[Lingtyp] odd clitic behaviours
martin_haspelmath at eva.mpg.de
Tue Dec 7 16:12:38 UTC 2021
Many thanks, Peter, for continuing the vigorous discussion! Maybe this
time we do indeed disagree.
I think that textbooks should present a set of coherent concepts that do
not confuse students. So when Booij's (2005: 28) morphology textbook
defines a "stem" as "the word form minus its inflectional affixes",
readers would expect that there is also a definition of "inflectional
affix", but he doesn't give one – it seems that an inflectional affix is
whatever is added to a stem. So this is circular and confusing.
Since most established terms are used in a wide variety of ways,
textbook authors must make a choice anyway, and making a choice that is
coherent and avoids confusion seems the right approach to me. The same
problems arise in generative syntax, and one of the virtues of Koeneman
& Zeijlstra's (2017) "Introducing syntax" is that it is internally
coherent (even if that means that it sometimes deviates substantially
from what is commonly said; but the actual research practice is not
coherent). We probably don't want to give students the impression that
the field is working with incoherent or vague concepts – instead, we
want to introduce them to a set of mutually coherent concepts (with
definitions that are close to the actual practice), and they will
discover sooner or later that things are not that simple.
The reason I mentioned textbooks is that these are almost the only type
of work that can be expected to build a coherent sent of concepts in
linguistics. In other fields, there are nomenclature committees, or
truly authoritative works such as the /Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy/. Textbooks is all we have in linguistics. (The question how
"standard" meanings arise is an interesting one; but in any event,
Bloomfield's (1933) textbook and Lyons's (1968) textbook seem to have
been highly influential in determining what usages we agree on.)
Am 07.12.21 um 16:06 schrieb Peter Arkadiev:
> Dear Martin, dear colleagues,
> just a brief note on the following point:
> "So I think it's better to try to provide simple and clear definitions
> that can be used in textbooks."
> I utterly disagree. Good textbooks must provide students (and other
> readers) with explanations of how established terms are used in
> linguistics, even if this usage is vague, sloppy, inconsistent
> etc. Otherwise students won't be able to read original research
> written before the "textbook definition" has been coined. So Martin or
> anybody else including your humble servant is certainly free to
> (re)define any technical term for one's own purposes, but let's not
> assume that our usage (independently of how much it is supported by
> the personal authority of its author) should become "the standard"
> before it has passed the test of practice and approval by the community.
> Best regards,
> 06.12.2021, 23:06, "Martin Haspelmath" <martin_haspelmath at eva.mpg.de>:
> 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 language.
> Best wishes,
> P.S. I have more discussion of the general issues of
> terminological precision in my 2021 paper:
> 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 Leipzig
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> Peter Arkadiev, PhD Habil.
> Institute of Slavic Studies
> Russian Academy of Sciences
> Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119334 Moscow
> peterarkadiev at yandex.ru
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Lingtyp