[Lingtyp] Clauses without any overt predicative content (and negation)

Bastian Persohn persohn.linguistics at gmail.com
Sat Dec 4 08:42:50 UTC 2021

That’s a good point: I guess it depends on what we mean by predicative content. Assuming that PhP-expressions like ’still’ are clause-level operators (Mark is still sleeping = STILL (Mark is sleeping); see the classic discussions by König, Loebner, and the like), there is no there’s no „complete“ clause that they can have scope over. We could, of course argue that bado and awo serve as pro-predicates – but then we’d be stranded with the question of what they stand in for. 

Concerning the examples from my original question: Swahili does not normally have „zero" copulae. So (1, 2) cannot mean ’it still is (p)’. One exception is that  Swahili allows for bado + infinitive, which means ’not yet V-ed’ (via ‚[be] yet to Verb‘). But this is exactly one member of the set of what could „fill the empty slot“ here, other members being negated verbs.

As for (3, 4): awo can function as a copulative ’still.COP’, but in this case the predicate would stand to the right of awo. That is, judging from Barclay’s grammar, a atransitive predicate ‚it is still a river‘ would be Awo yi. It could be that awo functions as a copulative in (3), but then the predicate is still left empty: ’the river,  it still is …’, with the process that remains to occur left unexpressed (which is a pattern also found, for instance, in Tunisian Arabic and Sango). And in (4) awo serves as an exclamation (again, a common pattern, as mentioned by other list members).

But these point brings me to what initially motivated my question: I guess the fact that the addressee needs to „fill the gap“ facilitates a negative inference (together with contextual factors, of course). In fact, nearly all examples of ’still’ meaning ’not yet / still not’ that I know of involve such „elliptical“ sentences. And I wonder if there is e some accessible discussion about similar issues somewhere.


> Am 04.12.2021 um 02:19 schrieb Mark Donohue <mhdonohue at gmail.com>:
> Why do we think there's no predicative content here?
> Isn't bado, or awo, a predicate here?
> This sort of thing is very common in many aspect-dominated languages.
> An Indonesian conversation is frequently, depending on which variety you're speaking, full of one word sentences of the form sudah (which translates 'already', and much else besides).
> -Mark
> On Fri, 3 Dec 2021 at 22:03, Bastian Persohn <persohn.linguistics at gmail.com <mailto:persohn.linguistics at gmail.com>> wrote:
> Dear lingtyp members,
> Do you know of any good discussion of how clauses without any overt predicative content are interpreted, especially in regards to polarity?
> I’m thinking of the following type, where bado 'still' becomes its negative equivalent 'not yet' in the absence of overt predicative content, a pattern
> that is attested in many languages around the globe.
> (1) Imerudi kutengenezwa {au bado}?
> it.has.returned be.fixed or still
> ʻHas it (fan) be fixed again or not yet?ʼ
> (Ashton 1947: 392)
> (2) Kwa sasa maji yametoka mtoni (Malulumo) na kufika Mgera {lakini vijiji vingine bado}.
> For now water it.has.come.from at.river M. and arrive M. but villages other still
>  ‘As for now, the water has come from the river (Malulumo) and reached Mgera, but not other villages yet.’
> (Helsinki Corpus of Swahili 2.0)
> Obviously, in (1, 2) the disjunctive context also plays a role, but cf. the Western Dani examples (3, 4).
> Again, variations over the same theme appear to be pretty common.
> (3) Yi awo
> river still
> ʻThe river has not yet been swelled.ʼ
> (Barclay 2008: 440)
> (4) Nin-ogoba awo
> our.father still
> ʻOur father, no!ʼ (Barclay 2008: 441)
> Thanks a lot!
> Best,
> Bastian
> References
> Ashton, Ethel O. 1947. Swahili grammar (including intonation). London: Longmans, Green and Co
> Barclay, Peter. 2008. A grammar of Western Dani. Munich: Lincom.
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