[Lingtyp] odd clitic behaviours

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Mon Dec 6 17:20:47 UTC 2021

Just a tangential comment on Modern Hebrew: contrary to what was 
claimed, it is not a good example of "prepositions ending up as 
prefixes", because not all NPs are in fact head initial — most 
quantifiers precede the quantified noun, and in such cases, the 
preposition occurs as expected before the quantifier, that is to say, at 
the beginning of the phrase.


On 06/12/2021 16:25, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
> Yes, Zwicky's 1994 idea that "clitic" is an "umbrella term" was 
> adopted by Spencer & Luís (2012) – but this is not a CLAIM.
> If the question is how to use a term, we make *terminological choices* 
> – and my proposal was to make the choice that a clitic is defined as 
> "a non-affix non-root bound form". This would give the term "clitic" a 
> precise meaning (as a general-typological concept).
> [Please note that I forgot the condition "non-root" in the earlier 
> message; thanks to Chao Li for reminding me of this.]
> The advantage of this would be that textbooks could explain this term 
> in this succinct way, and if one wants to know whether a Quechua 
> element is a clitic (in this comparative sense), then one could simply 
> check whether it is bound or free (i.e. occurs on its own), and 
> whether it is promiscuous.
> Vladimir Panov is quite right, of course, that there is something 
> unintuitive about this definition, because Hebrew prepositions end up 
> as prefixes (because nominals always begin with a noun), while English 
> prepositions end up as clitics (because nominals may begin with a 
> determiner, an adjective or a noun). And Riccardo Giomi is quite right 
> that it is unintuitive to say that Italian diminutive /-icchi-/ is a 
> clitic just because it can occur both on nouns and on verbs and is 
> thus promiscuous.
> But this is as it should be, because our "intuitions" about clitics 
> can have no direct role in our science. We need clear terms, and clear 
> claims, and reproducible methods for testing our claims – intuitions 
> are often based on traditional stereotypes and can be left to wither away.
> Best,
> Martin
> Am 06.12.21 um 15:06 schrieb Arnold M. Zwicky:
>> I realize that this paper is now antique, but I continue to cling to its main claim, that CLITIC is merely an umbrella term and that (with the possible exception of two special cases, quite different from one another, and deserving technical terms of their own) the phenomena customarily referred to by that name do not constitute a single entity of theoretical interest:
>> AMZ, “What is a clitic?” (in Nevis, Joseph, Wanner, & Zwicky, Clitics Bibliography, 1994).
>> http://www.stanford.edu/~zwicky/what-is-a-clitic.pdf
>> arnold (zwicky)
>> _______________________________________________
>> 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.
>> Best,
>> Vadimir (Panov)
> -- 
> Martin Haspelmath
> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
> Deutscher Platz 6
> D-04103 Leipzig
> https://www.eva.mpg.de/linguistic-and-cultural-evolution/staff/martin-haspelmath/
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David Gil

Senior Scientist (Associate)
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

Email:gil at shh.mpg.de
Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091
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