(L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Lorik »

Salmoneus wrote:He was a-finding cats
Quick question: what does the a- in a-finding mean?
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Post by Salmoneus »

Synchronically? It mostly means the speaker is from a rural area. Or imitating Victorian language (I find several google links with "swords a-flashing", including a song by Slayer).

Diachronically, it derives from 'at', or 'on' (which merged), and it was a prepositional phrase with a gerund (/verbal noun). In theory there would once have been a choice between "a'finding"/"a-finding" (prepositional phrase with gerund) and "findin'" (participle) - although the two endings (-ing and -in') merged and interchanged so early and so extensively that I'm not sure whether there was ever really a well-enforced distinction like this in practice. Eventually the gerund has simply come to be reinterpreted as a participle in these cases so the preposition has been lost.

Historically, at one point there would have, iirc, been an aspectual or even telicity distinction between someone who was, say, eatin', and someone who was actually at eating (that is, eating vs a-eating). But I'm not sure exactly what it was, or whether even the most remote farmer actually maintains it.

One thing that did survive for much longer was a transitivity distinction. The form with a- is diachronically a verbal noun more than a gerund, and it often ended up as an intransitive counterpart of the participle. So, "the man was flashing his light" vs "the light was a'flashing". But this could also be retransitivised with a genitive prepositional phrase - "he was a'flashing of his light" - and I don't know what the distinction was then.

We can see an example as late as The Mikado (and in the mouths of upper-class characters, not rural imitators):
There is beauty in the bellow of the blast,
There is grandeur in the growling of the gale,
There is eloquent outpouring
When the lion is a-roaring,
And the tiger is a-lashing of his tail!
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

@Sal:
Interesting!
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Post by Omzinesý »

Nel Fie wrote: 14 Jun 2022 18:03 could it be said that there is a noun-verb gradient, then? And where one particular word falls on it depends on the language - perhaps even on case-by-case usage of that word in different phrase constructions - with additional provision for situations where the language doesn't distinguish between the two, and others where the word effectively "dual-classes"?
I once read quite much about nonfiniteness.

Nedyalkov has interesting terms decategorization (deverbalization) and recategorization (nominalization).

Pure uninflected infinitives are deverbalized (lose verby features) but not recategorized (no nouny features). So they are neither verbs nor nouns.

I once wrote a short chapter about nonfiniteness viewtopic.php?f=29&t=6194

But basically Salmoneus says the important things.
Last edited by Omzinesý on 15 Jun 2022 19:02, edited 1 time in total.
My meta-thread: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5760
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Lorik »

Thanks for the detailed explanation, Salmoneus!
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Post by Nel Fie »

I'm going to preface this with an apology: sorry if I don't go into much details, or don't give my answers and reactions enough thought and depth. Making sense of all this is consuming in terms of time and energy, and I sadly don't have much of either. That said, on with it.
Salmoneus wrote: 15 Jun 2022 00:26 Oh, I don't think you're misusing the term! I actually think that what I've called the 'statistical' definition makes more sense given the surface meaning of the word ('lots of synthesis'), and the traditional definition closed linguists eyes to a lot of interesting phenomena.
[...]
To be clear, though, I think there's a lot of fascinating synthesis out there, beyond the limits of the 'traditionally polysynthetic' languages! And we should be thinking less of distinct categories and more of continua - which means that even someone making a traditionally polysynthetic language could still take interesting things from less-traditionally highly synthetic languages...
Perhaps it wasn't a misuse in the most literal sense, but I'd say it's somewhat "misuse-adjacent" insofar that it required an in-depth exploration of different possible definitions, and a guess at which one I might have meant. Though going by your explanation, there's no agreement at large, so any use of the word without any further details would probably qualify as a misuse in that sense.
Salmoneus wrote: 15 Jun 2022 00:26 Absolutely there is a noun-verb gradient, in my opinion. We can see this even in English:
He finds cats
He was finding cats
[...]
And the distinction between a gerund and a verbal noun in particular is extremely tenuous in actual spoken English [is the choice between 'his finding' and 'him finding' really as seismic a shift as moving from a noun to a verb!?]
That's a whole lot of different grades of "nouniness" and "verbiness"!
I'm in no position to make scholarly appraisals, but it would make sense to me to see at least a few of those as spontaneous product of pragmatics, rather than uses hard-coded into grammar. After all, when distinctions get blurry, it becomes easier to just go "this kind of fits what I'm trying to say, I guess". At least, that's what I'd glean from disagreements even between native speakers about whether a particular construction is grammatical or not.
Salmoneus wrote: 15 Jun 2022 00:26 More to the point, though, there's actually THREE continua at play here.

First, there's the continuum of functions. In a given sentence, a given word can seem to have a more or less verbal function.
Then there's the continuum of forms. A form of a word (like 'finding') that appears in verbal functions may be called a verbal form - but if it also appears in nominal functions, should it be called a mixed noun-verb form, primarily a verb form, or primarily a noun form? Or should we say that there are two underlying forms, with different functions, that are just identical on the surface?
And then there's the continuum of roots. If a root produces both verbal and nominal forms, should we call it primarily a verbal or primarily a nominal root - or is it two identical roots?
Right, I hadn't thought about the latter two. As I imagine it, would the continuum of function be divided by the forms, each of them covering a "sub-continuum"? E.g. if we have "text", "writing" and "to write", the first would sit on the noun end, the last on the verb; and "writing" fills the space in-between (of course, this would work better if "writ" hadn't been archaisised by now).
As for roots, it wasn't at the front of my mind. Probably because the languages I know, again, seem to derive nouns and verbs from the same root, or from each other, in either direction.
Salmoneus wrote: 15 Jun 2022 00:26 EDIT: just to give an example from one of my own conlangs: Rawàng Ata doesn't explicitly set out to have no distinction between nouns and verbs. But there is some ambiguity around possession, because inalienable possession on a noun looks exactly the same as regular verbal agreement on a verb...

By roots here I don't even mean etymological roots, I mean lexical items themselves.

All languages have clearly nominal and verbal functions and I think they all have clearly nominal and verbal forms - though they may also have mid-continuum functions and forms. But there are some languages for which it has been argued that they have no distinction between nominal and verbal roots - that is, that any word can as easily (if not as frequently) be used verbally as nominally.
Which seems to loop back into what my initial assumption was: there's a wide diversity, cross-linguistically, and generalisations are difficult. Going back to my thought two quotes up, I would make sense to me to frame this as grammar providing some easy-to-fill patterns, and pragmatics fits and fills them in as needed, possibly leading to new patterns in the long term while others are lost.
Salmoneus wrote: 15 Jun 2022 13:52 [...]
Diachronically, it derives from 'at', or 'on' (which merged), and it was a prepositional phrase with a gerund (/verbal noun). In theory there would once have been a choice between "a'finding"/"a-finding" (prepositional phrase with gerund) and "findin'" (participle) - although the two endings (-ing and -in') merged and interchanged so early and so extensively that I'm not sure whether there was ever really a well-enforced distinction like this in practice. Eventually the gerund has simply come to be reinterpreted as a participle in these cases so the preposition has been lost.
[...]
That's very interesting! I've seen the "a-" prefix quite often, but I didn't know that it came from "at". I always thought that it was invented by poets as a meaningless filler, in order to make uncooperative words fit that darned iambic pentameter, ha ha!
Omzinesý wrote: 15 Jun 2022 14:51 I once read quite much about nonfiniteness. Nedyalkov has interesting terms decategorization (deverbalization) and recategorization (nominalization).
Pure uninflected infinitives are deverbalized (lose verby features) but not recategorized (no nouny features). So they are neither verbs nor nouns.
I once wrote a short chapter about nonfiniteness viewtopic.php?f=29&t=6194
[...]
Oh, that should be quite useful - thank you for providing the information and the write-up! I'll have to re-read it a few times to make sense of it, but I'm sure it'll come in handy.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Khemehekis »

Of course, we also have lots of "in the process of" words that maintain the a- as adjectives or adverbs, without the -ing. Consider the perfectly modern English passages that use "aglow" or "abuzz"!
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Solarius »

Are there natlangs which have something like applicatives, but in a secundative alignment? i.e. languages where you can "promote" the theme in the same way you can "promote" a recipient with a regular applicative

Thinking about something like this for a conlang but not sure if it makes sense.
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Post by Creyeditor »

I guess one should look at West Greenlandic which has both a secundative alignment and an applicative voice. You might also want to look at WALS to check for more languages by combining feature 105 and 109.
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Post by Nel Fie »

Here's a simple question: do any of you know of a natural language that has a phonemic epiglottal implosive?

Or more generally, an implosive past the uvular. I couldn't find one even mentioned anywhere outside of this IPA chart*, but I'm wondering if it's not just a mislabel on my part.
There are a few reasons I'm asking, but one is that (as far as I can tell) it's actually a very common sound in another form: it's the "gulp" sound that is commonly made when pretending to swallow or drink something (except we generally do it with a closed mouth.)

* The table labelled "BACK CONSONANTS (dorsal & radical) – rarer manners", second-to-last on the page. The epiglottal-pharyngeal implosives are
the /ʡʼ↓/ in the last column.
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Post by Creyeditor »

I was always under the impression that the gulp was uvular.

The thing is, implosives become harder the smaller the room for air is between the glottis and the place of articulation. Gulps take some effort and going further back might be even more exhausting.
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Post by Nel Fie »

It seems I once again made too many assumptions! You are likely correct in saying that it's often a more fronted implosive - Wikipedia goes further by claiming that it's actually the velar implosive (see "Occurrence").

However, the sound that I'm interested in is the sort of "pop" that happens in the throat when the glottis is closed, pulled down and released. A whole bunch of voiceless implosives have it - or at least, in the samples provided on J. B. Dowse's IPA chart . It occurs up to the palatal ⟨ʄ̥, ɠ̊, ɠ̥ʷ, ʛ̥, ʛ̥ʌ, ʡʼ↓⟩, and more slightly up to the alveolar region.

As far as I can tell, that "pop" is a byproduct of what Wikipedia calls the airstream mechanism. I assumed that it would be some form of glottal implosive since the mechanism requires closing the glottis by definition. But is that the case? If not, what do you call it when produced by itself, without coarticulating a stop somewhere else?
Last edited by Nel Fie on 10 Jul 2022 21:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Creyeditor »

I can't really judge from the recordings what sound it is.

If you move your glottis up and close it, then move it down and open it, without making any secondary closure or building up air pressure from the lungs, you will not produce any inplosive or plosive at all, because you do not have any air pressure that causes a burst during its release. You might call whatever happens here a glottal tap for all I know.

Potentially, you could have your second closure in an implosive somewhere in the pharynx, but I really don't know anything about such sounds.
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Post by Nel Fie »

Here's a recording I made myself. Maybe it'll help: LINK

I've no doubt you're right. There's probably some coarticulated occlusion happening somewhere, but at this point I'm too confused to attempt any further theories as to what's going on.

EDIT: After some thought and testing, my best guess is that the aforementioned "pop" is probably an integral part of voiceless implosives - but because I'm not used to the sound, and because it is acoustically similar across several of them, I misidentified that "pop" as a separately produced sound that co-occured with the actual implosives.
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Post by eldin raigmore »

In English, why is it that, one hangs a door, but one floats a window?
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Post by Keenir »

eldin raigmore wrote: 12 Jul 2022 21:57 In English, why is it that, one hangs a door, but one floats a window?
Not sure if its my dialect or my idiolect, but for me, one installs both the door and the window; i hope that helps.

(floats are something done during the process of hanging a picture, because one has to be sure there is loadbearing ability in the wall beforehand)
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Post by Nel Fie »

eldin raigmore wrote: 12 Jul 2022 21:57 In English, why is it that, one hangs a door, but one floats a window?
I've never heard of "to float a window". Do you have any usage examples? The closest thing I can think of is "float glass", which is so called because it gets laid out on molten metal to ensure maximal smootheness - and is thus commonly used to make windows with.

As for hanging a door, per my understanding that's because the door litterally hangs on its hinges, specifically in the sense that for older or simpler types of hinges, you can lift the door to unhinge it - lift it out of its hinges, as it were.
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Post by eldin raigmore »

Nel Fie wrote: 13 Jul 2022 09:40
eldin raigmore wrote: 12 Jul 2022 21:57 In English, why is it that, one hangs a door, but one floats a window?
I've never heard of "to float a window". Do you have any usage examples? The closest thing I can think of is "float glass", which is so called because it gets laid out on molten metal to ensure maximal smootheness - and is thus commonly used to make windows with.
As for hanging a door, per my understanding that's because the door litterally hangs on its hinges, specifically in the sense that for older or simpler types of hinges, you can lift the door to unhinge it - lift it out of its hinges, as it were.
In looking into it, I found that hang and henge and hinge are all related words.
i seem to recall reading about floating a window several places and times years ago; but I couldn’t find anything like it on the Internet yesterday. Maybe I was wrong? I don’t feel wrong!
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Post by Nel Fie »

Yea, I'm almost surprised that I didn't notice it myself - the relationship between "hang" and "hinge" seems pretty obvious, in hindsight.

No idea about the "float a window" though. I sounds familiar to me as well, but I'm pretty sure it's a false memory based on the aforementioned float glass, and maybe "floating windows" in the context of computer displays.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Vlürch »

Sorry for the incredibly stupid question(s), but... I'm trying to learn Spanish again, now more than just to understand a little but to be able to use it myself in a grammatically correct way, and...

If the accusative of ustedes is just los/las depending on gender (and can be suffixed to the verb)... in most contexts I get why it works. But what if there's no context to clarify a second-person plural as the object, while a third-person plural object has been established? Wouldn't it then be literally impossible to tell that it doesn't refer to that third-person plural object that was referred to previously? What can be done in that case?

Is it like how in Japanese, then it'd first be necessary to establish the new referent? You know, so it might get kinda clunky? In other words, it needs to be explicitly established if it happens and as a result a context like that would never "naturally" arise?

Or is it like how in English, singular and plural you are indistinguishable in that same kind of context, where first there's singular and then plural or vice versa? But in English, there are ways around it like "all of you" and "only you" and whatnot. I can't figure out a similar way in Spanish with second and third person plural object pronouns.

Or is it possible to just add the suffix -os on the verb instead, or is that violating some kind of pronominal consistency? Based on googling, it seems possible (as in I found stuff where ustedes is used together with -os), but I'm not sure if that's only in countries where ustedes is the default and not formal, and/or if it's seen as incorrect but something people online do? Either way, I wouldn't mind doing it, but... well, I'd prefer to know.
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