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Morphosyntax / A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 18, 2018, 03:58:53 AM »
Hi all

I am wondering whether there is in some languages a grammatical mode for Performativity.
The very first example was God’s “Let there be light!”
In French it was translated into “Que la lumière soit !” The structure “Que” + subjonctive is considered to be a form of third person imperative. You would say to someone to transmit the injunction: “Qu’elle vienne me voir !”
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.

Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?


Wow!  So interesting, thank you.  Maybe the family story is true then regarding the Greek great grandmother.  I will keep looking as you suggest, but it's really helpful to have an expert eye to set up the critical questions. 

Many thanks again. 
OK, I can see it now! Deciphering handwriting in an unfamiliar script (even if you know how the printed characters look) can be very challenging. An obvious case is with Cyrillic cursive ( which can actually look misleadningly like Latin cursive. However, here, at least we're working with separate characters. I'll attach just the name part of the image here so everything is in one place.

What I see really does look like Greek, at least for some letters. I know only a little bit of Greek, and I'm not especially familiar with handwriting, so I'll have to guess here. Asking a Greek speaker would be a good next step. What I see in the image looks something like this:
/μαριωg στραθη/

The last name is particularly clear. The first is uncertain. All of the letters I wrote above are Greek, except for the first name's final "g" (in bold) which is just what it looks like to me. Maybe that's just a fancy tail on an alpha so it would be another 'a'? Otherwise I'm not sure...

Transliterating we'd get:
"MarioX Strathi"

The first name is then a bit of a mystery. If it's just "Maria" then in Greek it would be "Μαρία", letter-by-letter the same. I don't know what the extra ending is there.

The last name is interesting: it quite clearly isn't "Stanthe" (at least as far as I can read the letters), but looks fairly close. The English translation could actually be a change (some people would do that for various reasons, either that it sounds/looks better in a language, or because they want to sort of hide their ethnic origins, often the case with immigrants at Ellis Island, etc.), but I don't know if that would make sense in parallel usage as in this certificate. The English version, as you say, is not especially clear. So maybe it does just say "Strathe". Does that look possible? I think maybe.

So "Maria Strathe" seems reasonable. But I'm still not sure what the ending on the first name is. Maybe it's not actually the Greek form of the name, so you might look up other forms of "Maria" in Europe (you mentioned Albanian, for example, but look more broadly too) to see if you can locate one that has some kind of ending in the feminine form like "ioX" where X is some yet-unknown letter. Starting with a list like this might help: -- I don't see this specific form listed there, but maybe if you keep looking. It's possible it's also a historical variant or something.

The next step would be to ask a Greek speaker, and maybe to reach out to some genealogy experts for that part of the world. Asking linguists a question like this can give you some technical information, but for really figuring it out we're limited by how much specific knowledge we have of individual languages-- from this point, this is a 'bottom up' question (from knowing the specific right language) question rather than 'top down' (narrowing possibilities, guessing based on cross-linguistic patterns). Remember also that even though it does appear to be the Greek alphabet, it's possible that the name itself is originally from another language and just then spelled in Greek (perhaps following immigration, or marriage, or just an older traditional name in the family from generations before). I can't personally help more because while I know a lot about linguistics I know relatively little about genealogy or Greek specifically. I hope that helps some though!
Thank you Daniel, sorry about that.  Also thinking I should have entitled this post: Which Language...

I've tried to attach but it's too large, so hopefully it can be accessed here now.

Since I posted earlier I've doubted myself thinking it's not a language at all, or it's phonetic symbols.  However, the bridegroom worked for both the Ottoman and British governments as an interpreter, so I think that the inclusion of the script I am curious about must mean something.   
Interesting question. The link you posted, however, requires a sign in to, so I can't view it. You could post it here as an attachment or link to it somewhere else.
Hello, I am trying to work out what language (if any) the script (middle of 3rd line down) in this marriage certificate is written in, and wondered if anyone would be able to help please?

It's from a marriage in Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire, 1838, between my grandfather's great-grandparents.  We were told that great grandmother on the certificate was Greek, but the unknown script appears not to be.  I wondered if it might be some sort of Albanian script.  For the purposes of the certificate they have translated her name to Marie Stanthe (?) but it's hard to read.

Thank you for looking, in advance.

Language-specific analysis / Re: What language is this?
« Last post by panini on September 15, 2018, 04:29:55 PM »
I would say that on a scale from -10 ("absolutely not") to +10 ("absolutely is"), I would put it at maybe 3. I base it on speech rhythm (Finnish is quite distinctive) and apparent word length, some phonetic details (velarization of l, preconsonantal h), plus he looks Finnish. If you find a Finnish speaker they might be able to hear what he's saying better.
Language-specific analysis / Re: What language is this?
« Last post by aramis720 on September 15, 2018, 02:32:48 PM »
thanks Panini. What's your confidence level that it's Finnic? Are there some words you can distinguish that I can look up?
Morphosyntax / Re: How can you test whether a word is being used as a conjunction?
« Last post by Daniel on September 13, 2018, 06:58:27 AM »
Generally it's best to leave up enough content so others can learn from the discussion. What matters more is doing a good, thorough job on the research and finding relevant results/analyses, rather than the original question. (It's almost certain someone has had the same question before. But have they done a good job answering it?)

By the way, more broadly, you might look at the history of English (relative, complementizer) "that" for example, because it originally comes from two separate clauses, something like "I know. That is interesting."
Morphosyntax / Re: How can you test whether a word is being used as a conjunction?
« Last post by Daniel on September 12, 2018, 10:43:12 PM »
Take a look at this paper:
Van Valin* establishes the idea of 'cosubordination' as a non-embedded but morphosyntactically dependent relationship. However, footnote 7 on p.557 briefly discusses the idea of a non-dependent but embedded construction, which could include parentheticals.**

The Role and Reference Grammar methodology (to which that belongs) is popular for descriptive work because it allows a more fine-grained distinction about clause linkage.

So you might think about that kind of distinction, whether aka-clauses are embedded or not, and then where to go from there.

It isn't immediately apparent to me whether "aka" would be embedded or not, although I would default to a parenthetical explanation. But if you start to find instances that seem more integrated, you might be seeing the initial development of a conjunction.

Further, you would also want to show that "aka" itself is actually part of the clause, or a linking element between clauses (depending on your analysis), rather than a parenthetical element itself. For example, you might look at intonation, although using textual examples from Twitter won't give you data like that.

The other area that this borders on is 'discourse particles', words like 'like' or 'um' (traditionally grouped under 'interjections'), and that might also be helpful. But there are well known cases of discourse particles grammaticalizing as conjunctions, for example quotative 'like' in English-- "He was like, 'Hello!'"

[*You can find several [text]books that go into more detail about RRG if that seems helpful. That article is just easily accessible and concisely about this point in particular.]
[**I know that parentheticals were explicitly discussed as that possible fourth type somewhere in the RRG literature, although I'm not seeing it in that article at the moment. You might do a more thorough literature review to see if you can find that if it seems important to you.]

By the way, one other thing you could consider would be constituency tests in general, although in some ways this could get complicated if you have a (possibly) parenthetical element with probably fairly free word order. Tests like extraction or fronting might give you some information, but could be hard to interpret for that reason.
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