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PostPosted: Thu 22 Jun 2017, 17:58 
mayan
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This is a short introduction to functional theory of finiteness. I’m trying to propagate the typological quartet of nonfinite verbforms for descriptions of conlangs (and natlangs as well). They have some kinds of typological definitions. If you use them in your description you don’t have to write a page on their usage. It’s enough to tell how they differ from the typological ideal. Languages can also be compared using these terms. Of course, if you are making a Romlang, you can well use the Romance terminology in the Romance context.

Why finiteness

Cognitive linguistics (and many other linguistic, psychological, and philosophical theories) assumes that people perceive the world as objects (i.e. things) and events (i.e. actions or relations). Objects are limited in space while events are limited in time. They are prototypically coded by the basic word classes in language: nouns and verbs, respectively. Typical clausal constructions are formed from a verb that takes nouns as its arguments (1) and (2).

(1) [a noun] likes [a noun]
(2) [The tyrannosaur] likes [latte]

Language is built on the prototypical case that verbs take things, which are coded by nouns, as their arguments. But of course, we all know that tyrannosaurs don’t like drinking latte but bathing in it. [bathes in latte] is not a thing but an event and not a NP but a VP, and (3) is therefore incorrect.

(3) # [The tyrannosaur] likes [bathes in latte]

It must be said that you can also force the main clause to take a clausal complement, i.e. a subordinate clause, (see the first clause in 4). Languages differ in how easily it can be done. Nonfinite verbforms and constructions around them are often described as shortened subordinate clauses. I think that's quite misleading because there is no on-to-one correspondence.

If you however want (or have) to put an event/verb in a noun slot in the clause, you have to use class-changing derivation. Verbs used as verbs in syntax are called finite and verbs used as something else are called nonfinite. (There is a debate if that’s a binary distinction.)

Nouns can of course be coded like verbs too, but in European languages that’s done by adding a light verb, like be, have, use… West-Greenlandic has many productive denominal verb derivations.



The one above is a kind of characterization. Defining finiteness is somewhat problematic. Nedjalkov uses terms decategorization and recategorization, which I find useful. Decategorization means that a verb loses (some of) its "verbiness". Recategorization means that it gains (some) nominal features. Decategorazation and recategorization aren’t always complete. Participles, for example, often have tense, which is a verbal category.

(4) Nedjalkov’s examples of decategorization (D) and recategorization (R). - stands for absence and + for presence.
[-D/-R] Sentential complements (I know that he comes)
[+D/-R] infinitives (I want him to come)
[-D/+R] “clausal nominalizations” (I disapprove his driving the car so carelessly)
[+D/+R] deverbal nouns (arrival etc.)

Edit: [-D/+R] “clausal nominalizations” can be exemplified quite badly in English. Nedjalkov has a better example (4b) from Quechua. The Embedded clause 'Juan was here.' is a complete "finite" clause, but at the end of it there is a nominalizer and an accusative marker that tells that the embedding is the object of the matrix clause. So the clause has not lost any of its "verbiness" but behaves as a noun. If English had it as a clausal nominalization the clause would need about, like think usually needs. "I think about that Juan is here."

(4b)
Ñuka-ka [Juan kay-pi ka]-shka-ta yani.
I-TOP [Juan this-in be]-NZR-ACC think-SG1
I think that Juan was here.

The quartet of nonfinite verb forms

What is here called nonfinite verb forms are those that are decategorized, i.e. are less "verbi".

The typological quartet of nonfinite verb forms is: infinitives, converbs, action nominals, and participles. The two former ones are decategorized but not recategorized, i.e. not “verby” but not “nouny” either. They differ in that the infinitive is a complement of the main verb (or a noun), i.e. a nonfinite complement clause, while the converb is an adjunct, i.e. a nonfinite adverbial clause. That is the clause is incomplete (or elliptic) without the infinitive or a nominal complement, (5) without a complement and (6) with an infinitive. The lack of a converb or a nominal adjunct, on the other hand, does not make the clause incomplete, (7) with a converb and (8) without.

(5) # The tyrannosaur likes.
(6) The tyrannosaur likes to bathe.

(7) The tyrannosaur bathes in latte before smoking a cigar.
(8) The tyrannosaur bathes in latte.

Infinitives and converbs can usually take objects and other arguments like any verb, (7), and (8). Subject coding can differ. It’s often the same as that of the main clause, as the herbivore in (9). The Latin term for that is accusativus cum infinitivo. It can also be coded as an adverb, like for in English. Many languages have several converbs for different adverbial functions: time, manner, instrument, purpose, other action… English uses conjunctions to specify them.

(9) The tyrannosaur forced the herbivore to wait.

Action nominals and participles are decategorized and recategorized, i.e. they get a new word class. Action nominals are deverbal nouns and participles are deverbal adjectives. They behave syntactically like the words of the word class in question. Dependents of nouns are usually genitives, so action nominals take their ‘arguments’ in similar forms, (10). Adjectives describe nouns, and so do participles as well (11).

(10) [the tyrannosaur’s smoking of the cigar]
(11) A smoking tyrannosaur looks silly.

Action nominals can well appear both as complements (11) and adjuncts (12), because so can nouns too.

(12) A puppet saw the tyrannosaur’s bathing in latte.
(13) The herbivore held the towel during the tyrannosaur’s bathing in latte.

Grammars know a bunch of different names for nonfinite verb forms: gerund, gerundive, masdar, supine. They mostly taken from Latin grammars. Their use is very varied in grammars, and if you use one of them in your conlang, you have to explain it much better than a typology-based term. They can be replaced by the quartet.

Nonfinite verbforms in real languages

The four names of the verbforms are typological generalizations, which Haspelmath calls comparative concepts. Real languages don’t read grammars. (The cosmos doesn’t real physics either, but that’s another thing.) So, the real forms in real languages don’t always be as prototypical as those above. English -ing form is especially unpleasant. It can work as infinitive (14), converb (15), action nominal (16), and participle (17).

(14) The girl started smoking (= to smoke) a cigarette.
(15) The girl entered the room smoking a cigarette.
(16) The girl’s smoking irritated me.
(17) A smoking girl entered the room.
A girl smoking a cigarette entered the room.

Turkish has verb forms that function as both action nominals and participles. Finnish has infinitives that inflect in local cases, which is a trace of their past as action nominals. Infinitives often have side functions as purposive adverbials (18), where you would wait for a converb.

(18) The tyrannosaur baths in latte to get a sophisticated colour.

The forms in real languages rarely fit the typological definitions, but a main function can usually be found, and the form named after it. Then you can write clauses like: "Infinitives are used to code purpose." instead of "Supines function as complements of verbs and also code purpose."

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Last edited by Omzinesý on Thu 13 Jul 2017, 09:43, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jun 2017, 18:33 
fire
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Omzinesý wrote:
(4) Nedjalkov’s examples of decategorization (D) and recategorization (R). - stands for absence and + for presence.
[-D/-R] Sentential complements (I know that he comes)
[+D/-R] infinitives (I want him to come)
[-D/+R] “clausal nominalizations” (I disapprove his driving the car so carelessly)
[-D/-R] deverbal nouns (arrival etc.)

I'm interested.
But you don't have a quartet.
You have [-D/-R] twice, and you don't have [+D/+R] at all.
Or am I misunderstanding somehow?




BTW what sort of tyrannosaurs do you know who bathe in latte?
The ones I've seen at the Starbuckses I've been to just like to order them to see how silly the staff looks trying to put together a latte for a tyrannosaur.

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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jun 2017, 12:09 
mayan
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The last sentence just has a typo in the +s and -s. Thank you for seeing it.

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PostPosted: Tue 27 Jun 2017, 16:18 
fire
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Omzinesý wrote:
The last sentence just has a typo in the +s and -s. Thank you for seeing it.

That would have been my guess; but I wouldn't have been certain until you said so.
Is there more to come?
I'm still interested; probably moreso now that I'm more confident I understand more of what you've said up 'til now.
(What I still don't understand is why this is in conflict with conventional analysis. But as a conlanger I've found it useful to apply both of two theories whose academic champions think are opposed to each other.)

I'm especially looking forward to your examples:
[serious] Do you have examples that are easier to analyze or easier to explain using this than using the conventional analysis? [/serious]
[playful] What else can you tell us about, say, Triceratops in Tribeca?
And where's the example about John?
Every set of linguistic examples must include at least one about someone named "gift of {insert god's name here}"; Devadatta or somebody.
Maybe the T. rex's name is Joanna? [/playful]

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PostPosted: Thu 29 Jun 2017, 18:34 
mayan
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eldin raigmore wrote:
Is there more to come?

Dunno. I could say something more about clausal nominalizations. I find Malchukov's example quite bad. And my feeling is that decategorization is often more incomplete than recategorization.
But basically this is just a very short summary of what I've found.

eldin raigmore wrote:
(What I still don't understand is why this is in conflict with conventional analysis. But as a conlanger I've found it useful to apply both of two theories whose academic champions think are opposed to each other.)
[...]
[serious] Do you have examples that are easier to analyze or easier to explain using this than using the conventional analysis? [/serious]

Conventional analyses?
The point is that Latin has some forms with some names, English has some forms with some names, Turkish has some forms with some names etc.
As a conlanger or a descriptive linguist describing a language never described before, you cannot use English, Latin or Turkish terms but you shouldn't go inventing your own either., because then nobody would understand what you are speaking about
So the terms above are the most conventional we have.
Then there is philosophical stuff about the nature of finiteness, which is there just to tell what's the phenomenon I'm speaking about. Philosophically I am an instrumentalist, so I don't really say this is more right than another theory of finiteness. I just happen to find this the best way to explain it.
eldin raigmore wrote:
[playful] What else can you tell us about, say, Triceratops in Tribeca?
And where's the example about John?
Every set of linguistic examples must include at least one about someone named "gift of {insert god's name here}"; Devadatta or somebody.
Maybe the T. rex's name is Joanna? [/playful]

Personally I like Bill and Tom rather than John. So I think I'll discriminate him.
I started playing dinosaurs with a dinosaur specialist. You are boosting me to make friends with more of them. I only know the one in my avatar. We'll see if we get along.

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jul 2017, 14:50 
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Very interesting post, thanks a lot! Saved it so that I can finish reading when I get home


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PostPosted: Wed 12 Jul 2017, 11:47 
greek
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What I'm mostly lacking here is examples of how these categories crop up in other languages. What would be some good example sentences to go asking around for translations?

In particular I'm still not quite sure about the distinction of infinitives and converbs.

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jul 2017, 09:36 
mayan
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horizont wrote:
Very interesting post, thanks a lot! Saved it so that I can finish reading when I get home

Thank you!
Adarain wrote:
What I'm mostly lacking here is examples of how these categories crop up in other languages.

Yes, lack of examples is the disadvantage of this text, especially due to the fact that the categories fit English very badly. Those categories are practical for Eurasian (East-European and North-Asian) languages. Hungarian is the parade example with one nice infinitive, one nice converb, tensed participles, and an action nominal.

Adarain wrote:
What would be some good example sentences to go asking around for translations?

Don't you like dinosaur examples?

Adarain wrote:
In particular I'm still not quite sure about the distinction of infinitives and converbs.

Sometimes they merge, sometimes not. Many languages distinguish them nicely. Basically infinitives have no semantics and just accompany their main verb, and thus aren't very several, while there can be 20 converbs for cause, time, purpose...

With Siglish I tried to use those terms as functions with which to describe a nonfinite verb form that fits this system badly. At least, this is a way to start developing an unfitting system.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5448&start=20#p243931

I wrote:
eldin raigmore wrote:
Is there more to come?

Dunno. I could say something more about clausal nominalizations. I find Malchukov's example quite bad. And my feeling is that decategorization is often more incomplete than recategorization.
But basically this is just a very short summary of what I've found.

Said something more about clausal nominalizations, in the first post.

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