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Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Why isn’t Semitic language important vowel?
« Last post by panini on June 09, 2018, 09:56:37 PM »
There is another sense in which vowels aren't "important" in Semitic, that lexical roots are characterized just by consonants, and vowels and prosodic patterning indicates inflection and derivation of the roots. The explanation is ultimately lost in ancient history, and aspects of the Semitic system are found elsewhere in Afroasiatic suggesting that the roots of the system are quite ancient. I believe that the Semitic pattern is the result of ordinary prefixation,  suffixation and reduplication causing syncope which was grammaticalized, resulting in the "pattern" aspect of Semitic word formation, and probably localized vowel harmony causing apparent vowel shifts.
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Some authors have applied a general rule that a (proper) noun may be introduced in the discourse without an article and then subsequent uses will use it. In order to modify discourse prominence, the absence of the article with a proper noun still activated in the discourse is said to add salience to that referent.
That's interesting, and makes some sense because definiteness is at least sometimes anaphoric in discourse, e.g., "defined" (rather than "specific" or other types of "definiteness").
I have not previously heard of this particular pattern, but I haven't studied definiteness myself, just seen some things in passing.
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I am wondering whether there has been any work done on processing effort involved in the use / non-use of (definite) articles associated with proper nouns?
I'm not sure about that. It sounds like an interesting study to do.

Someone whose work you might want to consult is Tania Ionin:
https://linguistics.illinois.edu/directory/profile/tionin
She has worked extensively on definiteness from a psycholinguistic perspective. Most of her work is about language acquisition, but in doing so she also looks at native speaker control groups and has contributed directly to our understanding of what definiteness is semantically. But I don't think she has (yet!?) looked at definiteness combining with proper names. That would be an interesting extension and might fit within the same experimental methodology she has used.

I'm not sure of exactly what language would be best to test with (that's usually a limitation for psycholinguistic work), but there's probably one out there, if you can access speakers of course.

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From a relevance theory perspective it seems that it would be common and reasonable to introduce a discourse participant without the article. Using Christopher Lucas' terminology based on Hawkins' work, that entity is then capable of being represented as a mutually manifest P-Set which explains the use of the article with it subsequently. Lucas' approach also explains instances where an entity is introduced with the article and no prior reference.
I don't think that's wrong, but is it necessary? That's what definite literally means-- previously introduced (defined) in the discourse, right?
But maybe you'll be able to explain that idea of definiteness itself (just be careful that it can mean several different similar things, like specificity or uniqueness).

Also, going back to the earlier Maxims (which can usually be readily derived from Relevance nowadays), wouldn't the Maxim of Quantity suggest that having an extra word in repeated usage would be odd? Then again, maybe it's there to add the additional information that it's the same entity already expressed.
(But compare this to the 'Switch Reference' phenomenon in 'pro-drop' languages, where a subject pronoun is substantially more likely in an introduction instance than in a repeated usage instance, where usually the agreeing verb alone is enough. [This has little to do with the other/older sense of "Switch-Reference" related to verbal morphology, except at the discourse level of same/different subjects.])

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In many switches between two activated discourse participants a post-positive marker of  narrative progression (de) is preceded by the article - (ho de), the article thus being used almost pronominally. It seems to me that this common device from an RT perspective must be due to a desire to reduce processing effort in decoding extra linguistic information that would be involved if the proper noun was used each time.
Hm, see above. Without exception as far as I know, languages tend to drop repeated pronouns rather than use them more often when repeated.

Whether this is an exception to that or something else depends on how you analyze it, but that literature would be worth looking into. I have a fairly substantial bibliography on it I could send you if you're interested. It's not hard to find papers that mention it, though. Cameron's (etc.) work is relevant, as well as too many other papers to name. It is primarily about Spanish and other Romance languages but similar results have been reported elsewhere for typologically distinct languages, like Japanese, too.

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from an RT perspective I would presume that this would thus highlight the salience of that participant by incurring an extra processing cost.
Again, puzzling! Because you could predict the exact opposite for the reasons above.

"Salience" I suppose could be considered in several different ways, including emphasis, but why would that be the case on repeated usage?

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I am pretty new to linguistics so apologies if my terminology is all over the place. I have also horrendously over-simplified the literature on the article... literally books have been written about its use and non-use and I can't accurately represent it all here
It is very interesting! I hope some of my comments might help.

--
Updated to add: I meant to also ask whether or how this pattern fits into the typical grammaticalization pathway for articles, first demonstratives, then definiteness markers, then noun markers (including on proper nouns), etc.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_(grammar)#Evolution
http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199586783.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199586783-e-42
Author's draft PDF of that: http://www.lattice.cnrs.fr/IMG/pdf/Handbook.gramma.2010.pdf
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Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Why isn’t Semitic language important vowel?
« Last post by Daniel on June 09, 2018, 03:34:05 PM »
th vwls r nt wrttn bcs w cn ndrstnd whn w dnt wrt vwls!

The vowels are actually very important in Arabic and Hebrew: they change meanings, sometimes even things like tense of the verb or from singular to plural for nouns. But they aren't written because speakers of the languages can generally guess what these vowels should be, and so they can fill them in. As you can see above for English, you can do this too, with a little guessing-- and with more practice, you could do it regularly. It makes writing faster. On the other hand, it makes it very hard for students of the language to learn it because they don't already know all of the information so it's hard to read a text where the vowels aren't indicated (there are optional symbols that can be used in class, but it's a hard transition to the real world of, for example, newspapers!).

Also, only short vowels aren't written. The long vowels are written, so that is about half of the information (and arguably the important information about syllable structure).

As for why, it's because Semitic writing originally comes from Phoenician, and eventually all the way back to Ancient Egyptian. First, Ancient Egyptian was written with symbols representing meanings. But then some symbols became associated with the first consonant of the word (e.g., boy>B, girl>G, or something like that). And because of the structure of Ancient Egypitan (and Semitic, related in the same family), it was the consonants that were most important for the general meaning (think about how they were trying to save time when actually carving these symbols into stone!). So because most roots in these languages have 3 consonant roots, it's easy to just write down three symbols to represent almost any word. And that is basically the system that resulted thousands of years later for Phoenician.

Written vowels are actually discovered by accident, when the Greeks made a mistake! They saw Phoenician writing, and because in Greek the vowels and consonants are about equally important structurally (no triliteral root system like in Semitic), they just assumed all of the Greek sounds could or should be written in the same way. So they borrowed many of the shapes from Phoenician and wrote Greek sound by sound, which happened to include some vowels. (A technical explanation: actually the "long vowels" of Semitic that are written aren't really vowels at all but vowel-hosting semi-vowels, etc. Thus these seem like vowels although what they really represent is syllable structure with default short vowels added to them to make long vowels. The Greeks didn't understand that nuance, and just used symbols for Greek vowels.) An interesting example of this happening again later is that in Greek the "h" sound was not considered a consonant, but just a distinction in "breathing" at the beginning of words. So if you compare the Greek letter "Η" to English -- yes, that's a Greek letter, called eta, a vowel! -- then you will notice that it looks like the English letter H. That's not a coincidence, and came about in a complex way as the Romans borrowed the Greek alphabet to spell Latin (with some influence from Estruscan writing at the time).

So, in short, (1) the Semitic languages don't need to write the vowels, and (2) they only exist in English (etc.) because the Greeks made a mistake over 2,000 years ago! (But a fortunate mistake, at least for those who like to write vowels.)
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Phonetics and Phonology / Why isn’t Semitic language important vowel?
« Last post by giselberga on June 09, 2018, 09:47:30 AM »
Semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew aren’t important vowel
Why isn’t Semitic language important vowel?
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by Daniel on June 06, 2018, 06:21:09 PM »
That makes sense then! Interesting.
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by panini on June 06, 2018, 05:39:50 PM »
Well, a bit more circumstantial evidence in support... I located a work on writing, Faulmann's Illustrirte Geschichte der Schrift, which covers Kufic script, the original calligraphic style used for transmitting the Qur'an. P. 416 gives the 4 forms of the various letters, and you can see that ك has essentially the single form as it does in Persian. Also p. 39 of this article on Maghribi script (likewise archaic but not as archaic) has more uniform shapes to kaf.

Back to Illustrirte Geschichte, p. 420 discusses the features of Naskh, which is closer to Ruq`a that we encounter nowadays, and says that "k is more distinguished from l with an 'inscribed' ء", etc. indicating that kaf was elaborated in this script.
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by Daniel on June 06, 2018, 11:33:00 AM »
I'm not sure either, but let's see--

Wikipedia says the Arabic script was adopted around the 9th century (so ~1200 years ago)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_alphabet

So the question is just whether the extra symbol was added in Arabic before or after that point--

This page shows the history and variation but doesn't give a timeline:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaph

Based on a quick search, I'm not finding information about the date when the Arabic letter changed. The adoption of the script in Persia is nearly as old as the Qur'an itself though, so it's entirely possible that you're right about this, panini, assuming the earlier form was used consistently in the Qur'an.
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by panini on June 06, 2018, 07:31:15 AM »
That's above my pay grade or, as they say, it's an empirical question. One would have to study ancient manuscripts.
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by Daniel on June 05, 2018, 11:50:24 PM »
That makes a lot of sense. But do you know if the timeline of adopting the Arabic script in Persia matches up with the changes in kāf in Arabic?
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Language-specific analysis / Re: Persian alphabet kaf and Arabic alphabet kaf
« Last post by panini on June 05, 2018, 10:15:21 PM »
I think the answer is that al-kāf al-mashkūlah (ک) is historically more original and ك is derived. ك involves a more significant contextual change whereas ک is largely invariant. ک also more closely resembles earlier Semitic letters. I suggest looking for old documents in the various languages. Notice that ل (l) and ك are very similar, so the development of that thing (I don't know what it is called) probably helps distinguish k and l.
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