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91
Language-specific analysis / Re: What language is this?
« Last post by aramis720 on September 27, 2018, 12:21:52 PM »
I sent it to a Finnish friend of mine and she didn't recognize anything :( Could it be a variant of Finnish?
92
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Daniel on September 26, 2018, 06:15:43 PM »
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Performative is extensively used by government officials too...
You continue to list examples rather than actually provide statistics, but you speak of "frequency". That isn't a good argument. Just imagine if my response here was to list all of the times people use imperatives: "Bosses at work also use imperatives!" and so forth. No one is denying that this usage exists or that it is associated with certain contexts.
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IMHO, it’s a pretty common speech mood in certain contexts.
Yes. But "pretty common... in certain contexts" doesn't (necessarily) make it relatively frequent overall in comparison to other aspects of language. And the only way we can really discuss that is with some general measure of frequency, not anecdotes/examples.

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    A judge says “You are convicted to a 10 years sentence.”
    A member of the administration signs orders that have practical effects.
The problem with these examples is that even in the way they are expressed in English, they are ambiguous. Yes, there is some effect of performance in addition to what is stated, but these are often just declaratives ("you are convicted") with legal (or other) force. This is another reason that there might not be enough pressure to grammaticalize: they can be expressed in another way.

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Performative is missing. ;-)
Definitions typically give only the most salient examples, and they end up a bit circular, based on what is considered central in previous definitions or is researched the most. You've made a case that performatives could receive more attention, and I don't think anyone disagrees. But in order for that to happen, someone, a researcher, will have to take it on as a project, and I've suggested some ways you could do that. And Vox made some points about how these things actually have been studied but under different names, so that's another starting point, to look at that previous research.

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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.
1) What is "a mood"? English "let" is a specific construction that might fit your definition. But are you only looking for verb suffixes or something like that?
2) I offered the potential example of Arabic. Vox had some other suggestions.

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Similarly performative is expressed by a variety of grammatical moods and the context tells what’s actually meant.
As above, I would be cautious to distinguish between whether a form expresses performatives, or whether certain forms are used performatively. Declaratives, as I said, can be used that way, but that doesn't make them necessarily special morphosyntactically.

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As a matter of fact I suppose that many people wouldn’t consciously admit they are trying to perform something just by speech.
Perform what? Someone leading an official ceremony or legal proceeding, etc., would certainly be aware of this. And any time when the speaker is not aware is arguably less clearly an example of a performative. I'm not really sure what you're trying to argue here. Additionally, all language is performative in a sense-- if I ask a question, I'm sort of giving a command for you to answer the question, and if I give a command, I'm sort of proclaiming that you must do what I say, and so forth. Or even with simple declaratives, I am asserting that you should believe my description of the world. Many non-linguists would not be aware of that explicitly, but it is trivially true and not hard to convince someone once you explain it.

So as with other aspects of this discussion, it will be very helpful if you provide specific definitions (especially operationalizable definitions, e.g., that you can apply as diagnostic criteria), and also some quantitative data on frequency or other relevant points.

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A corpus study consists in studying actual speech acts, right?
A corpus is a body of text. Corpus studies look at that text and report on the distribution of linguistic forms. The majority of that research involves some sort of frequencies. So you identify things, then you count them, then you compare them. There are very complex (e.g., mathematically or computationally) methods, but they almost always boil down to that basic idea: what are the relative frequencies of X and Y?
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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.
The entire point of corpus research is to get away from speculation and intuitions. What I've suggested is that you take a corpus and annotate each utterance for speech act. Many will be declaratives, some will be interrogatives, etc., and then you will also find some performatives. Then you can report a simple distribution, where 50% are declaratives (or whatever), and finally something like 5% are performatives. Then we can actually talk about this in an objective way.

The very fact that performatives seem to be strongly associated with specific discourse contexts is a strong indication of why the language may not have a generally grammaticalized form for them. (And on the other hand, why specific contexts do have specific traditions, such as "I now pronounce you man and wife...")

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I was not thinking about the evolution of idioms (langues in French) but of language in general (langage in French).
Well, we can't observe that. Almost everyone would agree that language is no longer evolving in that sense, and hasn't for thousands of years. Most linguists (not all, but most) today would not claim that for example the earliest written language is any evidence about an early 'less evolved' form of language. The fact is that all humans share the same genetic capacity for language (and that's tens of thousands of years or more). That is one reason research about the topic is controversial: we have no direct evidence.

But you can read a lot about it in current research. So rather than reinventing the wheel, you should start with at least some of that.

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There is no trace of animal language remaining today in ours.
Actually some recent research argues there is. Some approaches talk about "syntactic fossils" or basic constructions that might hint at an earlier proto-language. Controversial. But it's out there. Again, do a literature review if you want to know more about this.

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La Société [Linguistique de Paris]...
Yes, because there was at the time too much speculation about the topic and it wasn't going anywhere. But that was just one group, and there are many books written in the past 5 or 10 years on the topic for example. It wasn't really taboo then either, just overdiscussed with no clear advancement from continued discussion.
93
Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 26, 2018, 03:52:58 PM »
Hi Vox

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.
As I told Daniel my question was whether that mood existed in a language.

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)…. :
Right or wrong I wouldn’t include in the performative mood stuff that induce other people to perform an action. Isn’t the speech supposed to perform the action by itself?

Nick
94
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:
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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
95
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.]
96
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
97
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:

99
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)
100
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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