[Lingtyp] odd clitic behaviours
tetrahedralpt at gmail.com
Mon Dec 6 21:38:53 UTC 2021
Sounds like continually shifting prototypes, with slop in both boundaries
and core. Perhaps relative positions are more important than absolute ones?
Something like matrix mechanics?
On Mon, Dec 6, 2021 at 3:06 PM Martin Haspelmath <
martin_haspelmath at eva.mpg.de> wrote:
> Thanks, Arnold and Peter, for the interesting critical comments!
> I completely agree with Peter Arkadiev that "if linguistics is to deal
> with complexity and diversity of linguistic structures, its terminological
> apparatus cannot be simplistic" – yes, we need a lot of terms for all this
> complexity, in fact far more than most people make use of (which is why I
> keep proposing new terms).
> But I do not fully agree with Arnold Zwicky that "Our job is to discover
> what the relevant concepts are in the domain in question and then to
> provide names for them" – we have tried this, but it turns out that it
> doesn't work well for general linguistics. Different languages have fairly
> different "relevant concepts" (= language-particular categories), so the
> comparison of languages requires a distinct set of comparative concepts.
> For example, we cannot readily describe Arabic or Chinese with concepts
> derived from Ancient Greek (such as "(en)clitic").
> De facto, however, linguists do use quite a few Latin-derived (and
> Greek-derived) terms for (comparison of) languages from around the world,
> i.e. as comparative concepts. What should we take these terms (e.g. *accusative,
> plural, preterite, imperative, affix, passive*) to mean? They have a
> fairly clear meaning in Latin, but what do they mean *in general*?
> It does not seem to make sense to pose this as a research question – we
> cannot study languages in order to find out what "accusative" or "passive"
> means. We attach these labels to languages around the world because we
> think that they are generally understood, but often we are not particularly
> clear about what that meaning is. We know what a stereotypical "accusative"
> or a stereotypical "passive" (or a stereotypical "clitic") is, but if there
> are no boundaries, we cannot decide what to do in non-stereotypical cases
> (e.g. in the case of "odd clitic behaviours" in Quechua, as studied by
> Alexander Rice).
> Though Peter Arkadiev says that "we do not need apparently "precise"
> definitions which end up delimiting arbitrary classes of things having
> nothing in common apart from the randomly chosen property "defining" them",
> I do not see what the alternative is – simply *avoiding* the use of
> tradional terms? In practice, this will not happen, as people will continue
> to talk about *accusative, plural, preterite, imperative, affix, passive*,
> etc. So I think it's better to try to provide simple and clear definitions
> that can be used in textbooks. (Often, of course, language-particular
> classes will not map perfectly onto these definitions, as is illustrated by
> Riccardo Giomi's example of the Italian promiscuous diminutive *-icchi-*.)
> Arnold Zwicky says "What I'd like to avoid is disputes over whether some
> element E in some language variety L is *really, truly" a clitic", and
> indeed, we have too many such fruitless disputes – I have a long list in my
> 2007 paper on pre-established categories (
> https://zenodo.org/record/1133882, §3.3). But why are such disputes about
> "clitics" fruitless? I'd say it's because there is no clear definition of
> "clitic", while at the same time, many people *think* that there is some
> general concept (a building block of UG?) behind this term. But this need
> not be the case: "Clitic" may not be more than a term that has been handed
> down to us by tradition (Ancient Greek grammar, and then Nida 1946, which
> shortened "enclitic" to "clitic"). Since this term is an accident of the
> history of linguistics, giving it an arbitrary definition seems just the
> right step to me – in this way, its arbitrariness becomes apparent to
> everyone. (If "clitic" is used as an "umbrella term", by contrast, there is
> no way in which it can be used for precise communication, and we might as
> well not use it at all.)
> It would be great if it turned out that "properties not listed in the
> definition are predictable from the ones that are" (as Arnold notes), and
> in my 2015 paper on clitics (which was greatly inspired by Arnold's work),
> I do discuss this issue (§7, see https://zenodo.org/record/4550427). But
> this is not necessary – "clitic" is a commonly used technical term, and as
> such, it should have a clear definition (or should not be used). Quite
> generally, I do not think that vague and stereotype-based "umbrella terms"
> are needed in science, though they are of course ubiquitous in everyday
> Best wishes,
> P.S. I have more discussion of the general issues of terminological
> precision in my 2021 paper: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005489
> Am 06.12.21 um 20:13 schrieb Arnold M. Zwicky:
> 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.
> No, Martin, we do not need apparently "precise" definitions which end up
> delimiting arbitrary classes of things having nothing in common apart from
> the randomly chosen property "defining" them. I find this approach neither
> productive nor scientific. If linguistics is to deal with complexity and
> diversity of linguistic structures, its terminological apparatus cannot be
> as simplistic as that. I apologise for putting it so bluntly.
> Best wishes,
> Martin Haspelmath
> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
> Deutscher Platz 6
> D-04103 Leipzighttps://www.eva.mpg.de/linguistic-and-cultural-evolution/staff/martin-haspelmath/
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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