Author Topic: Born genitive  (Read 3180 times)

Offline ibarrere

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Born genitive
« on: February 07, 2014, 12:53:22 PM »
Sort of an interesting idea put forth here. The article annoyingly dumbs down the linguistics, so it might be worth picking up the book:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2014/cold-case-a-linguistic-mystery-yields-clues-in-russian-0207.html
http://americanwerewolfinbelgrade.com/

ymmärtämättömyyttään

Offline lx

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2014, 08:14:48 PM »
Really odd theory. Don't know much about Russian but I have heard some things about Semitic numerals that have odd quirks in gender swapping. You could make an argument that the cause is always an underlying original feature, but I think once you applied that result a couple of dozen times, it'd become clear that it really is just an easy way out - to assume a default characteristic just because it's so weird it's unlikely to have developed for any reason. I know that logic is applied in the theory that click sounds were part of the first human languages, because for them to come from a language without them is so hard to grasp. I actually do tend to happily go along with that theory, but I guess I've seen too many quirks in too many languages that this sort of reasoning of an innate quality that's unobservable to a language learner and seems to progress the old fashioned idea that a language is independent of the speakers who pick it up, unwittingly destined to progress a change in the grammar they never understood was happening. That's more of a dig at generative historical linguistics more than anything but the point is the same. I don't like it when people unassumingly profess this notion that language exists as a working unit that has control over the speakers and is set to make changes in specific ways. We're all processing that nouns are genitive but Russian speakers' minds have this quality that can fight against this subconscious battle we're all having to hide the true hidden genitive nature of nouns. I just don't buy that sort of reasoning. I can't deny I have an interest in reading the book though.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2014, 08:42:21 PM »
I have a lot of trouble with arguments like this as well. I think surface forms are just that-- realizations of underlying configurations, without any particular limits on what surface forms can be produced. So establishing things like modification and argument structure is deeper, but after that it's just working out how the various pieces fall together, not some mysterious underlying genitive.

This book also seems to take on a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too position of order in non-processing Generativism. It starts off as X and then becomes Y, yet this is saying NOTHING about how it's actually processed in the mind. That is therefore completely irrelevant and just a big metaphor, not actually giving us any more information than the descriptive generalizations in the first place. If this was supported by psycholinguistic experiments, that would be cool. But these theories are specifically/intentionally not about performance, just competence, so even if they happen to be right, they are not as theories making predictions about order at all. That always puzzles me.

(For the record, my objections are to the methodology/assumptions, not the conclusions in particular. There's no reason I'd assume that nominative [or any case in particular] is the obvious default in any one language or in all languages.)
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 08:44:51 PM by djr33 »
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Offline freknu

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2014, 09:26:36 PM »
I'm no expert in Slavic, but considering Proto-Slavic nom. dl. and gen. sg. are both *stola, I would assume that when the dual number disappeared the form remained, only now reanalysed as genitive singular. Proto-Slavic nom. sg. and gen. pl. are both *stolъ. If the hard sign is actually a /u/ then I could see how -ov could come from that, and again also why there appears to be a mixup of nominative and genitive.

However, there also seems to have been accent/stress which in this case (weak case = all but nom, voc, acc) would be on the ending (compared to on the root for strong cases), so it might not be as straigth forward.

PBS. *ragas is probably the same inflection paradigm as *stalas.

Proto-Balto-Slavic *ragas
Proto-Slavic *rogъ
Russian рог

I don't know, but I remain sceptical.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2014, 09:32:01 PM »
That's related to what I said, though: this is about the current theoretical (competence) state of Russian grammar. The historical origins are irrelevant. (I'm also therefore suspicious.) The book isn't, as far as I can tell, claiming anything about actual language evolution, just the Language Faculty in the mind.
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Offline freknu

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2014, 09:33:15 PM »
Oh, that's ... weird  :o

Offline Daniel

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Re: Born genitive
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2014, 11:12:04 PM »
Quote
The book isn't, as far as I can tell, claiming anything about actual language evolution, just the Language Faculty in the mind.
Let me clarify just slightly: it is saying something about language origins (perhaps) as what the underlying system is. But it's saying nothing about arbitrary forms of language over time (except what underlies them) or changes that occur in those forms.
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