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Linguist's Lounge / Re: Helping to compare 'descriptive power' of languages
« Last post by Daniel on February 26, 2019, 02:28:32 AM »
all languages have basically the same ability to describe something
Yes, that is correct.

One important type of difference between languages is which types of meaning contrasts are grammatically required (or just used often, or available in short, concise forms). For example, Evidentiality is a category of grammatical "evidence" for statements, like "I think" or "I know for a fact" or "someone told me", etc. Languages with obligatory evidentiality marked on every verb are different from English (and other languages without evidentiality) because speakers engage in that sort of behavior so often, and it may even have some effects on how they classify the world around them. But these are questions of usage and grammar, not questions of what can possibly be expressed because we can paraphrase anything we need to-- as shown by the examples above, like "I think", "I know", etc.
Linguist's Lounge / Helping to compare 'descriptive power' of languages
« Last post by frostysh on February 25, 2019, 09:43:23 AM »
Hello to everyone who read this! And sorry for my English...

I have a discussion on some particular internet forum which is now about a languages. In short:

I saying that all languages have basically the same ability to describe something. In example English speaker can hypothetically understand any thoughts and cultural things of a China speaker, but with a different language (in this case English) and my opponent saying to me that sometimes translation is impossible and I am saying that translation is a more stub term than 'description' and means basically finding a proper 'shortcuts' which have same or similar meanings.
Please help me to understand which of us is speaking truth and if it possible with some academic writings or something like that.

Thank you for the future answers!

P. S. I am a far from linguistic science, so please not explain more simple.
Typology and Descriptive Linguistics / Re: Why we use have + past participe?
« Last post by Daniel on February 25, 2019, 01:08:26 AM »
This is a complex topic, but I do have some ideas about it.

An important observation is the argument rules selected for by participles. Consider "singing man" vs "sung song".

As it turns out, past participles select for absolutive arguments: objects/patients of transitives (leading to passives like "the song was sung"), and subjects of intransitives (leading to perfectives like "I am left"). The passives presumably developed out of stative resultatives ("the window is (currently in a state of being) broken"), and then grammaticalized as passives through that usage.

The transitive/intrasitive split for HAVE vs BE auxiliaries for perfectives is still found today in several Indo-European languages, including German, French and Italian. It was also found up until around 200 years ago in English, and also in earlier Spanish as well.

But then the auxiliary HAVE generalized to be used for all verbs, whether transitive or intransitive. Originally, perfectives with HAVE as an auxiliary came from a different source, namely transitive constructions with a sort of possessive sense of a stative description like "I have the window broken", parallel to "I saw the window broken". This word order apparently still exists in Irish English, for example. Notice that this usage still originally comes from the absolutive alignment of these participles, and the agent— an ergative argument— is introduced as an additional, external argument, only then associated with the verb/participle after grammaticalization when a new argument structure has come about.

So the surprising pattern here is that of ergative-absolutive split in auxiliary selection, in contrast to typical nominative-accusative case marking in Indo-European. This is almost certainly also why the constructions have eventually shifted to use only HAVE for perfectives in English and Spanish, leaving BE for passive usage. (Now HAVE is nominative, while BE is accusative.) This may appear to be an unexpected analysis, but it also seems to fit.

Interestingly, Basque has something very similar, although it is a language with substantial ergativity in general, unlike its Indo-European neighbors. Some have actually proposed that the participle+auxiliary constructions might be due to Basque influence, but there doesn't seem to be any compelling historical sociolinguistic argument for how that would have actually happened! Instead, it's probably just coincidence, although interesting nonetheless. There does seem to be some kind of complex drift and contact situation going on throughout Europe, but the exact details are still debated, such as why Germanic and Romance are so similar. Some other somewhat similar patterns are also found in Greek, Slavic, etc.

For more about this, here is a presentation from a project on the topic a year or so ago:
Typology and Descriptive Linguistics / Why do we use "have + past" participe?
« Last post by ValeryLeFay on February 22, 2019, 08:32:34 PM »
There is a topic which has much interest for me but I can't solve it.
If we look some european languages, we can observe this curious coincidence.

Spanish and romanic languages:
Yo he comido (Subject + form of to have verb+ past participe)
Yo he estado

I have eaten (Subject + form of to have verb + past participe)
I have been

Ich habe gegessen (Subject + form of to have verb + past participe)
Ich bin gewesen (Subject + form of to be verb + past participe)

In the german language, we find the use of form of to be verb. However, Italian language use the same process ("mi sono alzato").
This phenomenon is natural in romanic languages, although in classic latin perfect verbal times was synthetic (amavit). Except the perfect passive verbal times (amatus est), which use the form of to be verb. Thanks to (re)inventation of new present perfect (classic present perfect was being used as close past), appeared the formula "habeo + past participe" in vulgar latin.

Now, latin language in its imperialist context had this influence in english and german?
Do you believe that the influence of scholasticism makes this change possible?
We can't speak about a typical procces of indoeuropean languages, actually, latin and ancient greek have synthetic forms in perfect times.

In addition to this, why do german and italian use the form of "to be" verb? (specially in intransitive verbs)
Perhaps by heredity of the "amatus est" formula? Deponent verbs?
Linguist's Lounge / Hi everyone!
« Last post by ValeryLeFay on February 22, 2019, 07:57:58 PM »
Hi everyone!
I'm an student of Spanish degree in the University of Alicante, Spain. Although I want to be a general linguist,  my specialty is the spanish language and its syntax, phonemics, pragmatics, semantics, amd more -ics... I think that you have realized my "bad" english. (Can we speak about bad and good in languages as semiotic systems if they do well her communicative function?) Actually, english language and me are not very good friends. Other languages with grammar more difficult (in relative terms) has been easier for me. Hahaha. Nevertheless, English has "something" that makes it complex.

I'm an absolute fan of linguistics. I love Chomsky, but I have some consideration for structuralism as good european.  ;D
However, my favourite linguistics are of "new" generation: Johnson, Lakoff, Van Dijk, Coseriu...
I think that Constructivism and Cognitivism has the same importance in different levels.

Nowadays I am in the second course of the grade, only nineteen years old. My first investigation is about queer linguistics and syntax/semantics. I research about the semantization (at the lexic level) of the grapheme -a in homosexual man speech. I still am a neophyte, but my passion of linguistics shakes mountains.

I would like to meet you!!
What is your favourite discipline?
Computational linguistics, pragmatics, syntax... or maybe ethnolinguistics?  ;)

(By the by, my name is Sergio, but you can call me Valéry)
Morphosyntax / Re: Sentence ungrammaticality
« Last post by Daniel on February 22, 2019, 12:23:06 AM »
You could have a passive participle, but that is only possible for a transitive verb (so you can have "John was arrested/eaten"). "Died" is only a past tense verb, and that would mean that tense is instantiated twice in the same clause (you have tense only once).
This is a past participle (or past tense), as in "John died" (past tense) or "John has died" (past participle). But the first part of your explanation is correct there: the participle must be from a transitive verb.

Passives promote a non-subject to subject, and remove the subject as an argument of the verb (it may appear as an extra bit of information then, introduced with "by").

So the verb "die" does not have enough arguments (just one: no object like "John died his life"), meaning that there is nothing to promote to subject.


Now, you might wonder, what about not having a subject all? Well, that's generally not allowed, and at least in English you would need to fill in something like "It was died". Even in a language like Spanish where overt subjects are not required, there is still generally an understood subject (as indicated by subject agreement still found on the verb!), so that also wouldn't make sense: there must be a conceptual subject, even if it is not pronounced.

Interestingly enough, there actually are some languages that do allow passivization of intransitive verbs. In German, the verb "werden" (lit. 'become') works like English "be" in passives. And you can literally say "It was danced": Es wurde getantzt. -- meaning something like "There was some dancing going on; people danced." I'm not sure whether "Es wurde gestorben" would make sense to a German speaker ('there was dying going on'?), but it may be a grammatical possibility. But again, English does not allow for this.
Morphosyntax / Re: Sentence ungrammaticality
« Last post by panini on February 20, 2019, 09:56:05 AM »
It's because there is no rule of English grammar that will generate that sentence. It might be easiest to start with the rules that introduce "be" plus something else. You could have an NP, but "died" is not an NP. You can have a progressive particle, but "died" isn't one. You can have an adjective, but "died" isn't one ("dyed" is). You could have a passive participle, but that is only possible for a transitive verb (so you can have "John was arrested/eaten"). "Died" is only a past tense verb, and that would mean that tense is instantiated twice in the same clause (you have tense only once). So there is no rule of English that generates this, and by definition the string is ungrammatical.

I should point out that many people get confused about the difference between acceptability and grammaticality. Grammaticality is an abstract analytic judgment that requires you to explicitly know the rule of English grammar, by which I mean the actual rules of English grammar and not things they teach you in school. Usually, linguists conjecture that a certain sentence is ungrammatical because they have a reasonable theory of the rules of English and can do the computation. The underpinning of that theory is the intuitive reaction that a given sentence is unacceptable. Sentences can be unacceptable for many reasons, not all of which are about grammar. In this case, though, I'd say it is clearly about grammar.
Morphosyntax / Sentence ungrammaticality
« Last post by Elena on February 20, 2019, 03:45:12 AM »
Hi, can anyone tell me why the sentence "john was died" is ungrammatical?
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Use of the word "the"
« Last post by Daniel on February 17, 2019, 03:55:29 AM »
That usage is often called "generic". Note that "a" can, interestingly, be used in the same way. "A lion is a dangerous foe" or "The lion is a dangerous foe". This range of usage of definite (and indefinite) articles is part of well known variation and historical change, if you look up some of the trends of development. The meaning of "definite" is somewhat unclear because there are specific, generic, context-established, etc., meanings.
Semantics and Pragmatics / Use of the word "the"
« Last post by Bunbury on February 17, 2019, 12:19:57 AM »
Is there a grammatical category for what might be called the universal determiner "the" - as in "the spleen."  That is, not using the word "the" to refer to a specific example or member of a class (as in "the spleen was transplanted yesterday"), and not to refer to all the members as in the class (as in "the speens are all organs"), but rather to refer to all the members of a class in terms of a single member (as in "the spleen has many cells" or "the spleen is found in the abdomen").  This is found in scientific writing all the time in phrases such as, "the brain has many neurons," "the heart pumps blood," and "the human body is a living organism." 
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