
>     The most common understanding of the term "collective" is that it
>     blocks inferences from a plural set to its individual members. 
>     Thus, under this understanding, "co-" is marking collectivity in
>     (1), perhaps also in (2), but certainly not in (3) and (4).  Now
>     it may be the case that all of the above usages of "co-" share a
>     common semantic core, but simply applying the label "collective"
>     to such a putative common meaning doesn't help much in trying to
>     figure out its nature.
>     And to return briefly to the "coexpression" thread: given the
>     diversity of meanings of the "co-" prefix (which is hardly
>     exhausted by the above four examples — and this is even before we
>     take into consideration its opaque uses in "collect", "collate",
>     etc.), I don't see any problem with using it in the word
>     "coexpression" in the sense intended by Martin and others.
>     David
>     Gil, David (1996) "Maltese 'Collective Nouns':A Typological
>     Perspective", /Rivista di Linguistica /8:53-87/./
>     On 24/07/2018 23:59, Daniel Ross wrote:
>>     In English, the (derivational) prefix "co-" seems to have exactly
>>     this function, as I pointed out in the previous discussion on
>>     this list regarding why I found the proposed term
>>     "coexpress(ion)" to be odd because it refers to alternatives
>>     rather than collective action. I'm not sure where this has been
>>     written about (but probably someone has, maybe for Latin?), and
>>     it is derivational, perhaps not fully productive, but it does
>>     seem to be able to form new verbs, so it seems to fit here.
>>     (It is interesting to note that at least in more established
>>     verbs like "cowrite", they do not strictly require a plural
>>     subject-- "I cowrote an article", as long as the context allows
>>     for a reasonable interpretation. If you're looking at the
>>     typology cross-linguistically that might be an interesting point
>>     of variation to consider.)
>>     Daniel
>>     On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 8:11 AM, "Ekkehard König"
>>     <koenig at zedat.fu-berlin.de <mailto:koenig at zedat.fu-berlin.de>> wrote:
>>         Hi Randy,
>>         rich information on the reciprocal - sociative/collective
>>         polysemy can be
>>         found in all of the Nedjalkov volumes. A condensed overview
>>         is given in
>>         Chapter 5 of the first volume. (I did a review of the 5
>>         volumes for
>>         Language, 2011).
>>         Best wishes,
>>         Ekkehard
>>         > Randy,
>>         > There is a similar category in Wandala (Frajzyngier 2012),
>>         > All best,
>>         > Zygmunt
>>         >
>>         > From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org
>>         <mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>> on behalf of
>>         > "Randy J. LaPolla" <randy.lapolla at gmail.com
>>         <mailto:randy.lapolla at gmail.com>>
>>         > Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 1:33 AM
>>         > Cc: weifeng liu <175204935 at qq.com <mailto:175204935 at qq.com>>
>>         > Subject: [Lingtyp] collective action marking
>>         >
>>         > Hi All,
>>         > A student in China (Liu Weifeng) working on Kyrgyz asked me
>>         for references
>>         > about collective marking on the verb. This marking in
>>         Kyrgyz (-ish-) is
>>         > distinct from plural marking, and used together with plural
>>         marking, and
>>         > implies the action was done by two or more people together
>>         rather than
>>         > individually.
>>         >
>>         > I am aware of the following article, though do not have
>>         access to it, and
>>         > don’t even know know for sure whether it documents this
>>         phenomenon:
>>         >
>>         > Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 2007. Reciprocals, assistives and
>>         plural in
>>         > Kirghiz. In Nedjalkov, Vladimir (with the assistance of
>>         Emma Geniusiene
>>         > and Zlatka Guentcheva) (eds.), Typology of reciprocal
>>         constructions,
>>         > 1231-1280. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
>>         >
>>         > I don't know of any other works on this type of category in
>>         any language.
>>         > Has this been looked into in any languages?
>>         >
>>         > Thanks!
>>         >
>>         > Randy
>>         > -----
>>         > Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
>>         > Professor of Linguistics and Chinese, School of Humanities
>>         > Nanyang Technological University
>>         > HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
>>         >
>>         http://randylapolla.net/<http://secure-web.cisco.com/1r49xGHjDHpvduhLxc8xcFdeDWaQRDmx6JT631_HJ88j0WzNbUSSBJKa_anFZBkB1cSFVPmw9ikThvWoEF7RIEZwRrF41ZmOg8Q1r5KEyCUxZC5wuC28aG_DlUMVjf4vKly6Ga5U846AFU_8ciIgNuIsCxBZP90e2AXadGa_EaJF3qeI0PsXURTP7UIoNYFZSnz_SDDdFEuzk165x1qlfrXFPZWqpG2ZvIir6ai7vfmDn9hv5v1Fqfoz2YKBK325exE--qzqARuhIetwE_l8o-x0t3UnQiilemsqt4EqZfAOQo_BRlSyjjeIKhlCgtch0P5B9ppouqgFfeYSKqDwzhmlzNUAom_lTGiK5TO2YlOC2K2nbRFX-7nK89BmKSZm_brUS2-KjnVVKJrnPK9sM1XE5PPbNO8ggB4SPl9zw7DdqEaqZ_qgihNd8wV-Nb4yfRy2XIMtSrFC_G9CbVWKe-Q/http%3A%2F%2Frandylapolla.net%2F
>>         <http://secure-web.cisco.com/1r49xGHjDHpvduhLxc8xcFdeDWaQRDmx6JT631_HJ88j0WzNbUSSBJKa_anFZBkB1cSFVPmw9ikThvWoEF7RIEZwRrF41ZmOg8Q1r5KEyCUxZC5wuC28aG_DlUMVjf4vKly6Ga5U846AFU_8ciIgNuIsCxBZP90e2AXadGa_EaJF3qeI0PsXURTP7UIoNYFZSnz_SDDdFEuzk165x1qlfrXFPZWqpG2ZvIir6ai7vfmDn9hv5v1Fqfoz2YKBK325exE--qzqARuhIetwE_l8o-x0t3UnQiilemsqt4EqZfAOQo_BRlSyjjeIKhlCgtch0P5B9ppouqgFfeYSKqDwzhmlzNUAom_lTGiK5TO2YlOC2K2nbRFX-7nK89BmKSZm_brUS2-KjnVVKJrnPK9sM1XE5PPbNO8ggB4SPl9zw7DdqEaqZ_qgihNd8wV-Nb4yfRy2XIMtSrFC_G9CbVWKe-Q/http%3A%2F%2Frandylapolla.net%2F>>
>>         > Most recent book:
>>         >
>>         https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324
>>         <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
>>         >
>>         >
>>         >
>>         >
>>         >
>>         >
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>     -- 
>     David Gil
>     Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
>     Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
>     Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
>     Email:gil at shh.mpg.de <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
>     Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
>     Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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