[Lingtyp] odd clitic behaviours

Vladimir Panov panovmeister at gmail.com
Mon Dec 6 09:33:18 UTC 2021

Dear Alex & all,

I cannot help joining this discussion as the topic is extremely interesting
and very controversial.

Here I would like to mostly reply to Martin. For a while, after having read
your whole series of articles on the issue, I have found your definition of
clitics very useful and the least controversial, and I have used it myself
in my own work. However, recently, I have realized that it is not
completely unproblematic either. Here are a couple of controversies, which
are mostly related to the notion of promiscuous attachment.

(a) Let's say that "attaches to" means "immediately precedes or follows".
But then if we take, say, the European prepositions, in many cases this is
true that they "attach" to words of different syntactic classes. Say, in
"in sum" in attaches to a noun "sum", "in a house" it attaches to the
indefinite article, and "in these beautiful houses" it attaches to a
deictic element, and then an adjective follows as well. However, the set of
elements* in* is able to attach to is limited to what constitutes the
English noun phrase (it cannot attach to verbs or adverbs). Therefore, *in*
always attaches to the English noun phrase from the left, no matter what
constitutes it. Therefore, it is kind of "promiscuous" in your strict
sense, but it is not promiscuous on a higher level, therefore it is also a
kind of a prefix. This made many linguists talk of "phrasal affixes", which
makes sense after all. Moreover, if we take a language in which a noun
obligatorily occupies the first slot in the noun phrase such a Hebrew (if
we ignore the article), then it turns out that its prepositions are not
promiscuous, whereas those of English are, which is very counterintuitive,
I would say. Rather, it would be more intuitive to say that in both Hebrew
and English prepositions attach to the noun phrase from the left, but the
orders of elements within their noun phrases are different.

(b) One can look even closer at the elements whose attachment is
promiscuous, but whose promiscuity is very limited. For example, adjectives
and nouns are definitely different word classes in Latin. However, they
share a large part of their inflectional endings. Indeed, we have *lup-us
bon-us* 'wolf-nom.sg.m good-nom.sg.m' and *lup-a bon-a* 'wolf-nom.sg.f
good-nom.sg.f'. Then it turns out that according to your definition, the
inflectional endings of Latin are to be treated as clitics in
cross-linguistic studies. Is this a good solution?

I still believe that with your definition, we are on the right path, but
maybe we need some more specifications.


ср, 1 дек. 2021 г. в 08:53, Alexander Rice <ax.h.rice at gmail.com>:

> Dear typologists
> I'm working with a variety of Quechua, I have a set of three morphemes.
> They and their equivalents in related varieties are traditionally analyzed
> as evidential enclitcs or suffixes.
> However in some data that I've been working with recently I've noticed a
> couple of interesting behaviours of these enclitics:
> 1) They sometimes manifest as pro-clitics but only on the copular verb and
> in a much more phonologically reduced from
> 2) At least one of the three appears to manifest as a phonologically
> independent "word'. A native speaker with whom I work sometimes transcribes
> the clitic as a separate word, and upon my review of the recordings, many
> of these do appear to be phonologically independent from what would usually
> be the phonological host, and in some instances, they occur at the
> beginning of an intonational unit.
> I wonder if any of you have encountered or know of similar phenomena, any
> references would be most appreciated.
> Best,
> Alex
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