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31
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 26, 2018, 03:38:58 PM »
Thank you both for your interesting input.

Your examples are certainly convincing that in some circumstances these performatives can be very important and, in those circumstances, frequent. But that still doesn't make them an especially frequent part of the language compared to other forms like imperatives.
Performative is extensively used by government officials too:
  • A judge says “You are convicted to a 10 years sentence.”
  • A member of the administration signs orders that have practical effects.
IMHO, it’s a pretty common speech mood in certain contexts.
My dictionary says:
Quote
mood |mud|
1 Grammar: a category or form that indicates whether a verb expresses fact (indicative mood), command (imperative mood), question (interrogative mood), wish (optative mood), or conditionality (subjunctive mood).
Performative is missing. ;-)

Yet initially my question was not why a grammatical performative mood doesn’t exist in the languages I know, French (besides “Que” + subjunctive) and English (besides “Let” + infinitive), but whether some languages might have one. Greek for example is very rich in conjugation moods. OTOH, I heard that Japanese language doesn’t have a future which is supposed to be expressed by context.
Similarly performative is expressed by a variety of grammatical moods and the context tells what’s actually meant. As a matter of fact I suppose that many people wouldn’t consciously admit they are trying to perform something just by speech.

Again, try doing a corpus study to see. Is it half as common as imperatives? One-tenth? I don't have a good sense of this, but my strong intuition is that they're less common.
A corpus study consists in studying actual speech acts, right?
Actually I would say that performative is used in specific circumstances where the utterer either has an actual power (government officials, Yahweh, Jupiter), believes he has (in religion, magics, etc.) or wishes he has (sports fans, cheer leaders, etc.). I guess it must be mainly oral.

Direct comparisons between biological evolution and linguistic change fall flat once you move beyond surface-level metaphors. Certainly there are some similarities, but be careful applying the analogy too strongly.
I was not thinking about the evolution of idioms (langues in French) but of language in general (langage in French). The former has been thoroughly studied whereas the latter is my topic of interest (and my essay). My hypothesis is that it evolved along with the evolution of the human species over millions of years, in correlation with the tremendous encephalization that occurred. Yet since roughly 100,000 years there has been no significant evolution in the human species. Because there was a population bottleneck about 70,000 years ago in Africa (to the order of 10,000 individuals) before the human kind grew again and spread all over the world it seems likely to me that there was one language (langage in French) and very few idioms if not one only.

There are some major differences, such as no sexual reproduction with languages, no clear "survival of the fittest" (more just change based on frequent usage), and so forth.
I made this hypothesis: today a good speaker has a edge in seduction, so during the evolution a better capacity at speaking may have played a role in sexual selection and hence the development of langage. Leadership conveyed by language must have played a role too.

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In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.
Yes, that makes sense to me too. But one of the fundamental differences with human language today is that it generally goes beyond things like 'alarm calls' and so forth. It's arguably the fact that most of what we say isn't performatives (and similar things) that really distinct identity to human language versus other kinds of animal communication.
Right. Human language certainly emerged from and on top of animal language and, as is common with emergences in evolution, the radically new form can’t be deducted from the old one. There is no trace of animal language remaining today in ours. Yet this emergence certainly took a long time during which our ancestors were still using the original animal language and gradually developing the first bricks of human language.

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Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo.
It's not really taboo. It's that there are many different theories, and most of them are wrong, and we may never know which is right. Speculation is not the same as evidence-based research. That doesn't stop people (even professional linguists, even Noam Chomsky) from speculating and publishing on the topic. So go ahead. And some ideas might have other significance. But it's not really the kind of problem that can be 'solved' or even rigorously debated based on established facts.
« La Société [Linguistique de Paris] n’admet aucune communication concernant soit l’origine du langage soit la création d’une langue universelle. », article 2 of the statutes founding in 1866 the Société Linguistique de Paris. In English: “The Société Linguistique de Paris will admit no communication about either the origin of language or the creation of a universal language.”
Since I am not a member I don’t care. ;-)
I had some fun writing my essay.

Nick
32
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about syntax
« Last post by Daniel on September 25, 2018, 03:26:46 AM »
Those are great observations/questions.

There's no "right answer" here, just what others have done, and various motivations (such as the data you just introduced).

If this is for a class or other situation where a theory is assigned to you, follow the structure there.
If this is for your own project and you can choose (or change) a theory, then you should read about "DP" as I mentioned above. It's standardly assumed in current Minimalist syntax, and has been for decades. So instead of NP, you'll have DP as your noun arguments in a sentence (subject, object, etc.), and then NP will be the basic structure around nouns including modifiers like adjectives or prepositional phrases, etc. Then above that you'll have additional layer(s) including the D (Determiner = articles) level.* And you can add a NumP or QuantP (or whatever else) as needed. Again, refer to current research for examples and arguments. The easiest way to approach this is of course to just follow the structures assigned by others rather than reinventing the wheel, not that what is already out there is perfect, but it's probably usable.

Your question about complex numbers is very important. This means there is internal structure within the numeral. Therefore, one possibility is to have two distinct "numeral phrases". That is, one like an AdjP where you have the structure of the numeral itself, and then some higher level of structure that hosts the NP. That gets a little complicated though because you might want the Numeral head to also select the NP as complement. In that case, you'd have to put the modifying numeral words somewhere else. There are several possibilities: the "specifier" position might be somewhere to put them, but then they could be complex, and at least semantically it isn't clear to me why you'd want to split up the words in that way as if for some reason "twenty" is more/less important than "two" in "twenty-two".** So another simple option would be to say these are actually compounds (morphology) rather than syntactic constructions, or even if they are syntax, treat them somehow as complex heads. (That gets into some technically complex issues with drawing and theorizing about syntactic trees, but it can be done.)

In short, it's time to do some reading to figure out which theory (or really, theoretical variant) you'd like to follow.

--
[*But note that because articles also agree with the noun in gender, that doesn't necessarily mean your reasoning for treating ordinal numerals like adjectives is correct, although my intuition is that it would make sense.]
[**Actually, agreement patterns in some languages could give us a clue: sometimes a number like "twenty-one" would trigger singular agreement, I believe, although I can't think of an example right away. If not, maybe there is some other way to distinguish between the parts of the number with one as head, but it's hard to say. Another complexity is syntactically complex numbers like in German literally "one and twenty", e.g., Zweiundzwanzig, although note that writing it as a single word might suggest this too is a compound.]
33
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about syntax
« Last post by Muikkunen on September 25, 2018, 01:59:52 AM »
Well, I can treat ordinal numerals and quantifiers as adjectives, because they agree in case, number and gender with the noun they modify as adjectives do. Also, adjectives, ordinal numerals and quantifiers are declined in the same way.

However, with cardinal numbers the situation is different, because the case of the following noun is determined by the numeral:
1 - nominative singular
2-4 - nominative plural (this one I am unsure of, the form of the noun is that of nominative plural, but the stress pattern is/seems that of genitive singular; sometimes it is called "dual"; if you're interested I'll need to check the information)
5-20 - genitive plural
X1 - nominative singular
X2-X4 - nominative plural
X5-X9, X0 - genitive plural
(X>1)

So, can I say that in case of ordinal numerals and quantifiers, they are included within NPs, but in case of phrases like "cardinal numeral + noun", the numeral is the head?

Also, I wonder about internal structure of numerals like "one thousand two hundred". How are they treated in English?
In Ukrainian, it is like this:

Два мільйони п'ять тисяч.
Two-MASC.NOM million-MASC.NOM.PL five-NOM thousand-GEN.PL

P.S. The case of "one" and "two" is interesting, because on the one hand, they determine the case of the noun/numeral that follows them, but on the other hand, their gender is determined by the gender of the noun/numeral that follows them (not all numerals have gender, though).

For example:

Одна тисяча.
One-FEM.NOM.SG thousand-FEM.NOM.SG

Один мільйон.
One-MASC.NOM.SG million-MASC.NOM.SG
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about syntax
« Last post by Daniel on September 24, 2018, 04:02:16 PM »
Does "one cat" function more like "one" or "cat"?

Edit: I should also add that this is a slightly more complicated question. It really depends on your theoretical analysis. If you have a Determiner Phrase (DP), you could call the numeral a determiner. You could also add a layer of structure below DP that specifically allows for numerals, and you could call that a NumP, if you wish. But in that sense, it's acting like a quantifier, which is arguably a type of determiner. All of these may be split into different categories based on nuances, depending on the analysis. If you're simply treating the numeral like an adjective, then like an adjective, this would be a modifier phrase within the NP. But if you get into more complex phrase structure, you could say there's a functional 'NumP' projection within the larger DP/NP structure. So, it's complicated, and it depends. As with my (over simplified) original question above, what sort of tests would be relevant for determining these differences (and what assumptions are you making)?

Given that your trees above just have "the fact" as an NP (not a DP), then you would also analyze a numeral as within the NP. If you do introduce DP, then "the fact" would be a DP (with "the" as the D head), and then the numeral would be a part of the DP (or a more nuanced projection within it). But if there's only an NP, then that would contain the numeral, rather than the other way around. Essentially an NP is a primitive DP, and a DP is just a bigger NP, in terms of external function.
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about syntax
« Last post by Muikkunen on September 24, 2018, 12:26:03 PM »
Thank you for the detailed explanation!

I have another question. If there is a combination of a numeral with a noun is it called "numeral phrase" or "noun phrase"?

Here is my tree for such a phrase in Ukrainian:

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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by vox on September 23, 2018, 07:16:45 AM »
Old Nick,
Asking why doesn’t a performative mood exist it's asking why speech acts haven’t been grammaticalized (because being a mood it’s being a grammatical category). I think the main reason is because it wouldn’t be economical.

Many sorts of moods have been identified in different languages throughout the world that one can call “performative”: precative (prayers, requests), commissive (promises, threats), jussive (commands), hortative (encouragements), benefactive (blessings), imprecative (curses, wishing misfortune), optative/volitive (wishes, hopes), prohibitive (prohibitions)…. :
https://glossary.sil.org/term/commissive-modality
https://glossary.sil.org/term/volitive-modality
https://glossary.sil.org/term/directive-modality
So there should be several performative moods, not one. But a language can’t give itself dozens of different morphemes to express each of these speech acts. Most of the time either a few of them are grammaticalized to become a “mood” or one mood is used for different speech acts, e.g. imperative in French as an hortative (Allons manger !), jussive (Sors d’ici !), prohibitive (N’entrez pas !),  precative (Sauvez-moi !).

Your examples are directive speech acts. I have two things to say about that :
1) If ever a “performative mood” existed, technically it couldn’t be limited to the deontic/directive field. The epistemic/assertive field should also be part of it, which means other moods to be taken into account: assumptive, dubitative, deductive, hypothetical … 
2) The illocutionary force of directive speech acts seems to be grammaticalized to become the future tense. Bybee & Dahl states that the future tense comes from a lexical source which is often a movement verb or a word meaning something like “desire”, “intention”, “obligation”. Source : Joan Bybee & Osten Dahl, The creation of tense and aspect systems in the languages of the world, p. 57-58, p. 90-94, pdf available on the internet.
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The major lexical sources for future grams, which have been well documented across numerous examples, are the following three (see Ultan 1978; and Bybee and Pagliuca 1987):
i. An auxiliary verb with the original meaning of 'want' or 'desire', or less commonly a derivational desiderative morpheme, which in turn has as its source a main verb meaning 'want' or 'desire'. Examples may be found in English, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili and Mandarin, to name but a few.
ii. A construction meaning 'movement towards a goal' (such as English be going to), which contains a movement verb in a progressive or imperfective aspect, and an allative component either explicit or incorporated in the verb. Less commonly, a derivational andative construction (whose source is also a verb meaning 'movement towards a goal') may develop into a future gram. Examples may be found in Hausa, Logbara, Haitian Creole, Isthmus Zapotec and many
more.
iii. A verb meaning 'to owe' or 'to be obliged', or more commonly a construction with a copula or possession verb, and a non- finite main verb, such as English to have to or to be to. Examples may be found in the Western Romance languages, the Eastern Kru languages, Korean and
Ecuadorian Quechua. (Bybee & Dahl, p. 90)
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Daniel on September 22, 2018, 06:41:13 PM »
Your examples are certainly convincing that in some circumstances these performatives can be very important and, in those circumstances, frequent. But that still doesn't make them an especially frequent part of the language compared to other forms like imperatives. Again, try doing a corpus study to see. Is it half as common as imperatives? One-tenth? I don't have a good sense of this, but my strong intuition is that they're less common.

To use an annoying phrase, those examples are sort of exceptions that prove the rule: you must come up with exceptional circumstances to show frequent use of these forms. Again, I'm not saying they're unimportant or extremely rare. I'm just saying that other forms typically dominate.

Quote
Could we say the same about languages?
Direct comparisons between biological evolution and linguistic change fall flat once you move beyond surface-level metaphors. Certainly there are some similarities, but be careful applying the analogy too strongly. There are some major differences, such as no sexual reproduction with languages, no clear "survival of the fittest" (more just change based on frequent usage), and so forth.
So, yes, some of what you're saying does seem to translate, but not necessarily based on the same underlying mechanisms.

Quote
In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.
Yes, that makes sense to me too. But one of the fundamental differences with human language today is that it generally goes beyond things like 'alarm calls' and so forth. It's arguably the fact that most of what we say isn't performatives (and similar things) that really distinct identity to human language versus other kinds of animal communication.

Quote
Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo.
It's not really taboo. It's that there are many different theories, and most of them are wrong, and we may never know which is right. Speculation is not the same as evidence-based research. That doesn't stop people (even professional linguists, even Noam Chomsky) from speculating and publishing on the topic. So go ahead. And some ideas might have other significance. But it's not really the kind of problem that can be 'solved' or even rigorously debated based on established facts.

As for not being a linguist, don't let that stop you from doing a corpus study of discourse functions. Up to you, of course, but the field is inherently interdisciplinary, and although there are many tips you could get from linguists who have done corpus research, simply coding utterances for their discourse functions (with some margin for error/uncertainty, of course) would not be especially difficult or technical. It would take a significant amount of time, and so the researcher would need to be dedicated to doing it well (and probably across several genres). But you could just take any spoken corpus and get some general results and see where to go from there. For example, these corpora are good and free: https://corpus.byu.edu/
However, for this I suppose you'd need to find a full-text corpus that you could just read through. In that case, search Google to find one that fits your needs. It doesn't need to be an especially large one. In fact, larger would be more difficult for you to code sentence-by-sentence. So find a high quality spoken corpus that is open as a full-text source, and try this out. Questions of frequency are easy to answer methodologically, although aside from word forms and other things easy to search, they can be time consuming with manual annotation. Still, without that, you can't say that performatives are frequent which is an objective, quantitative statement. You can say they are important, but that's qualitative and subjective.
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 22, 2018, 01:54:50 PM »
Yesterday I was attending a funeral ceremony and I kept listening to the modes of expression used by the priest. The Lord's Prayer for example includes mainly two modes: injunctions to God (imperative mode) and performatives (“Que” + subjunctive in French). It was basically the same for all the speeches during the function.
During sport events the fans’ cheers are also mainly performative.
Protesters and demonstrators use also non-verbal sentences like: “Down with bureaucracy!” that aim at a result.
Politicians, believing they can make things happen and/or just making promises, use massively the performative mode: “With my leadership and confidence-building charisma the economy will grow” Well… it could also be called wishful thinking. ;)

Yes, it's making use of an existing structure while adapting it to a new purpose. This is how almost everything works in language change, and therefore the source for most constructions. You could look to imperatives for some relatively parallel developments, such as some languages using infinitives or infinitive-like forms, others using subjunctives, and so forth. (Notice how for example, Romance languages vary in whether negative imperatives look like imperatives, or some other inflected form like subjunctives, or also often infinitives.)
Right, injunctions are often expressed in a variety of modes besides imperative: “Come here!”, “You come here!”, “Will you come here?”, “You will come here!”, “Here!”, and so on.

I suppose the term you're looking for might be 'multi-functionality', although specifically the phrasing 'economy of means' makes sense too.
I was comparing it with the evolution of species.
Evolution allows the development of functions in a benefit/cost ratio method. Useless organs or traits, or of non indispensable use, like animal pelage, are selected if they come at no or little cost. Yet male ducks, because they have the task of seducing females, display wonderful colors, whereas females are just brown. The latter don’t need to be conspicuous and attractive.
OTOH organs that become useless usually atrophy. In the course of cetaceans’ evolution over tens of millions of years, from close relatives of hippopotamuses, fossils show the regression of their back legs and pelvis until complete disappearing.
Conversely, the increase of the human brain size, an extremely costly organ in terms of development during gestation and during growth and in terms of nutrition on a daily basis means there were immediate benefits in the course of evolution.
Could we say the same about languages?

It is probably more common than we would typically assume. But that doesn't make it more frequent than other functions. That is, imperatives also aren't as common as declaratives (or probably interrogatives either), but they're common enough to have grammaticalized with specialized forms in many languages. As a simple comparison, you could look to see whether performatives are as frequent as imperatives in typical speech. My assumption is that they are not. They're certainly widespread, and in some sense "frequent", but they don't seem to have crossed whatever threshold there is for the grammaticalization of specialized verb forms. You might look at languages where religion or other performative-related acts are more culturally central. For example, the 'jussive' in Arabic could arguably be something along these lines, and Islam is an important factor in the development of Arabic. Similarly, you could look at some languages with highly developed ritual systems/registers to see if they had any special means of expressing these things. That's outside my expertise but an interesting possibility.
I read pieces about experiments in teaching chimps to learn and use a symbolic language, either with ASL or with tokens, and it seems they spontaneously use practically no interrogation in terms of aiming at getting an information (on a cognitive level), seldom use declarative and pretty much use exclamation and imperative: “Fridge! Open! Quick!” In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.

By the way, actually doing a corpus based study of speech acts might be an interesting project. I'm not sure to what extent that has already been explored (if so, and in detail, you might be able to just refer to those numbers, and if not, it might be worth pursuing and even publishing in itself).
It sure would be interesting but I am not a linguist. Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo. But, hey!, I am not a linguist! ;)

Quote from: Old Nick
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.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
I’ll check them at the library.
It’s interesting they wondered whether performative mode was actually performing. ;)

Nick
39
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by vox on September 19, 2018, 07:24:52 AM »
Quote from: Old Nick
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.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 19, 2018, 02:06:30 AM »
I am on the leave for a couple of days. I'll be back to you by the week-end.
Nick
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