[Lingtyp] "grammatically encoded"

Martin Haspelmath martin_haspelmath at eva.mpg.de
Tue Mar 7 09:04:55 UTC 2023

Dear all,

Linguists tend to be particularly interested in "grammatically encoded" 
meanings, and they give special names such as "timitive" only to 
grammatical elements, not to ordinary words like 'fear'.

Are interjections "grammatical"? Jocelyn Aznar said yes:
> I would say interjections are mostly used for this usage of expressing 
> emotions toward a situation. I'm not sure though that interjections 
> fit your definition of "grammatically encoded", in particular the bit 
> "not easily admit new items", but it would fit mine :)
> Best regards, Jocelyn

It seems to me that we have at least three different criteria that give 
different results:

– bound vs. free (= not occurring in isolation vs. occurring in 
isolation; Bloomfield 1933)
– secondary in discourse vs. (potentially) primary in discourse (Boye & 
Harder 2012)
– closed class vs. open class

The "closed-class" criterion is often mentioned, but languages have many 
free forms that can be the main point of an utterance and that do not 
(evidently) belong to open classes. For example, English "afraid" 
belongs to a smallish class of predicative-only "adjectives". And 
"bound" is not the same as "grammatical" either because many languages 
have bound roots.

So I think that Boye & Harder's criterion of being "conventionally 
secondary in discourse" corresponds best to the way "grammatically 
encoded" is generally understood. By this criterion, interjections (or 
words like "afraid") are not grammatical elements.


> Le 06/03/2023 à 09:29, Ponrawee Prasertsom a écrit :
>> Dear typologists,
>> There has been claims in the literature (Cinque, 2013) that (at least 
>> some) speakers' emotional states toward a situation such as "fear" 
>> and "worry" are not grammatically encoded in any language, where 
>> "grammatically encoded" means not encoded by closed-class items 
>> ("closed-class" in a morphosyntactic sense: a group of morphemes that 
>> occur in the same slot that do not easily admit new items and/or have 
>> few members).
>> I am interested in examples of any grammaticalized marker for any 
>> emotional states (not necessarily "fear" and "worry"). I am 
>> interested in both markers of 1) the /speaker/'s emotional states 
>> toward the situation being expressed as well as 2) of the /subject/'s 
>> emotional states toward the situation. The class of the item could be 
>> bound (clitics, affixes) or free (particles, auxiliary verbs) as long 
>> as it could be shown to be (somewhat) closed. I am only interested in 
>> markers specialised for specific emotions, and not, e.g., 
>> impoliteness markers that could be used when the speaker is angry.
>> The "(un)happy about the verb" infixes /-ei/- and -/äng-/ from the 
>> constructed language Na'vi would be the paradigm example of what I am 
>> looking for if they actually existed in a natural language.
>> A potential example is Japanese /-yagatte, /which some have told me 
>> have grammaticalised into an affix encoding anger about the action. 
>> I'm also looking into whether there is evidence that this is actually 
>> part of a closed-class and would appreciate any pointers/more 
>> information.
>> Thank you very much in advance.
>> Best regards,
>> Ponrawee Prasertsom
>> PhD student
>> Centre for Language Evolution
>> University of Edinburgh
>> *References:*
>> Cinque, G. (2013). Cognition, universal grammar, and typological 
>> generalizations. Lingua, 130, 50–65. 
>> https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2012.10.007 
>> <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2012.10.007>
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Martin Haspelmath
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig

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