(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 Pabappa »

I think "be" did the same thing in Slavic. e.g. "I am loved" (where loved is a participle, not past tense) was their version of "I have loved", and was never considered a passive. Wild guess here .... maybe it comes from a literal interpretation e.g. "i have someone who is loved" ----> " i have loved (someone)" ----> "I have loved".

Whatever it is, it happened again in Portuguese, which uses ter (c. Sp /tener/) instead. And the English use may be independent as well.

i guess theres also the future tense ... Eng "I have to go" = Sp "tengo que ir" (I think).
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

KaiTheHomoSapien wrote: 06 Jul 2020 18:37 What is the semantic process that led to the grammaticalization of the word "have" (and similar words in Romance languages)? What makes "have" become a signifier of the perfect aspect? Are there any other words that are likely to indicate the same aspect in other languages?
There have of course been multiple grammaticalisations of the word "have" in Romance languages!

Regarding the perfect, it's usually said to come from a syntactic ambiguity. I don't know the exact word order in vulgar latin, but we can imagine the same process in Germanic, where it also happened, in an old syntax in which adjectives follow the noun, and complements of auxiliaries (are they complements? whatever they're called) are clause-final:

"I have the [letters written]" - there are written letters, and I have them. Adjective follows object noun.
becomes
"I [have [the letters] written]" - where "have... written" is the verbal phrase, mirroring "I [must] the letters [write]", "I [have] the letters [to write]" or "the letters [are] by my father [written]".

In some languages, including English, there's then a further trend to front verbal matter and back objects, so that "I have the written letters" and "I have written the letters" become distinct.

------

Why does this happen semantically?
Well, if you, for instance, have the finished manuscript, this tends to indicate that a) the manuscript was unfinished, but relatively recently has become finished; and b) having the manuscript, and the manuscript having been finished, is in some way important to whatever it is you want to do next. Which is of course basically the sense that the perfect implies.

Hence, an expression like "the boy has a broken leg" very easily semantically blurs into an expression like "the boy has broken a leg" - and in Old Romance and Old Germanic, the two expressions were syntactically the same.

[in Old Germanic, they were also syntactically the same as the old grammaticalised-have causative construction, "the boy has a leg broken" (the boy gets someone to break his leg), distinguished only by tense and common sense.]

[similarly, the adjectival "I have letters to write" was once syntactically the same as the modal "I have to write the letters"]
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

Thank you both for the explanations [:D] I had not thought about the re-arrangement of the words.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by loglorn »

Ser wrote: 05 Jul 2020 20:22
Salmoneus wrote: 05 Jul 2020 18:12
Ser wrote: 05 Jul 2020 02:30Very acceptable in Spanish. Mi desayuno de hoy.
Depends what he's asking. [...]
I'm not aware of any language with "which?" + article though (imaginary Spanish *cuál la cosa 'which thing?'), although as a relative pronoun (not an interrogative one) many or most medieval and early modern Romance languages have article + "which" + redundant/generalizing noun (Spanish fuimos a la plaza, el cual lugar nos esperaba 'we went to the townsquare, a place that was waiting for us', literally "..., the which place was waiting for us"), a usage that still tends to stick around in literary/fanciful writing.
A bit late, maybe, but your 'imaginary Spanish' is perfectly legit Portuguese in most if not all lects (i'm fairly certain for all Brazilian lects, less so for European ones); qual a coisa is perfectly valid, but i think it is syntactically restricted (more speakers and more systematic info needed but,)

Você viu qual coisa? 'which thing did you see?'
*Você viu qual a coisa? 'which thing did you see?'
Qual a coisa que você viu? 'which thing was the one you saw?' (a bit too literal the Portuguese inversion doesn't feel quite as marked)
?Qual coisa que você viu? 'which thing was the one you saw?'
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Sequor »

loglorn wrote: 08 Jul 2020 06:59A bit late, maybe, but your 'imaginary Spanish' is perfectly legit Portuguese in most if not all lects (i'm fairly certain for all Brazilian lects, less so for European ones); qual a coisa is perfectly valid, but i think it is syntactically restricted (more speakers and more systematic info needed but,)

Você viu qual coisa? 'which thing did you see?'
*Você viu qual a coisa? 'which thing did you see?'
Qual a coisa que você viu? 'which thing was the one you saw?' (a bit too literal the Portuguese inversion doesn't feel quite as marked)
?Qual coisa que você viu? 'which thing was the one you saw?'
Fantastic, wonderful. That's going into my collection now. [:D] [:D] [:D] I should really read more about Portuguese grammar.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

1. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and adjective-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than adjective-roots?

2. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than verb-roots?

3. Does nearly every natlang that has both adjective-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more adjective-roots than verb-roots?

..........

I ask because according to the lexicographers of the most recent OED, English is an example of “yes” for all three questions.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Sequor »

eldin raigmore wrote: 09 Jul 2020 21:421. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and adjective-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than adjective-roots?

2. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than verb-roots?

3. Does nearly every natlang that has both adjective-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more adjective-roots than verb-roots?
How does one decide whether a root is a verb-root or a noun-root?

If I look at an Arabic root, say, k-t-b, and its basic derived words like kataba 'to write' (using the CaCaCa transfix that creates action verbs) and kitaab 'book' (using the CiCaaC transfix that creates nouns), how do I decide whether I should call it a "verb-root" or a "noun-root"? You could argue that 'book' might be less basic and be a result noun of kataba, but I'd reply that Arabic doesn't normally use CiCaaC to derive result nouns, in fact, more often than not this a plural transfix of a singular created with CaCC(-a) or CaCaC (sall-a 'basket' pl. silaal 'baskets', jabal 'mountain' pl. jibaal), but kitaab is a singular with plural kutub. How does one know that kitaab isn't a borrowing with kataba based on it, or that kataba wasn't created after kitaab?

Or, for another example, sˤ-b-ħ, which derives the basic words sˤabuħa 'to be or become beautiful' (using the CaCuCa transfix that creates stative verbs) and sˤubħ 'dawn' (using the CuCC transfix that creates nouns). Could sˤubħ have meant 'beautiful' at one point, and sˤabuħa derived from that? Or n-dʒ-m, which produces nadʒama 'to appear in sight, arise' and nadʒm 'star' (the latter using the CaCC transfix that creates nouns). Or b-z-q, with bazaqa 'to spit' and buzaaq 'saliva'.

Or, if I look at Classical Chinese, does 自, pronounced zì in Mandarin, count as an adverb-root (or pronoun-root) because it can mean 'for oneself' or 'by oneself', or a verb-root because it can mean 'to be from [a place]'?

Or, if we look at English in fact, is "urge" a verb-root or a noun-root?
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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eldin raigmore wrote: 09 Jul 2020 21:42 1. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and adjective-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than adjective-roots?

2. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than verb-roots?

3. Does nearly every natlang that has both adjective-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more adjective-roots than verb-roots?

..........

I ask because according to the lexicographers of the most recent OED, English is an example of “yes” for all three questions.
Just from anecdotal experience, I would say that most these languages have more verbs than adjectives or nouns and less adjectives than verbs or nouns. Of course, you have to exclude proper names from the noun category, because otherwise, in some languages, you might just be able to add nouns over and over. And it's hard to draw the line. Place names? Names of Deities? Names of Planets? Etc, etc.
English might just be strange.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Ser wrote: 10 Jul 2020 06:05
eldin raigmore wrote: 09 Jul 2020 21:421. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and adjective-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than adjective-roots?

2. Does nearly every natlang that has both noun-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more noun-roots than verb-roots?

3. Does nearly every natlang that has both adjective-roots and verb-roots distinct from each other, have significantly more adjective-roots than verb-roots?
How does one decide whether a root is a verb-root or a noun-root?
A good question, of course.

My interpretation of the question, though, is just that a noun root produces nouns - by a productive and semantically predictable non-compound process* - and a verb root produces verbs, and so forth. A language then 'has both noun-roots and adjective roots distinct from each other' when there are some noun roots that are not adjective roots, and/or vice versa.

I assume eldin does not intend to rule out all languages where some noun roots are also (or are homophonous with) verb roots, etc - since that would probably be all languages. "Urge" in English is in this way both a noun root and a verb root (and arguably an adjective root); however, 'octopus' is just a noun root, and 'explode' is just a verb root.

[a bigger problem in English is that all nouns can be verbs and vice versa: it would be perfectly possible for people to start writing "she octopused through the narrow gap in the fence" or "our media research reveals 42% more significant explodes in the last quarter of activity". In this sense English could be argued to be a noncategorial language. However, I think it's still meaningful to talk of distinct noun and verb categories in English, because there are some words that are not used as verbs, and some that are not used as nouns, and if they come to be used in those ways it will not be wholly predictable what their semantics will be; thus I think in English it makes more sense to talk of noun and verb categories with unrestricted zero-derivation, rather than noncategorialness]

*by 'non-compound process', I mean a process to produce, say, a verb from a root that can NOT be broken down into, say, a noun-forming process and then a distinct noun-to-verb-deriving process.


Regarding your Arabic examples, I would also distinguish between an etymological or lexicographical 'root' - useful in grouping words in dictionaries - and a genuine morphosyntactic root. I think X is only the morphosyntactic root of Y if Y can productively and predictably be derived from X; merely looking similar raises, as you point out, questions about etymology that should not be relevant to the synchronic analysis. So from what you say, it sounds like, for example, the s-b-h 'root' is not actually the morphosyntactic root of the word for 'dawn', even if it is the etymological root, because the derivation is not predictable (i.e. semantically transparent).


-------------


Going back to eldin's questions:

'3' is absolutely NOT the case, at all. There are many languages with distinct but very small true adjective classes (many Austronesian languages, for a start).

I believe '2' isn't true either. AIUI, in many North American polysynthetic languages the translations of many English nouns are in fact analysable as inflected verbs, and distributionally indistinguishable from deranked verbs (so, to invent an example, verbal "it is slithering" where English has nominal "snake"; "I saw the snake" would then be translated by something that would be identical in form with the translation of "I saw the one that was slithering"). I can't guarantee that this is true, but it's what I believe I've heard. AIUI, these languages do indeed typically have a distinct noun class not analysable in this way, but this class is relatively small, and much smaller than the class of verbs.

And of course, if 2 is untrue, then 1 must be untrue also, if some of these languages fail to distinguish verb and adjective classes, which I suspect they do...
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

“Ser” wrote: How does one decide whether a root is a verb-root or a noun-root?
If it isn’t clear, that’s not one of the languages I’m asking about in that question. (Question 2).
“Creyeditor” wrote: Just from anecdotal experience, I would say that most these languages have more verbs than adjectives or nouns and less adjectives than verbs or nouns. Of course, you have to exclude proper names from the noun category, because otherwise, in some languages, you might just be able to add nouns over and over. And it's hard to draw the line. Place names? Names of Deities? Names of Planets? Etc, etc.
English might just be strange.
(Thanks for the most relevant and responsive of the answers so far!)
Of course only common nouns are meant; proper nouns don’t usually belong to paradigms that have roots IIANM.
But maybe I am mistaken and those two (questions 1 and 2) of my three questions are not well-posed;
in which case I’d need help to re-pose them.

I am hoping for an answer that’s not just anecdotal, but since I have at most one anecdote, anyone else’s anecdotes are still information I didn’t have before!

(Also; maybe English IS just strange!)
“Salmoneus” wrote: My interpretation of the question, though, is just that a noun root produces nouns - by a productive and semantically predictable non-compound process* - and a verb root produces verbs, and so forth. A language then 'has both noun-roots and adjective roots distinct from each other' when there are some noun roots that are not adjective roots, and/or vice versa.
Right, mostly. Maybe entirely.
My notion was that a noun-root was already a noun before any inflection or derivation was applied to it; it could appear “in its surface form” or “at spell-out”, assuming I’m using either of those terms correctly, as a noun, as-is.
By that notion, some kind of derivational process could be applied to a noun-root and produce an adjective.
Gold—>golden or child—>childish or man—>manly, for instance.

Similarly I was thinking an adjective-root would already be an adjective without any inflection or derivation.
Verbs and nouns could be formed from an adjective-root, but they’d clearly be derived or inflected;
viz. red—>redden or red—>redness.

And there are examples too numerous to mention more than a small fraction of, of derivations or inflections applied to verbs, to produce nouns or adjectives. Infinitives, gerunds, participles (active and passive), gerundives, agent-nominalizations, place-nominaliztions, instrument-nominalizations, patient-nominalizations, time-nominalizations, action-or-event-nominalizations, etc.

Possibly my notions weren’t good enough to ask these questions about; and/or possibly yours are better. Or, possibly, they’re both good to ask about, but they make different questions and would result in different answers.

I assume eldin does not intend to rule out all languages where some noun roots are also (or are homophonous with) verb roots, etc - since that would probably be all languages. "Urge" in English is in this way both a noun root and a verb root (and arguably an adjective root); however, 'octopus' is just a noun root, and 'explode' is just a verb root.
I was not intending to rule out those particular languages, but I was intending to rule out those particular roots (at least for the question or questions for which that root would have caused confusion).
If most of a language’s adjective-roots are also noun-roots or homophonous with noun-roots; or most of its noun-roots are also adjective-roots or homophonous with adjective-roots; then that language is not one I intended to ask about in question 1.
Likewise if most of its verb-roots are also noun-roots or homophones with noun-roots, or most of its noun-roots are also verb-roots or homophones with verb-roots, I didn’t intend question 2 to be about that language.
And sim for adjectives and verbs and question 3.

Perhaps I should only exclude those languages where “most” could be changed to “all”, in the above exclusions?
Or instead, perhaps I should exclude only those for which the “or” after the comma could be changed to “and”? E.g. for question 2 exclude those for which both most noun-roots are verb-roots AND most verb-roots are noun-roots?

Also; the difference between how you think (or how you thought I thought) about noun-roots vs adjective-roots etc. is an important one for applying the above exclusions; it seems likely that different languages would be excluded under the notion I had but didn’t (until now) state, vs the notion you stated and I quoted.

[a bigger problem in English is that all nouns can be verbs and vice versa: it would be perfectly possible for people to start writing "she octopused through the narrow gap in the fence" or "our media research reveals 42% more significant explodes in the last quarter of activity". In this sense English could be argued to be a noncategorial language. However, I think it's still meaningful to talk of distinct noun and verb categories in English, because there are some words that are not used as verbs, and some that are not used as nouns, and if they come to be used in those ways it will not be wholly predictable what their semantics will be; thus I think in English it makes more sense to talk of noun and verb categories with unrestricted zero-derivation, rather than noncategorialness]

*by 'non-compound process', I mean a process to produce, say, a verb from a root that can NOT be broken down into, say, a noun-forming process and then a distinct noun-to-verb-deriving process.
Yeah. Zero-derivation might be a problem; I was just assuming that for languages for which zero-derivation is a recognized “thing”, linguisticians had some way to tell it was derivation, and not another use of the same word. (Another solution, sometimes adopted, is just to say that the two different parts-of-speech are two different words; they’re just homophones. I have no criteria for telling when that’s legit and when it’s cheating.)

'3' is absolutely NOT the case, at all. There are many languages with distinct but very small true adjective classes (many Austronesian languages, for a start)
I asked for “most such languages”. Not “all such languages”. Is it true of a significantly-large enough majority of languages for which the question makes sense, that it couldn’t just be chance that that’s the majority?

OTOH I’d very much like to hear about a few of those languages; and maybe hear what the class of true adjective-roots is for one (or a few? probably too much to ask for) such language(s).
I believe '2' isn't true either. AIUI, in many North American polysynthetic languages the translations of many English nouns are in fact analysable as inflected verbs, and distributionally indistinguishable from deranked verbs (so, to invent an example, verbal "it is slithering" where English has nominal "snake"; "I saw the snake" would then be translated by something that would be identical in form with the translation of "I saw the one that was slithering"). I can't guarantee that this is true, but it's what I believe I've heard. AIUI, these languages do indeed typically have a distinct noun class not analysable in this way, but this class is relatively small, and much smaller than the class of verbs
I specifically had in mind excluding some level of polysynthetic languages; I thought maybe polysynthetic IV, but I don’t have their level-numbers’ definitions memorized, so FAIK I also meant to exclude polysynthetic IIIs as well?
As I understand it some really really polysynthetic languages might not have noun-roots; they have noun-morphemes but these are never independent morphemes nor even root-morphemes. I could be wrong; and even if I’m right they may be a minority.
But anyway I meant to exclude them from questions 1 and 2.
And of course, if 2 is untrue, then 1 must be untrue also, if some of these languages fail to distinguish verb and adjective classes, which I suspect they do...
To the best of my knowledge, if question 2 fails to make sense for some language, then questions 1 and 3 also don’t make sense for that language. AIUI if a language doesn’t distinguish between noun-roots and verb-roots, it can’t (or at least doesn’t) distinguish between noun-roots and adjective-roots, nor between verb-roots and adjective-roots.

There are, as i inderstand it, languages which, in spite of distinguishing between nouns and verbs, don’t distinguish between noun-roots and verb-roots. I was asking question 2 about other languages; those that do distinguish between noun-roots and verb-roots.
There are, as I understand it, languages that distinguish between nouns and verbs, but neither distinguish between adjectives and nouns, nor between adjectives and verbs. Questions 1 and 3 are not about those languages.

You personally, @Salmoneus, may not have needed that clarified. Actually maybe nobody who has responded so far needed that clarified. But maybe a later responder will appreciate my clarifying my question.
“Ser and Sal wrote about 3Cons” wrote: ...
K-t-b and other roots in Arabic and other triconsonsntal-root languages have roots that never appear in surface utterances.
I think I once read that Akkadian construct-state nouns are an exception? Or at least some 3Cons does sometimes use a triconsonantal root without any vowel transfixed as binyan or wazan? (Did I spell either of those correctly?)
Anyway, if I define a noun-root as one that can be used as a noun in a surface utterance without any inflection or derivation, and a verb-root as one that can be used as a verb without an6 inflection or derivation, and so on, then such roots in such 3Cons natlangs wouldn’t be the roots I’m asking about; and, if the majority of the roots in such a language can’t be used in surface utterances without some kind of affixations or inflection or derivation, then that language probably isn’t one of the languages I’m asking about.
(I think Sal already got that but Ser hadn’t, at least not before Sal replied!)

I think a bigger obstruction might come from languages with verbnouns or masdars.
If I understand them!
In these languages, I take it, most or many verbs have a root that is a noun?

As for the Mandarin adverb-or-pronoun zi that Ser asked about, and the verb zi also asked about, I would bet that’s one example where they are clearly two different words that are just coincidentally homophones. Etymology would prove or disprove that. If anyone knows the etymology for the two meanings, they can tell us whether I’d win or lose that bet!

It’s a lot more difficult for me to just declare the “oneself” or “by oneself” meaning of zi to be a pronoun or an adverb. In this case my consciousness of my ignorance prevents me making a guess. (I’m also conscious of my ignorance concerning the “be or come from a location” meaning, but in that case I think my guess is probably right anyway, and don’t hesitate to state it, because I think my ignorance is irrelevant just this once!)
However I have not asked about adverb-roots and have not asked about pronoun-roots. If adverbs or pronouns are also adjectives or nouns, not necessarily respectively, then “zi” might be one of the roots I was talking about. But I don't know whether the majority of roots in Mandarin or other Chinese languages are so ambiguous? If they are then that (or those) language(s) are outside the scope of (at least one of) my question(s).

As for English’s “urge”, I think Salmoneus’s response says as much as I could say, except better.

..........

Obviously I hope for yet more answer, from either a brand-new responder or someone who has already responded.

I may need help improving the questions.
If anyone thinks they could provide such help I’ll welcome the attempt!
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

And BTW I just noticed my questions aren’t quick questions anymore.
They should head up a new thread.
But it’s 5:57 AM here now and I haven’t had any sleep.
I’ll try to do that in several hours.
Edit: BTW I started a new thread
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=7270&p=302077#p302077
about my which-part-of-speech-has-the-most-roots questions.
Last edited by eldin raigmore on 11 Jul 2020 20:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

BTW I started a new thread
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=7270&p=302077#p302077
about my which-part-of-speech-has-the-most-roots questions.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

If I say “I believe in God”,
is “believe” an intransitive verb and “in God” a prepositional phrase that modifies it (thus acting adverbially),
or is “believe in” a separable two-word transitive verb and “God” its direct object?

Are both points of view valid?
Or are at least both points of view defended by reputable academic linguisticians?

If only one analysis is correct, how can we tell that it’s correct?
Edit: Four questions. First three have binary answers. Only the fourth one needs a longer answer.
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Post by Salmoneus »

"believe in" is a verb.

It's semantically entirely different from "believe" itself, and the meaning can't be predicted from the sum of its parts. Meanwhile, "believe" can't generally take prepositional phrases as objects other than with "in". [I guess you might be able to say "believe with me", but only marginally]

The combination of the syntax ('believe' doesn't generally take prepositional objects, so 'in God' is less likely to be one here) and the semantics (the meaning of 'believe in' can't be deduced from 'believe' and 'in', hence it is more likely to be worth considering as an independent unit) make this one a relatively clear-cut case, in my opinion.


The one flaw in that that springs to mind is that 'in' can't readily be converted into an adverb as is the case with many phrasal verbs:
"I broke up the Lego house" > "I broke the Lego house up"
"I believe in Longfellow" >/ !"I believe Longfellow in"

So it's certainly fair to say that "believe in" is not quite the same as these phrasal verbs.


But in general it's probably a mistake to think about this in terms of whether X is is a Y or a Z. As is almost always the case, this is a fundamentally meaningless question. X has some properties of Ys, and some of Zs; the question is what you happen to want to call it.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Pabappa »

The word in almost never appears in clause-final position in the first place .... that might be a reason why that construction does not occur. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/in#Adverb suggests it occurs in set phrases rather than standing as an all-purpose adverbial use of the preposition.

German has a whole set of verbs with the prefix ein-, and that prefix is separable in at least some (maybe all?) of them. Makes me wonder if English ever had that, or if it was a German innovation. I cant think of any English verbs with in- that arent loans from Latin.
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Pabappa wrote: 13 Jul 2020 13:27 The word in almost never appears in clause-final position in the first place .... that might be a reason why that construction does not occur. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/in#Adverb suggests it occurs in set phrases rather than standing as an all-purpose adverbial use of the preposition.

German has a whole set of verbs with the prefix ein-, and that prefix is separable in at least some (maybe all?) of them. Makes me wonder if English ever had that, or if it was a German innovation. I cant think of any English verbs with in- that arent loans from Latin.
Input and infill are the ones that spring to mind.

I don't think the first paragraph is an issue here. Sure, 'in' is less used as an adverb than some other adverbs, but it's still widely used in clause-final position with a transparent meaning, with almost any feasible verb, even ones that are barely verbs themselves. "I hammered it in", "I chucked it in", "He got roped in", "Let's pencil something in", "he dribbled it in", "she crowbarred it in", "our synergies are missing from this blue sky vision statement - so let's imagineer them in!", etc. - even "she threw the towel in", even though "throw in (the towel)" is a more common, lexicalised expression. And yet not "I believe it in". Well, more to the point: "I believe it in" IS just about valid, but STILL doesn't have the meaning we want! (it means 'believe that it is inside').
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Pabappa »

hmmm .... that's interesting. I was the one who wrote the usage notes on that Wiktionary page ... perhaps I need to modify it now. It seems it can be used when it's clear that it's a verb *and* it has a concrete meaning rather than abstract. But "a room with a rabbit in" is still wrong, and "i believe you in" is still wrong.

But theyre wrong for two different reasons .... "believe in" seems to be an indivisible whole, such that one can say "believe strongly in", "believe wholeheartedly in", etc where the intervening word modifies the expression, but it is wrong to say "i believe you in" where the intervening word stands alone.

re input & infill ... youre right about those as well, but i suspect they arose as nouns first since it is more common to jsut say "put in" & "fill in". and nouns with in- is a well established class. its also possible that put is not actually native since I dont believe in the existence of all these supposed PIE roots with /b/ whose only solid reflexes are Germanic words with /p/. but thats just an aside, since few speakers would be aware of that.
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Sequor »

Pabappa wrote: 13 Jul 2020 13:27German has a whole set of verbs with the prefix ein-, and that prefix is separable in at least some (maybe all?) of them. Makes me wonder if English ever had that, or if it was a German innovation. I cant think of any English verbs with in- that arent loans from Latin.
I think you would enjoy Stefan Thim's Phrasal Verbs: The English Verb-Particle Construction and its History (2012). As an academic reviewer, Bert Cappelle, points out, the book is not so much an innovative investigation as a very critical assessment of the existing literature on the history of phrasal verbs (its "References" section goes on for 38 pages...), in which you will find Thim often getting into rants about how historical linguists and lexicographers in the 20th century have tended to uncritically accept 18th-century misguided prescriptivist commentary and to overlook studying the construction, yet nevertheless providing a good synthesis of the cumulative understanding of the topic.

In a nutshell, though, the answer is, yes, English had that, and in fact today's phrasal verbs are a continuation (not a replacement!) of the same old Germanic grammatical phenomenon that created the separable and inseparable prefixes of German. Basically, the particles were syntactically separable in Old English in a similar way to modern German's "separable prefixes" (anfangen ~ ich fange ... an), and aside from highly bleached modern instances like "to enlighten" (< PG *in-liuhtijanan, the kind of example you were looking for), "to understand" and "to forget" (< PWG *fragetan), the particles largely continued to survive in the form of the construction where they were used post-verbally, both in literal and idiomatic uses.

Something I like is that Thim points out some of today's particles (up, down, back, off) actually started being used in phrasal verbs in Early Middle English, at a time where they could still be prefixes, and that French borrowings were able to be used in the construction (use up, move in, branch out, pass away, break apart (taking over OE te- tŏ- along "asunder"), turn around (taking over OE ymb(e)-), sail across (along OE þurh > through), and even pleonasms like push forward, fall down, ME advaunce forward, ME retorne back).
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Ser wrote: 14 Jul 2020 07:40 Basically, the particles were syntactically separable in Old English in a similar way to modern German's "separable prefixes" (anfangen ~ ich fange ... an), and aside from highly bleached modern instances like "to enlighten" (< PG *in-liuhtijanan, the kind of example you were looking for), "to understand" and "to forget" (< PWG *fragetan), the particles largely continued to survive in the form of the construction where they were used post-verbally, both in literal and idiomatic uses.
This isn't really true, and I'm not sure Thim actually claims it is. Thim's differences from... well, everybody else on the planet, it seems... actually appear to be more about rhetoric and strawmen than about what actually happened - Thim is anxious to defend phrasal verbs as pure and Germanic, against those who argue that they are imported, and while he's right that they're not just imported, his "continuation" is pretty much the same as everyone else's "replacement".

So far as I'm aware, Old English did not actually have separable prefixes. What it did have was two different, parallel compounding systems, which we might (plucking terms out of the air for convenience) weak and strong particle verbs.

Weak particle verbs saw an particle affixed onto the verb, and follow the verb wherever it went.

Strong particle verbs saw a particle linked to but separate from the verb, but still usually adjacent to it.

Thim's continuity hypothesis appears to consist of two claims, neither of which anybody I think denies: later phrasal verbs continue the same structure as the old strong particle verbs; and the difference between strong and weak particle verbs can largely be explained by assuming that weak particles were unstressed (hence tended to cliticise) while strong particles were stressed (hence tended not to) [when OE was SOV, all particles preceded the verb; when the verb increasingly came to be fronted, unstressed particles came with it, while stressed particles were left in situ]. Thus, the two systems can be conceptually regarded as one system with different values for a variable. [Indeed, there are a few examples in the literature of particles that could be treated as variably strong OR weak, so it wasn't two completely distinct systems at any time]. Thus, phrasal verbs are a continuation of the OE system. And indeed, OE-style weak particle verbs are still (sort of) productive. So nothing has changed.

However, while it may be true that in some strictly philosophical sense, nothing has changed, this should not distract from the fact that, in practical terms, everything has changed.

Let's look at how each type has changed...

Weak particle verbs
Weak particle verbs were very common in OE. Some of them - and most of the prefixes - dated to the Proto-Germanic period. The meanings of the prefixes were often highly non-compositional: that is, the prefix altered the meaning of the verb, but not in a fixed and predictable way. Prefixed verbs were lexicalised and had often undergone semantic drift. The prefixes were in some cases no longer equivalent in form to the independent prepositions; some prefixes had no corresponding preposition anymore (such as ga-); and there wasn't necessarily a 1-to-1 correspondance between prepositions and prefixes (the prefixed forms of 'fram' and 'furi' largely merged with the prefix firi-, for which there was already no prepositional counterpart).

In Middle English, the great majority of these verbs disappeared, the prefixes almost all became non-productive, leaving only non-transparent relicts; even the productive prefixes (mis-, and to a lesser extent be-) became far less commonplace, and at first could not be used with loanwords.

Strong particle verbs
Strong particle verbs existed in OE, but only barely. They were vastly less common than weak particle verbs. Unlike weak particle verbs, they were almost entirely transparent in meaning, and seem still to have been created productively, almost ad hoc (many of the combinations are low-frequency, suggesting the writer just came up with them to suit, rather than them forming a fixed stock of vocabulary). Only a few particles were found in these constructions, and they were almost always directional particles used in a plainly directional sense.

In Middle English, these constructions exploded in popularity. More particles were used, and they tended to develop aspectual meanings, and in general to become less semantically transparent.


The traditional story is that one system eroded and was replaced by the other. Thim argues that no 'replacement' happened because a) the old system never entirely went away and the new system wasn't 100% new; and b) the two systems are philosophically different manifestations of the same system anyway. Both these arguments are probably true, but they don't really challenge the established facts, only the preferred narrative...


It is true that there was never a 100% distinction between the systems - even in OE, strong particles could sometimes be treated as though weak, and even after OE new phrasal verbs would sometimes be (and occasionally still are!) shifted over into the weak particle verb paradigm. [for instance, in Middle English "throw over" gained a new prefixal form, "overthrow", by analogy with "overwarp", which "overthrow" replaced]. However, this can largely be explained by analogy, and in OE by the general fluidity of word order.


When I say that OE didn't have separable verbs, I mean in the German sense of a particle that is independent in one word order but prefixed in another. However, strong particle verbs did still have a particle+verb word order when the verb was backed, so they resembled a separable verb - except that the prefix was stressed and independent, and retained a transparent meaning, unlike German separable verbs.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

Is there some database where I can look up languages by phonemes or I can compare inventories?

I want to know of languages with both /θ/ and /ʒ/ as phonemes. Off-hand I can only think of English and Avestan.
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