[Lingtyp] additive markers and indicative markers

Östen Dahl oesten at ling.su.se
Wed Mar 17 22:22:34 UTC 2021

Dear Chenlei,
You say ”the -ed in English adds the past tense information to the verb”. But that statement is ambiguous: ‘it adds the information that the verb is in the past tense’, or ‘it adds the information that the sentence refers to the past’. And if we opt for the latter interpretation, it need not at all be the case that the information is lacking in the context. In the sentence Yesterday, it rained, the tense of the verb does not give us any new information about temporal reference. So in that context, -ed would be “indicative” in your sense. Among grammatical markers, it’s hard to find examples that are consistently additive. I agree with what Jürgen Bohnemeyer said, but would like to add that it appears to be a common feature of grammaticalization processes for them to reduce the discourse prominence of markers, make them less additive, and simultaneously raise their cross-linguistic variability. Self-promotion: Dahl (2004), pp. 54, 55, 121-123.
Best wishes,

Da     Dahl, Östen  (2004). The growth and maintenance of linguistic complexity . John Benjamins.

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Ämne: [Lingtyp] additive markers and indicative markers

Dear all,

As you know, a grammatical marker is considered to mark some syntactic/ semantic information, e.g., an aspect marker marks the aspectual information and a case marker is used to mark the relation between the marked noun and the verb or another noun. This understanding of marker is well accepted. But thinking further, we see that there may be two different types of markers, which we would like to term the "additive marker" and "indicative marker".
Additive markers are consistent with our general understanding of "markers". That is, the marker adds some information that is lack in the original context. For example, the -ed in English adds the past tense information to the verb. Indicative markers, to the best of my knowledge, however, are not fully recognized in the literature. An indicative marker is the marker that indicates the information that already exists in the original context.  For example, the Chinese passive marker bei in shui bei wo he le water PASS I drink pfv 'The water was drank by me' could be treated as an indicative marker in this specific context because the passive relation between "water" and "drink" already exists even without the aid of bei.  In this situation, bei is used to indicate the existed passive relation.

Our preliminary study shows that there is no clear boundary between additive markers  and indicative markers, and the two can be transformed in certain contexts. For example, English plural marker -s can be either additive or indicative. In "the teachers came in" (vs. "the teacher came in" ), -s is additive; but in "six teachers", since the plural meaning has already existed in the numeral "six", -s is indicative.

I was wondering if you think it makes sense to distinguish these two types of markers in typological study and if you are aware of any research that has explored this issue.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best wishes,

Zhou, Chenlei
Dept. of Syntax & Semantics,
Institute of Linguistics,
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
#5 Jianguomennei Street, Beijing, 100732, P.R.China

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