[Lingtyp] odd clitic behaviours

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at stanford.edu
Mon Dec 6 19:13:03 UTC 2021

> 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).

This seems incomprehensively bizarre to me. Our job is to discover what the relevant concepts are in the domain in question and then to provide names for them (which could be more or less arbitrary, taken from familiar terms, created via metaphor, or whatever). But I'm baffled by your apparent position that history provides us with a term that has been more or less useful in the past, so our job is to arbitrarily assign it to one of the relevant concepts, with the consequence that this term is then *inapplicable* to -- inappropriately used for -- every one of the other relevant concepts.

If this is an (arbitrary) prescription about how the term should be used within the community of linguists (the relevant set of language users in ths case), it's just terrible -- guaranteed to sow confusion and misunderstanding. It's Humpty-Dumpty's "[a word] means justi what I choose [that is, what *I* choose] it to mean -- more more and no less". I, Arnold Zwicky, am free to declare that what "clitic" means is ''hoofed mammal', so that if you want to talk to me you have to use it that way too. (Actually, I use "ungulate" for that purpose, and some people use "hoofed mammal" and even more people, faced with the task of explaining the concept they're talking about, give an ostentive definition ending with the ominous "etc.".  But nobody's going to buy my insistence that these creatures taken together are called, technically, "clitics" and that the Tagalog second-position elements are *not* clitics.)

I coined the technical term "umbrella term" to provide some sort of continuity with the history of our field for terms like "clitic", covering an assortment of loosely similar concepts -- each of which deserves its own label.

Perhaps you mean to claim that all the things under the "clitic" umbrella are in a family-resemblance relationship with one another (like things under the "game" umbrella)  and that there are central members of the family -- clitics *par excellence*, as iit were. But that's an analysis designed for ordinary language, not technical language, so I'm not sure how the *cognitive* significance of centrality would carry over. 

What I'd like to avoid is disputes over whether some element E in some language variety L is *really, truly" a clitic -- with reference to the Martin Haspelmath definition of what a clitic really, truly is.

Perhaps you want to claim that your choice of a definition is not arbitrary, not "merely terminological", but signals that the particular definition you have chosen is one for a concept that is empirically rich, in the sense that ("interesting") properties not listed in the definition are predictable from the ones that are. But you haven't actually claimed that.

I'm afraid that I'm going to have to stop here, with the comments above. At this point in my life I don't have the time for extended dialogue on *anything*, even if it might be fruitful. 


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