Specializations > Morphosyntax

Marking in VPs

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ibarrere:
I posted this over at lingforum.com, but it looks like everybody has migrated here. Anyway:

It seems to me that most European (specifically case marking) languages would be classified as double-marked for VPs in that they generally have person/number agreement on the head (verb) and some form of case marking on the dependent (verbal arguments).

However, WALS says that "[t]he dependent-marked clause is common in Eurasia" ( http://wals.info/chapter/23 ) and indeed, the WALS map shows German, English, Finnish, etc as being dependent-marking. Is there something about the case marking in these languages that classifies them more as dependent-marked than head-marked?

Daniel:
My initial reaction to your post was that you have a good point. Eurasian languages do seem to have double marking, at least in that they have some of it. It may be more dominant in one or the other. And there's a question of whether different kinds of constituents are considered, perhaps suggesting one is grammatically dominant.

Now I'm completely confused. Regardless of what seems like the best labeling strategy to me, I'd assume that they'd be consistent in their mapping. But they're not! In fact, for the languages I'm familiar with (Eurasian mostly) many of the datapoints seem flat out wrong:

French: no marking
That's perhaps the direction, but it's certainly found in the written language and sometimes pronounced.
English: dependent marking
Shouldn't it be the same as French? And how is English dependent marking? Pronominal case?
German: dependent marking
That makes sense, but it's very different than English, much more active with case.
Spanish (and Basque and Modern Greek): double marking
Seems correct to me (what you said), but then why not German (and probably English and French) too?
Egyptian Arabic: no marking
Case is gone from various spoken dialects of Arabic but as far as I know the verbs still do agree...



This is very strange. It's possible we're missing something, but I certainly don't get it at the moment.

ibarrere:

--- Quote from: djr33 on January 21, 2014, 11:34:24 AM ---In fact, for the languages I'm familiar with (Eurasian mostly) many of the datapoints seem flat out wrong
--- End quote ---

I've gotten that impression a few times with WALS. I wish they had a justification for all of their points as some of them seem to make no sense.


--- Quote from: djr33 on January 21, 2014, 11:34:24 AM ---French: no marking
That's perhaps the direction, but it's certainly found in the written language and sometimes pronounced.
English: dependent marking
Shouldn't it be the same as French? And how is English dependent marking? Pronominal case?
German: dependent marking
That makes sense, but it's very different than English, much more active with case.
Spanish (and Basque and Modern Greek): double marking
Seems correct to me (what you said), but then why not German (and probably English and French) too?
Egyptian Arabic: no marking
Case is gone from various spoken dialects of Arabic but as far as I know the verbs still do agree...
--- End quote ---

I feel like all of these should be either head-marking or double-marking if we're talking about VPs. Every single language in that list has some sort of verb agreement with the subject, which is by definition head-marking (I think...). With that said, the ones that have no nominal case morphology would be head-marking while the ones with nominal case morphology (nominative and accusative at least) would be double-marking.

In fact, it seems like a huge majority of the world's languages would be double-marking or head-marking, but WALS seems to claim the opposite. I can think of very few languages which have no agreement on the verb at all. Lezgian comes to mind, as roles are determined purely by case assignment, but that sort of behavior seems pretty rare to me.

We must be missing something, but I can't imagine what. My understanding of head- vs dependent-marking is fairly solid. Perhaps it's an idiosyncrasy within WALS classification technique or something. I'd like to get to the bottom of this though.


Daniel:

--- Quote ---I've gotten that impression a few times with WALS. I wish they had a justification for all of their points as some of them seem to make no sense.
--- End quote ---
I have generally found it useful and assumed it was reliable, but now I'm questioning that. Specifically, justification would be incredibly helpful.
I am working on a project regarding coordination, more specific than their entry, for unrelated reasons, and I was just looking for some ideas of languages to check out a few weeks ago. The entry on NP/VP coordination was helpful sometimes. But it simplifies the data in a way that is unfortunate and, as far as I can tell, didn't make it easier for the authors. It's comparing whether NP and VP coordinators are the same form. It has three values: one when they're the same, one when they're different, and one when they're both null. What I'd love more information about are the cases when one is null and the other isn't, but those are just thrown into the general "different" category. (I was interested in, among other things, null VP coordinators). It would also be helpful to know whether there are multiple coordinators for each group and possibly if these are identical for VP/NP.
This wouldn't have to replace the current graphs, just supplement them.

The Atlas is impressive anyway, because it combines so much. More notes that didn't overwork the authors would be desirable, though. One reason they might not include more info is that they couldn't be thorough on all of it due to time or limited descriptions, but some of these details are part of what's needed to write anything at all (like whether a coordinator is overt or not).


Anyway, that was a bit off the topic of marking...


--- Quote ---In fact, it seems like a huge majority of the world's languages would be double-marking or head-marking, but WALS seems to claim the opposite.
--- End quote ---
My biased sample of (mostly Eurasian) languages certainly follows what you're saying, and I feel like I've often come across similarly unsurprising systems in other languages I don't know well (random examples in a textbook, etc.). I am also very skeptical now about what the distributions in WALS are really claiming-- they may not be wrong, but they certainly aren't informing us of what we are expecting, such as whether these languages look like English or not.



In my personal opinion, it would be great if WALS became an open community like Wikipedia. The print version of the text is useful but has now been out for several years (which is why the website is free, I believe), and for continuity having just that info on the website is fine. But a WALS 2.0 with Wikipedia-style peer review* and added languages** and variables would be amazing! Every fieldworker should add in the data for their language. It would take almost no time at all and it would exponentially increase the information in and value of WALS (which is already great).
[*I would expect some verification of the info and probably not anonymous contributions]
[**There is some logic behind the distribution of languages they chose, and that is useful if you want to look at the world in that way. But other times a research project isn't about even distributions but about finding instances of a phenomenon for example, where all possible data is useful regardless of sampling method. Moreover, the set of languages included now is not consistent anyway, due to limited descriptive information, so perfect consistency/sampling can't be achieved.]

Do you think that's a conceivable idea? I wonder if they'd be interested in that.

ibarrere:
I think that's a great idea. In fact, I was looking for a comments section of sorts for this particular component to try to get to the bottom of the marking question I brought here. There are a few existing comments (by who appear to be specialists) on the right side claiming that several data points are incorrect, although I'm not sure the comment interface is freely usable/something people even pay attention to (the comments are several years old).

I'm not sure converting the existing WALS installation into something quasi-publicly editable would be feasible, but creating a platform like that from scratch (reusing WALS data) would probably be a reasonable undertaking.

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