Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by clawgrip » Wed 12 Feb 2014, 02:42

Khemehekis wrote:Are there any correlations between a language having or lacking WH-fronting and other characteristics of said language?

Why do some Japanese compound words have rengaku and other Japanese compoind words don't?
First of all, the number one consideration for whether rendaku happens or not is etymology: rendaku is common only in native Japanese vocabulary. It only very occasionally happens in words derived from Chinese (on-yomi) (株式会社 kabushiki-gaisha and 夫婦喧嘩 fūfu-genka, 口喧嘩 kuchi-genka, etc. probably being the most prominent exceptions), and is extremely rare in loans from other languages.

The primary obstruction to rendaku in native vocabulary is a voiced obstruent in the latter morpheme (i.e. Lyman's law):

yama + 寺 tera = 山寺 yamadera
but:
yama + 門 kado = 山門 Yamakado (not *Yamagado, because rendaku is blocked by /d/)

The reverse of Lyman's law can also block rendaku, i.e. when the last syllable of the first element contains a voiced obstruent, e.g.

shima + 田 ta = 島田 Shimada
naga + 田 ta = 永田 Nagata (not *Nagada, because rendaku is blocked by /g/)

Certain morphemes are more likely to force it or stop it. A prominent example is the pair of morphemes 大 ō "big" and 小 o "small". Probably due to their similar pronunciation but opposite meanings, rendaku is helpful in reinforcing the phonemic difference, so, e.g.

ō + 川 kawa = 大川 Ōkawa
o + 川 kawa = 小川 Ogawa

ō + 田 ta = 大田 Ōta
o + 田 ta = 小田 Oda

Some other morphemes just tend to resist rendaku all the time, e.g. 手 te:

yama + 手 te = Yamate (not *Yamade)
ai + 手 te = 相手 aite
niga + 手 te = 苦手 nigate
kata + 手 te = 片手 katate

There are other things that can block it:
1. semantics: a dvandva compound ("X and Y") blocks rendaku:

yama + 川 kawa = 山川 yamakawa "mountains and rivers"
好き suki + 嫌い kirai = 好き嫌い sukikirai "likes and dislikes (related to food)"

yama + 川 kawa = 山川 yamagawa "mountain river"
食わず kuwazu + 嫌い kirai = 食わず嫌い kuwazugirai "dislike without ever tasting"

This is likely because the speaker in some way conceives of it more as a list than a single word.

2. branching constraints:
When the second of the two morphemes already belongs to a compound that the first one does not, rendaku is blocked:
mon + (白 shiro + 蝶 chō) = 紋白蝶 monshirochō (family crest + (white + butterfly))
hon + (駒 koma + 込め kome) = 本駒込 Hon-Komagome (true (Komagome (placename)))

(尾 o + 白 shiro) + 鷲 washi = 尾白鷲 ojirowashi ((white + tail) eagle)
hon + 腰 koshi = 本腰 hongoshi (true (lower.back))

Just for your information, the Wikipedia article gives 山火事 yamakaji (not *yamagaji) as an example of Lyman's law: supposedly kaji does not become *gaji because it is blocked by /ʥ/. This is actually a very bad example because first of all, kaji is Sino-Japanese vocabulary and thus unlikely to undergo rendaku under any case. Secondly, branching constraints forbid *yamagaji because kaji is already a compound (yama + (ka + ji)). I should probably edit the article to use Yamakado as in my example here.

Despite all this, rendaku is not totally predictable. It is subject to regional variation and other factors. Place names and surnames in particular can be confusing. Some surnames can be read either way, e.g. 山崎 can be Yamazaki or Yamasaki, while some place names have unexpected rendaku (長渕 Nagabuchi, not expected Nagafuchi) or lack expected rendaku (中島 Nakashima, not Nakajima), or have multiple possibilities. 秋葉原 Akihabara (aki + ha + hara), for example, if it were not so well-known, would be a confusing place name, as it could also be read Akibahara (in fact the nickname of Akihabara is Akiba).

For the word くらい/ぐらい kurai/gurai, it seems to be totally optional if you want to use it or not, though it seems like gurai is more colloquial and kurai more formal.

Side note: It's also interesting that branching constraints affect gemination. For example, when the first element of a compound ends in -ku and the second element begins with /k/, they will merge to form -kk. Additionally, when the first element ends in -tsu and the second element begins with any unvoiced consonant, it will form a geminate.
e.g.
gaku + 校 = 学校 gakkō.
hatsu + 車 sha = 発車 hassha
ritsu + 体 tai = 立体 rittai
setsu + 腹 fuku = 切腹 seppuku

However, the same type of branching constraint will disallow these, but with an interesting difference between the two:
-tsu is always disallowed, e.g.
(生 sei + 活 katsu) + 費 = 生活費 seikatsuhi "cost of living" (not *seikappi)
nen + 末 matsu + 調 chōsei = 年末調整 nenmatsu-chōsei "year-end tax adjustment" (not *nenmatchōsei)

The same restriction applies for -ku, but colloquially this rule is entirely ignored:
(洗 sen + 濯 taku) + 機 ki "washing machine" = 洗濯機 sentakuki officially, but sentakki colloquially
(水 sui + 族 zoku)j + 館 kan "(public) aquarium" = 水族館 suizokukan officially, but suizokkan colloquially

EDIT: I found a very interesting looking pdf about this (it's in Japanese though) that goes into a lot of detail. I'd like to read it and share any findings it may have when I have more time.
Last edited by clawgrip on Wed 19 Feb 2014, 01:04, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Tue 18 Feb 2014, 08:11

Micamo wrote:Alright, I has a question: When, exactly, is agreement applied in a syntactic derivation? Far as I can tell from what I've read about how agreement works in generative syntax, the answer to that question is "Whenever the author needs it to happen in order for their hypothesis to work out." Is it actually so flexible (which greatly reduces its predictive strength) or is there some principle they're all following that I'm just not seeing?
Finally getting around to answering/talking about this question, cuz I wanted to try to give it a good answer. Anyhow. So there's kind of...two separate angles that we need to approach this question from. Or there are two things that the question conflates.

The first is the actual phenomenon of morphological agreement: the expression of one item's features on another item. The classic examples are subject-verb agreement or noun-modifier agreement. In either case we have some features (say person and number) associated with the noun receiving overt morphological expression on another item in the structure. But you know this is a thing.

Aside: Person/number/gender features are referred to as `phi-features' in the Minimalist literature.

The second thing is the way that such a phenomenon is modeled in the theory. In Minimalism, this is done with an operation called Agree. To get how Agree works you need to know a little more about features in the Minimalist architecture. The basic idea is that features come in two varieties- valued/interpretable or unvalued/uninterpretable. Uninterpretable features are like time bombs: they need to get removed (usually called `valuation' or `checking' in the literature) before the derivation is complete. If they're not the derivation is said to crash: it ends up ungrammatical.

What Agree facilitates is the removal of uninterpretable features. It's a way of modeling heads/projections interacting with one another, sometimes at a distance. Agree is triggered whenever there's an uninterpretable feature in the structure that needs to get checked. The operation looks in the structure for a matching type of feature that is interpretable/valued and copies the value from that feature to the uninterpretable feature. This diffuses the time bomb. Often times this results in those uninterpretable features being expressed morphologically with the item. So a verb would have uninterpretable phi-features and the subject would value you them, and that's how you get morphological agreement.

Also, another aside- Agree is a core part of mainstream minimalism for another reason: it is seen as a prerequisite / trigger for movement in many theories.

Now, the way this all works is up for debate in the literature. It's a HUGE topic right now. As far as I see it, you can kind of isolate a couple major questions/topic of debate:

(1) What are the actual mechanics / restrictions on Agree? Does it look down? Up? Both?
(2) Does this all happen in the syntax, in the derivation? Some people think some forms of morphological agreement are actually post syntactic
(3) When does it happen in the course of a derivation? (Micamo's question)
(4) What kinds of features can be involved?

So, none of this has actually answered your question. But basically, the answer is it's up for debate. Some people think that Agree only happens at some points of the derivation, some people think it happens whenever there is an uninterpretable feature that has to be satisfied.

Because they're many theories of Agree floating around out there, there are differing levels of predictive power. This is just the way theorizing works. And I've seen Agree thrown around to save some analyses, yes. But I would also say that a lot of what non-generativists say is "hypothesis saving" is often changing the theory for better empirical adequacy. Since Agree has become a hot topic, there has been a lot of data injected into the debate that has shown that some of what we thought about Agree at first was wrong, or we have to revamp it.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by Micamo » Fri 21 Feb 2014, 16:35

Thank you for the response, ronin! Another question:

The minimalist program has a concept called a "phase" which, if my understanding is correct, is a chunk of the syntax that is processed in spell-out: One of the consequences of the existence of a phase is the Phase Impenetrability Condition, which states that in order for an element to move out of a phase, it first has to move to the edge of the phase. In Chomsky's original conception, only CPs were phases.

However, I keep reading about new developments where apparently VP is now a phase too. And DP. And NP. And vP. And IP. And PP. This is starting to confuse me.

- Is my understanding of what phases are and how phases work more or less correct? If not, why not?

- What is the motivation for saying that spell-out is broken down into phases rather than phrases? How do we tell if something is or is not a phase?

- Doesn't it weaken the power of phases as a theoretical device if pretty much any structure counts as a phase?

Side question: What is the current theoretical status of the UTAH (Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis)? I've seen it conjectured and used in the 90's, but never any disprovals: Has it survived in current theory and I just haven't seen it invoked in more recent papers, or has it fallen into disfavor?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by thaen » Fri 21 Feb 2014, 17:29

roninbodhisattva wrote:Since there was at least some interest showed below, I'm making this thread a sticky and using this a placeholder. Right now, topics that just jump to mind are (in no particular order):

- Linear order and hierarchical structure (i.e. syntax is not just word order)
- Phrase structure
- Selection (subcategorization, embedded clauses, embedded questions, etc)
- Wh-movement
- Passives
- Raising and Control
- NP/DP Licensing and Case Theory
- Verb movement
- Theta Theory
- Binding theory
- Split VP hypothesis


Also, please tell me what you would be interested in hearing about.
Could you explain the first point (linerar vs hierarchical structure)? It sounds very intriguing. [:D]
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Mon 24 Feb 2014, 23:21

Don't you worry! I'm going to get to all of this tonight!
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by thaen » Tue 25 Feb 2014, 05:31

roninbodhisattva wrote:Don't you worry! I'm going to get to all of this tonight!
[+1] Huzzah! [:D]
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by loglorn » Tue 08 Apr 2014, 03:48

I felt like reviving this as i would be very interested in syntax (since i know so little about it), of the initially mentioned topics some things captured my attention:
Selection. I always have trouble when i try to translate something and i don't really know how to do this sort of stuff without copying some natlang (normally Portuguese or English and, when i know something about the subject in it, Japanese).
Clausal Architecture, that's quite a title, i know really like to know what that is.

I have the feel syntax get's quite technical very often. Just seeing 'Theory' and 'Hypothesis' makes me shiver
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Tue 22 Apr 2014, 21:22

So I'd really like to actually start using this thread like I originally intended, though it will probably have to wait until after I've taken my qualifying exam at the end of may.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by Creyeditor » Mon 02 Jun 2014, 14:40

Hooray, your qualifying exam is over [;)]
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Wed 04 Jun 2014, 16:25

Creyeditor wrote:Hooray, your qualifying exam is over [;)]
actually, it's on the 10th now...but so close!
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Wed 11 Jun 2014, 16:50

Passed my qualifying exam. Who wants to know some stuff?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by Micamo » Wed 11 Jun 2014, 16:53

Micamo wrote:The minimalist program has a concept called a "phase" which, if my understanding is correct, is a chunk of the syntax that is processed in spell-out: One of the consequences of the existence of a phase is the Phase Impenetrability Condition, which states that in order for an element to move out of a phase, it first has to move to the edge of the phase. In Chomsky's original conception, only CPs were phases.

However, I keep reading about new developments where apparently VP is now a phase too. And DP. And NP. And vP. And IP. And PP. This is starting to confuse me.

- Is my understanding of what phases are and how phases work more or less correct? If not, why not?

- What is the motivation for saying that spell-out is broken down into phases rather than phrases? How do we tell if something is or is not a phase?

- Doesn't it weaken the power of phases as a theoretical device if pretty much any structure counts as a phase?

Side question: What is the current theoretical status of the UTAH (Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis)? I've seen it conjectured and used in the 90's, but never any disprovals: Has it survived in current theory and I just haven't seen it invoked in more recent papers, or has it fallen into disfavor?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by thetha » Thu 12 Jun 2014, 00:17

Are there any languages that have a significant amount of movement (for e.g. focus, topic, things of that nature), but ban a particular kind of grammatical object from appearing in a particular spot? Like say, a language that fronts the most salient element, but finite verbs can never appear first in a clause.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by Imralu » Sat 14 Jun 2014, 22:37

Teddy wrote:Are there any languages that have a significant amount of movement (for e.g. focus, topic, things of that nature), but ban a particular kind of grammatical object from appearing in a particular spot? Like say, a language that fronts the most salient element, but finite verbs can never appear first in a clause.
German is something like this. Arguments and complements of course have a natural unmarked order, but can largely be moved around a clause to wherever they are needed for topic/focus requirements ... however, the rules for verb placement are quite strict. In a main clause, the finite verb is usually in the second position (although it may be in the first position such as in questions, exclamations, imperatives and some kinds of conditional sentences) and all other parts of the verb phrase go to the end of the clause (or at least towards it). In subordinate clauses, the finite verb goes to the end, nearly always appearing after other, non-finite parts of the verb phrase. Even the non-finite verbs which normally go to the end can be fronted to the beginning of the clause. Examples

Unmarked word order:
  • Er kann aber gut küssen.
    he can however well kiss.INF
    "He's a good kisser though."
Also possible:
  • Küssen kann er aber gut .
    kiss.INF can he however well
    "He's a good kisser though."
  • Gut kann er aber küssen.
    well can he however kiss
    "He's a good kisser though."
Unmarked word order:
  • Das hat Hannes nicht gefallen..
    that has Hannes.DAT not appealed
    "Hannes didn't like that."
Also possible:
  • Hannes hat das nicht gefallen.
    Hannes.DAT has that not appealed
    "Hannes didn't like that."
  • Gefallen hat das Hannes nicht.
    appealed has that Hannes.DAT not
    "Hannes didn't like that."
Glossing Abbreviations: COMP = comparative, C = complementiser, ACS / ICS = accessible / inaccessible, GDV = gerundive, SPEC / NSPC = specific / non-specific, AG = agent, E = entity (person, animal, thing)
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Thu 07 Aug 2014, 18:17

Just posted this list of things to think about when you're designing the syntax of a language over in C&C quickies, but figured I should also post it here. By no means exhaustive, but it's a good place to start. Anybody who has something to add should add it!
  • Clause level constituent order: This is kind of the no-brainer, of course, but you definitely need to say more than "my language is SVO" or "the basic word order is SOV." You want to go into detail about those word orders in at least the following ways:
    • Do constituents of the same type always occur in the same position relative to other elements? For example, do NP direct objects and pronoun direct objects occur in the same position (consider Scandinavian object shift, where pronominal DOs shift to the left of negation but NPs DOs don't). If not, how do these things differ?
    • Do all clause types have the same basic word order?
    • What's the order of adverbs when there are multiple of different types?
  • Noun phrase level constituent order: What is the order of elements within noun phrases?
  • Clause combination: How do take two (or more) clauses and put them together? This includes:
    • Coordination
    • Clause chaining or serialization, if it exists
    • Complementation (finite vs. non-finite?)
    • Adverbial subordination
    • Relative subordination
  • Anaphora: I think it's important to think about how anaphora works in general. How do you refer to entities that have already been introduced into the discourse? On the other hand, you should think about reflexives and reciprocals work, that is, anaphora in the sense of generative grammar.
  • Yes/no interrogatives
  • Extraction constructions: These are constructions that involve movement of some operator in English:
    • Content questions (wh-questions)
    • Topicalization
    • Focus constructions or clefts
    • Relative clauses
  • Comparatives
  • Argument structure/Valency types
  • Does the language have incorporation?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by thaen » Tue 14 Oct 2014, 19:51

Can we revive this thread?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by MrKrov » Tue 14 Oct 2014, 22:52

What do you want to add?
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by thaen » Tue 14 Oct 2014, 23:00

Upon looking back through some of the earlier stuff, I realized I misunderstood the point of this thread. [:x] So, nevermind my last post, I s'pose.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by roninbodhisattva » Fri 17 Oct 2014, 17:21

I'll eventually be back around and maybe do something with it. Very busy at the moment.
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Re: Let's Talk about Syntax (NP: Topic Ideas etc)

Post by OTʜᴇB » Thu 19 May 2016, 16:48

This hasn't been replied to in a while but I really do hope you're still working on this.

My first conlang crashed and burned because I skipped a LOT of grammatical features, most significantly prepositions and conjunctions, so this would be a perfect guide of things to remember to add and consider.

One thing I would really appreciate is if it were to use the specialist vocabulary but also explain it so that the non-linguists or the less experienced can benefit equally from it, particularly in the more basic topics. I am a total beginner to conlang-ing and having a resource like this would be like an infinite fountain of gold.
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