[Lingtyp] collective action marking

Daniel Ross djross3 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 26 04:07:20 UTC 2018


Thank you for the clarifications. I still don't find the term
etymologically convincing, although I do agree it is convenient and
aesthetically pleasing, so as I said before maybe it'll be accepted for
that reason, independently of the etymology.

The problem I have with the abstract linguistic-system sense of "express"
as "mean" is that 'express' is not something that abstract linguistic
entities do, but specifically something that utterances do. (I would not
have the same objection to "co-mean" or "co-encode" although those are less
aesthetically pleasing.) I think this relates to what Seino van Breugel
said earlier, correctly observing that linguistic terms do not express but
rather restrict interpretations. I do not object to the traditional use of
the term "express" (as Seino suggested) because I find it to be clear as a
metonymic representation of speakers expressing something through their
utterances via those forms. However, in that sense, it doesn't intuitively
seem to me that "coexpress" should refer to any abstract linguistic-system
sense, given that expression occurs through usage, not systematic
relationships in a language.

"Collocate" is like the other terms-- it refers to instances of doing
something together, at the same time. My objection isn't to the
subject/object difference-- although indeed that makes "coexpress" unusual
and somewhat less intuitive. It is that "coexpress" can never refer to any
instance where the two (or more) meanings are expressed at the same time.
There are no other such terms I can think of, where "co-" refers to a
general/habitual/systematic sense, rather than at least possibly applying
to actual instances. Again, the only time when a word could in actual usage
"coexpress" at the same time would be in a pun. And to me, although
linguists rarely research puns, I'd rather not conflate that more intuitive
sense of "coexpress" with the other proposed usage.

I'm clearly now off on a tangent unrelated to the original conversation
here (wasn't sure about replying here or in the new 'terminology' tangent),
so I'll leave it at that. I don't intend to prescribe usage of terms; my
main point was just that Martin's claim that the term was somehow more
etymologically appropriate than "syncretize" didn't seem intuitively valid
to me, because neither one is quite right-- but we can use them, and make
them right, just through usage, as is typically done anyway.

And regarding the current conversation, I think it's important to think
about how "co-" and other collectives do require the arguments (whether
subjects or objects) to be "active" at the same time. So maybe that makes
my comments here slightly on topic.


On Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 2:51 AM, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:

> Daniel,
> 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.
> David
> 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> 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> 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> on behalf of
>>> > "Randy J. LaPolla" <randy.lapolla at gmail.com>
>>> > Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 1:33 AM
>>> > Cc: weifeng liu <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/1r49xGH
>>> jDHpvduhLxc8xcFdeDWaQRDmx6JT631_HJ88j0WzNbUSSBJKa_anFZBkB1cS
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>>> dqEaqZ_qgihNd8wV-Nb4yfRy2XIMtSrFC_G9CbVWKe-Q/http%3A%2F%
>>> 2Frandylapolla.net%2F>
>>> > Most recent book:
>>> > https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edi
>>> tion/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 HistoryKahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany <https://maps.google.com/?q=Kahlaische+Strasse+10,+07745+Jena,+Germany&entry=gmail&source=g>
>> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
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> --
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistoryKahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany <https://maps.google.com/?q=Kahlaische+Strasse+10,+07745+Jena,+Germany&entry=gmail&source=g>
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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