Sint Verbal Morphology: Changes to Focus Marking

A forum for all topics related to constructed languages
Post Reply
Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Sint Verbal Morphology: Changes to Focus Marking

Post by chris_notts » 07 Nov 2018 21:57

A section of the grammar for my latest project, provisionally called "Sint". There are some specific things I'd like feedback on, but step 1 is converting the relevant sections of the grammar. Hopefully the general structure survived my conversion from XeTeX to plain text. I'll post the questions in a follow-on post....
Summary of Verbal Inflectional Categories

1. Agreement and Pragmatic Status

In a Sint verb there are four slots which related to verbal agreement, namely AGR1, AGR2, AGR3 and PLURAL, but the verb only agrees with at most two arguments. Which slots are occupied depends on the person and pragmatic status of the core arguments.


The most important rule is that contrastively focused arguments do not control agreement. Focus is defined in more detail elsewhere, but in simple terms a focused noun phrase occurs pre-verbally in the same clause. Post-verbal noun phrases are not contrastively focused and do control verb agreement.

Inherent and Discourse Topicality

In the case were a verb agrees with both the actor and patient, the agreement pattern depends on which argument is highest ranked,
with speech act participants ranking higher than third persons, and more discourse topical third persons ranking higher than less topical third persons. The highest ranked argument is called the \emph{pivot}, as described in more detail in section \ref{sec-pivot-definition}.

The rest of this section will use the following terminology:

S = non-focal argument of intransitive
(S) = focal argument of intransitive
A = non-focal actor
P = non-focal patient
(A) = focal or non-referential actor (`somebody')
(P) = focal patient

Taking into account verbal transitivity and the constraint that focal arguments always rank low, there are seven possible cases of actor and patient focus and pivot selection, which are shown in table \ref{tbl-agreement-patterns}. The table is divided into three sections to reflect similar verbal inflectional patterns.

A > P
A > (P)

A < P
(A) < P

(A) = (P)

The following sections will describe the three different agreement patterns.

1.1 Direct Agreement

In direct agreement forms, the single intransitive argument or transitive actor control the AGR2 and PLURAL agreement slots. If there is a non-focal patient, the patient controls the AGR3 slot. If the patient is focal (pre-verbal), then the verb shows no agreement with it.

The following demonstrate the S, A > P, and A > (P) cases:

`I sang'

`I poured it'

la seenk navàrk
la seenk na-∅-vàrk
D.F bowl DOWN-3F-put
`She put THE BOWL down'

1.2 Inverse Agreement

In inverse agreement, the transitive actor controls AGR1 agreement. Agreement with the patient is split based on person: a speech act participant controls the AGR2 and PLURAL slots, whereas a third person patient controls the AGR3 slot.

If the actor is focused or non-specific (`somebody'), then special forms are used in AGR1 which neutralise person, gender and number distinctions. The following examples show inverse forms with focal, non-focal, and impersonal actors:

`they sang to me'

`they sang to her'

čo kens jaterkmıt
čo kens e-a-terk-m-t
D.PL people FOC-D-sing-ANTI-3F
`THE PEOPLE sang to her'

`someone sang to her'

The inverse agreement pattern with a focal agent marker is also used in the imperative mood. Compare the following with the example above:

`Sing to her!'

1.3 Neutralised Agreement

Agreement is completely neutralised when all arguments are either focal or impersonal (`someone'). In this case, e- or in(e)- occur in AGR1, and no other agreement markers occur in any other slot. In intransitive clauses this is quite common:

na kiins jonaa
na kiins j-o-naa
D.M man FOC-P-go
`THE MAN came'

`Someone came'

Transitive clauses with two focal arguments don't occur. However, clauses with impersonal in(e)- and a focal argument are possible:

ki čamka inenitsvek
ki čamka ine-nits-vek
I.PL rabbit IMPER-BEHIND-follow
`Someone's hunting RABBITS'

1.4 Interaction Between AGR2 and PLURAL Slots

In verbs where the AGR2 slot is occupied, the interaction between AGR2 and PLURAL is complicated. The basic function of PLURAL is to mark a plural controller, but there are the following complications:

1. The first person inclusive is inherently plural, so in this case PLURAL marks the difference between a minimal inclusive (2 people) and a more numerous inclusive (3+ people).
2. Sint has a single plural for masculine and feminine genders, and no plural at all for neuter nouns. Verbal agreement reflects this, so in the case third person plural agreement, AGR2 cannot contain an overt gender marker.

Taking into account these constraints, all possible combinations of AGR2 and PLURAL are given in the following table. In the table, the word initial allomorph of the AGR2 morphemes is listed; for the other allomorphs see the section on AGR2 agreement.

AGR2, PLURAL, Number, Meaning
n-, -, singular, I
n-, -n, plural, We (excluding you)
ječ-, -, dual, You and I
ječ-, -n, plural, You, I and others
w-, -, singular, You
w-, -n, plural, You all
k-, -, singular, He (masculine)
-, -, singular, She (feminine)
s-, -, any, It, they (neuter)
-, -n, plural, They (non-neuter)

1.5 Summary of Agreement Patterns

In order to select an agreement pattern, the speaker must determine:

1. Which argument is the pivot, if any, according to the criteria in chapter 2
2. Which argument, if any, is contrastively focused
3. Whether any arguments are speech act participants (SAPs)

Based on this information, the controllers of the different agreement slots can be summarised as follows:

This slot is controlled by both non-pivot 3rd person A agreement, by any A/S when it is contrastively focused, and is also used
to mark impersonal A/S.

These slots are controlled by a third person A/S pivot, and by a SAP pivot in any role.

This slot is controlled by a 3rd person P, and by a SAP non-pivot P.

2. Mood

All verbs are marked for one of four moods: indicative, optative, potential and imperative. The fundamental split is between actions which are presented as realised, marked by the indicative, from actions which are not. Unrealised actions are then subdivided into the potential mood, which deals with possibility, and the optative and imperatives moods which deal with desirability and obligation.

2.1 Indicative

The indicative is used for specific, realised actions in the past and present. It does not cover future events, habitual events, or events which the speaker is unsure of or does not assert.

2.2 Potential

The potential is used with events about which the speaker has less confidence, and which are in some sense predictions. This includes not just past and present uncertainty, but also all future references and habitual aspect. The link between the habitual and uncertainty is that habitual behaviour is fundamental inductive: the speaker identifies or infers an ongoing pattern from limited observations.

2.3 Optative and Imperative

The optative is used for events which the speaker thinks should happen or desires. It is used in deontic expressions, polite orders, hortatives, and subordinate clauses of purpose. The imperative is used to give direct orders, but otherwise has a much more limited distribution than the optative.

2.4 Examples of Mood Distinctions

The following examples demonstrate the contrast between the four moods:

`He sang'

`He (might, will, usually, ...) sing(s)'

`Let him sing!'


3. Tense and Aspect

Tense and aspect are much less grammaticalised than mood and are not marked by dedicated morphemes within the verbal word. Tense is marked indirectly by mood in some cases, since the indicative is only used for past and present actions, but this is limited.

The indirect marking of aspect is more complex, and involves four different groups of morphemes. The first is the mood suffixes, since habitual aspect is one meaning of the potential mood. The alternation between the potential and indicative can distinguish between a bounded number of events and an inductive pattern of events.

The second source of aspect marking is the posture and associated motion suffixes. These suffixes may sometimes mark a distinction between perfective and progressive/stative aspect, but their use to express aspect is complex and depends on the verb's aktionsart and semantics. The following table summarises the possible aspectual uses of these suffixes.

Stance = stative, perfect, progressive
Ongoing motion = progressive, continuative, prospective
Preceding motion = inchoative

Because aspect is not the primary meaning of these suffixes, the aspectual meaning is not always available or the morpheme may be ambiguous between an aspectual and motion interpretation.

The last two sources of aspect are different in nature to the first two, because they are more derivational and less inflectional. These affect the lexical aspect of the verb, the distinction between atelic, unbounded activitiesa and telic, bounded activities. The first of these is the preverb system. Many of the preverbs, which encode direction and path of motion, may mark telicity / boundedness when added to non-motion verbs. This is a change in lexical aspect, and as such the preverb(s) that a given verb root selects may be unpredictable and adding a preverb may cause other changes in meaning.

An example which combines the first three sources is:

nakwakaneh ki kars
na-k-wak-kan-e-h ki kars
DOWN-3M-burn-GO.ALONG-POT-3N I.N house
`he would keep on burning down houses'

To break this down:

1. wak- is an atelic verb meaning burn, which does not require that the patient is completely burnt
2. na-wak- `burn down' is a telic compound verb in which the patient is completely burnt
3. na-wak-kan- includes the motion suffix -kan which either means `do continously while moving' or `keep on doing'
4. na-wak-kan-e includes the potential suffix -e, which adds the habitual meaning

The final derivational aspect marking system is patient noun incorporation. If the patient of a transitive verb is incorporated then a new verb is derived that is non-specific as to the number of patient entities affected. That is, a telic transitive verb describing a bounded action can be converted into an unbounded activity. For example:

`I rabbit hunted'

4. Negation

Negation is marked by verbal prefixes. There are two prefixes, one v(i)- which is used in the indicative and potential moods, and another is-, which is used with optative and imperative moods.

5. Path, Motion, Orientation and Movement

Notions of space are strongly grammaticalised within the Sint verb, and are more prominent than either tense or aspect. There are two
slots in the verb which relate to space and motion, but with differences in function and semantics. As discussed in the previous sections, these morphemes also have other grammatical functions, but their core semantics are spatial.

5.1 Stance and Associated Motion

The first, and simplest, are the stance and associated motion suffixes. These are inflectional in nature and mark that either that motion preceded, coincided with, or followed the action, or describe the stance taken when performing the action. They show nominative alignment: they always relate to the motion or stance of the A/S argument. A morpheme of this type is sufficient to unambiguously add or removed a motion component to/from an action. For example:

`we went and sang'

The verb terk- `sing' alone is ambiguous between a stationary singing action and one concomitant with motion. However, when the associated motion suffix -te is added, the singing is unambigously related to motion of the A/S.

The purpose of these suffixes is not to be the primary means of describing motion and position, in the same way that grammatical tense is not the primary means of providing detailed temporal descriptions in other languages. The fact that a language has a past tense does not obviate the need for very common expressions such as `now', `yesterday', `last week' etc. In the same way, motion in Sint is normally established using motion verbs in separate clauses, not suffixes, and other actions are then anchored to the trajectory using the associated motion suffixes. The suffixes serve to integrate motion and non-motion verbs into a unified spatial flow, in the same way that tense suffixes integrate events into a unified temporal flow.

5.2 Preverbs

The second set of spatial morphemes are the preverbs. These are different to the associated motion suffixes in the following ways:

1. Preverbs do not encode motion. They are ambiguous between describing static spatial relationships and motion, and this ambiguity can only be resolved by the verb root with which they collocate.
2. Preverbs describe the spatial configuration or path of the absolutive (S/P) argument.
3. With non-motion and non-locative verbs, preverbs tend to lexicalise into compound verbs with differences in lexical aspect, transitivity, or other semantic changes compared to the unmarked verb root.

To illustrate the first two these points, consider the following two examples:

menvàrkıt o na kotla
me-n-vàrk-t o na kotla
ON.P-1EXC-put-3F OBL D.M table
`I put it on the table'

menki na kotla
me-n-ki na kotla
ON.P-1EXC-stand D.M table
`I stood on the table'

In both cases, the preverb me- describes a spatial configuration in which the figure is supported on the horizontal surface
of the ground. But one example describes a motion event which puts the figure into that configuration, and the other describes a
static spatial arrangement. Similarly, in the transitive example it is the patient (P) which enters into the configuration, not the actor (A).

The most common use of the preverbs with non-motion verbs is an extension of their core semantics. Preverbs vary in whether they imply
a definitive change of state or not, and to what extend they imply the presence of a specific ground. Those describing the arrival or crossing of a boundary such as -ma- `on' or -as- `out' are extended to indicate non-spatial changes of state, and therefore
to derive telic versions of atelic verbs. And those that imply a specific, bounded ground such as -ma- `on' may also have
a transitivising function. In addition, there are large numbers of semantically more unpredictable preverb-verb pairs to form semantically
distinct compound verbs.

5.3 Interaction Between Preverbs and Associated Motion

While it might be expected that preverbs and associated motion suffixes interact semantically to describe motion, in fact their co-occurence is limited and their semantic combination even more so. Preverbs almost never elaborate on the path of associated motion, and associated motion morphemes do not license the spatial meanings of preverbs.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that in transitive clauses associated motion and preverbs relate to different arguments of the verb. Consider the following example:

`he put it up in passing'

In this example, the preverb specifies the path of the patient, whereas the associated motion suffix relates to the actor.
In order for the preverb to modify the path of the associated motion suffix, the verb would have to be intransitive, but then collocational
restrictions come into play. Associated motion suffixes are typically not used on verbs which already encode motion of the S/A, and
conversely on non-S/A-motion verbs the preverbs often encode aktionsart or perform non-spatial functions.

Finally, static locational expressions can take both a preverb with spatial semantics and an associated motion suffix, but here the
preverb expresses a static locational meaning related to the verb root, instead of modifying the associated motion:

`I went and perched up (there)'

There is one exception to this general separation of functions. The deictic notions of `here' is encoded either by a deictic vowel or the preverb ti-, and this may have scope over either the verb stem, the associated motion suffix, or both. For example:

`He went and put it up hither'
`He came and put it up hither'

6. Incorporation

Incorporation of nouns and adjectives is very productive in Sint. A single stem without inflections can be incorporated before the verb root to perform the following functions:

1. Possessor raising (limited to body parts and inalienably possessed objects)
2. Classification of the underlying patient of transitive verbs
3. Valency reduction
4. Expression of manner, event type or circumstance

The incorporated noun is just that, a noun or adjectival stem. It cannot be a syntactic phrase, e.g. a noun phrase, and simple, generic nouns are favoured. In cases where a morphologically complex stem is incorporated, this is normally a well-established nominal compound in its own right.

While a lot of noun roots can be incorporated, not all are used equally frequently, and some nouns aren't incorporated at all or rarely so. Body parts are very common in possessor raising constructions, and for classificatory and valence reduction purposes basic vocabulary with a generic sense are preferred. The most diverse array of nouns occur in manner, depictive and resultative incorporation, where the incorporated stem can range from a concrete instrument (knife-cut), characteristic location (church-marry, mountain-climb), to an adjective (quiet-go).

Incorporated nouns do not refer in the same way that noun phrases do: they characterise the event in some way rather than identifying a referrent as participating in it. Noun stem may show a shift in meaning when incorporated, and some also show irregular phonological reduction such shortening and loss of unstressed syllables. As an example of both phenomena, čaao `water' shows shortening to čao- when incorporated, and it may also be used in the sense of `liquid':

`I jumped in (to any liquid)'

Often, there are alternative ways of expressing the same event with and without incorporation. Incorporation is favoured:

1. When it allows the promotion of a more animate referent to direct clausal argument (possessor raising)
2. To reduce the prominence of backgrounded referents (classification, valency reduction)
3. When it removes a non-specific / non-referential argument from the clause (valency reduction)
4. As a way of packing complex actions into a single clause or deriving new event types (classification, manner, depictive, resultative)

The first three of these all have in common reduced prominence of backgrounded material. The choice between an incorporated and non-incorporated version of the same clause is often driven by pragmatic factors such as the specificity and referentiality of nouns on the one hand, and whether they are in focus or backgrounded on the other hand. The final use of incorporation relates to the lack of other ways to form complex clauses in Sint compared to a language like English.

6.1 Possessor Raising

In possessor raising incorporation, a possessed noun in absolutive function is incorporated into the verb, and the possessor becomes an argument of the verb. This is most common with body parts. Compare the following with and without incorporation:

osaìlkan tles jerım
∅-o-saìl-kan tles jer-m
3F-P-hurt-GO.ALONG P.F hand-1SG
`my hand keeps on hurting'

`my hand keeps on hurting (lit: I keep on hand-hurting)'

The difference between these is whether the exact location of the pain is in focus, or its effect on the person feeling the pain. The first example would be an appropriate answer to `What hurts?', with the location in focus, whereas the second example would be a better answer to `What's wrong?'.

Compare also the following example:

kamàščelıč čo čamka
k-a-màts(a)-čel-č čo čamka
3M-D-flesh-eat-3PL D.PL rabbit
`He ate the rabbits (their flesh)'

6.2 Valency Reduction and Absolutive Classification

These two functions are similar apart from the transitivity of the resulting verb. In classificatory incorporation, a generic noun derives a more specific transitive verb which nevertheless retains patient agreement and its ability to take an overt patient argument. The verb may also be made morphologically intransitive, in which case the single remaining argument is the actor. Compare:

kametsktaailıh ke šìvoi
k-a-metsk-taail-h ke šìvoi
3M-D-fish-buy-3N D.N trout
`he (fish-)bought trout'

`he fish-bought'

6.3 Circumstantial, Manner and Resultative Incorporation

A variety of stems describing the circumstances of the action can be incorporated. Commonly these stems can express the instrument
or general location of an action. In the following example, a well established instrument-verb compound tarnaa `walk', literally `foot-go', recursively incorporates the location tsem(hır) `mountain':

`He mountain-walked around'

Adjectival or nominal roots may be incorporated to express manner of action:

`she snuck along'

7. Transitivity, Grammatical Voice and Valence

In Sint, clausal transitivity is overtly marked either by agreement morphemes or, in the case of focal patients, by the presence of a
fronted focal noun-phrase. This overt marking of transitivity allows, for some verbs, zero derivation between transitive and intransitive
uses. Verbs which allow this are almost always S = P ambitransitives such as wak `burn'.

In addition to zero-marked transitivity alternations, there are five other other ways to change the argument structure of a verb. There are three suffixes, the anti-passive, causative, and reflexive, which are dedicated voice morphemes, and incorporation and preverbs also have valence adjustment functions.

7.1 Antipassive - Dative

The suffix -m- is used to either convert a transitive root into an controlled intransitive root by eliminating the patient (antipassive), or to promote a recipient, beneficiary or other oblique to control the patient agreement.

Most ambitransitive verbs in Sint are S=P ambitransitives, and -m- in this case is the only way to produce an intransitive whose only argument is the actor. Compare the following three examples:

`it burnt'

`she burnt it'

`she burnt (things)'

When -m- co-occurs with patient agreement or a patientive noun phrase, it's interpreted as the recipient, beneficiary, or some other interested party:

`she burnt (things) for me'

Intransitive motion verbs, including detransitised motion verbs, can take a destination or source locative with core case marking. The role of a promoted locative is determined by the preverb used with the motion verb. -m- can be used to promote locatives on transitive motion verbs:

nitlevlım ke ikaar
n-i-tlevıl-m ke ikaar
1EXC-P-carry-ANTI D.N camp
`I carried (it) to camp'

Semantically, -m- combines the functions +agent and -patient. If the verb is transitive anyway, then by implicature the patient-like NP must be occupying another semantic role. The exact role of this NP is underspecified, apart from that by Gricean implicature the role is not one which could be covered by the other argument promoting voices.

Because -m- is +agent, it only combines with verbs describing volitional actions. The following example sounds odd because it implies that being asleep is a volitional activity:

`?she slept for me'

The only interpretation that makes sense in this case is inchoative, that the actor went to sleep for someone else.

7.2 Causative - Instrumental - Comitative

The suffix -(a)s-}functions as both a causative and applicative. In its causative meaning it can be applied to any verb stem to indicate causation. With verbs describing volition actions, whether transitive or intransitive, -(a)s- can also promote an oblique comitative or instrument to control patient agreement on the verb. However, this reading isn't available with non-volitional (unaccusative) intransitives.

The following examples show the possible meanings with intransitive unergative and unaccusative verbs and with a transitive verb:

`I slept her (e.g. of a baby)'
`*I slept with her'

`I made her run'
`I ran with her'

`I made her hit (something)'
`I hit (something) with her'

Note that the first example cannot have the comitative reading because the verb root is unaccusative, i.e. it doesn't describe a volitional action. In some cases, a similar meaning can be obtained using the preverb -kal- `together':

`We slept together'

The use of the preverb kal- together with -(a)s to strengthen the comitative interpretation and rule out the causative is also common:

`I hit (something) with her'

A unified account of the semantics of -(a)s- is as follows. -(a)s- adds a new argument which has partial or complete control over the event. If the event already had an unaffected, actor-like argument, the resulting predicate is ambiguous between the case where the original actor is robbed of control (the causative ~ instrumental meaning), and the case where it retains some control (the comitative meaning). On the other hand, if the event only had a patient-like argument, adding a new controlling argument doesn't affect it, so only the causative meaning is possible.

Another important point to note that the suffix -(a)s- can't create formally trivalent verbs. When applied to a transitive verb, it demotes the original patient to an oblique in favour of the argument it adds. For the same reason, it can't be applied recursively.

7.3 Reflexive and Reciprocal

The marker -ša- marks reflexive or reciprocal action. It attaches to transitive verbs and forms intransitives, as in the following example:

`I burnt myself'
`I got burned'

As the gloss above suggests, \emph{-ša-} also has an anti-causative function.

7.4 Preverbs

Preverbs may be used to make intransitive verbs transitive. Which preverb(s), if any, an intransitive verb selects can be unpredictable, and there may be multiple preverb-verb combinations with different semantics. For example, terk `sing' is an intransitive verb, but as-terk `sing out' is a transitive verb whose patient is the song or words which are sung. Typically, preverbs used to change valence also convert atelic verbs into telic verbs.

7.5 Incorporation

One of the functions of incorporation is valency reduction. By incorporating the patient noun into the verb, a formally intransitive can be created which describes the activity of performing the action on an unspecified number of patients.
Last edited by chris_notts on 30 Nov 2018 00:38, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology

Post by chris_notts » 07 Nov 2018 22:50

Some notes about sources:

1. Preverb system - fundamentally similar to phrasal verbs in English and other Germanic languages, and also to preverbs in a number of Caucasian languages (see Laz for example). It seems quite common for these to be co-opted for aspectual and transitivising functions on non-motion verbs in languages that have them.

2. Associated motion - a number of languages in Australian and South America have these. Very few languages are documented as having both S/P oriented directionals/preverbs and S/A oriented association motion suffixes, but AM markers aren't well studied. At least one paper suggests that Cavineña has both, with exactly this split in function/orientation and presence/lack of inherent motion semantics.

3. Focus fronting, anti-agreement with fronted focused arguments - focus fronting is common in Mayan languages, a number of Austronesian languages, and verb initial languages in general. Anti-agreement effects with fronted subjects are also far from uncommon. Anti-agreement based on focus or fronting seems less common with objects - differential object agreement is more likely to relate to object referentiality or definiteness.

4. Ambiguity between applicative and causative/anti-passive functions - there are examples of this, can't remember the languages without looking it up.

5. Incorporation - mostly based on freely available papers by Marianne Mithun.

Some areas of concern where feedback would be appreciated:

1. The agreement system

Because of the interaction between a covert hierarchical agreement system (that is, there is no inverse morpheme but direct/inverse is marked by which two of three agreement slots to use) and anti-agreement effects for any focused, fronted argument, there are quite a lot of possible agreement patterns. I'm not sure this is completely unattested - I'm fairly confident there are languages which show hierarchical agreement effects and anti-agreement effects, and if IIRC some Salish languages with obligatory passive for SAP patients might qualify on both fronts. But it's certainly complicated.

2. The deictic vowel

I'm not sure if this is mentioned in the excerpt, but there is an often obligatory (although suppressed in specific morphological circumstances) alternation between spatially proximal (here) vs distal (there) actions, marked either by vowel alternations in the preverbs or optionally by a separate preverb ti- in cases where the vowel alternation is not possible. This is, for example, the way that come and go are distinguished:

k-D-naa = he went

k-P-naa = he came

I'm aware that this distinction in general is attested - I think there is a reference to this in "The Papuan Languages of New Guinea", for example, although the deictic centre is often not the "here" of the speech act. What I mean by this is that it tends to signal on-stage vs off-stage actions and point of view. IIRC, it's also mentioned for Yeli Dnye in other papers.

It does fit with the very spatial heavy focus of the verbal morphology, but I do worry that the distinction is not high profile enough given that it can be marked by a single vowel alternation buried in the middle of the pre-stem. The distinction between come and go feels fairly fundamental.

I do also wonder whether it would evolve other semantics. The suppression of the distinction is primarily in the context of 1st persons, which require the use of the proximate vowel (and the 1st inclusive yec- suppresses a following deictic vowel completely). Given that the P vowel must be used with 1st persons and the D vowel will commonly be used with third persons, I wonder if it would be more likely to evolve into redundant person marking. Or, if with 3rd persons it correlates with onstage vs offstage, it could become part of a covert proximate/obviative classification.

3. Interactions between preverbs and incorporated nouns

Both of these can be used to derive new verbs, and the incorporated noun is compounded with the verb root, which puts it between the preverb and the verb. This raises the question of how they interact when deriving new verbs. For example:

hunt = nits-vek = behind-follow (semantically irregular preverb-verb combination)

So imagine we incorporate the noun čamka `rabbit' to get 'rabbit-hunting'. Does the preverb-verb combination preserve its irregular meaning when interrupted? What is the order of derivation? If linear order matters, then it should be [preverb-[incorporand-verb]], in which case incorporating nouns into preverb-verb compounds and preserving the preverb-verb semantics is problematic. On the other hand, we're dealing with templatic morphology here. Interrupting a phrasal verb is English does not disrupt the combined meaning of the verb and particle:

I ate the cake up

It's hard to find natlang examples of this. I'm not aware of a language which has both productive incorporation and the kind of preverb-verb units that Sint has, and where in addition the incorporated noun is placed between the preverb and the verb.

4. Overlaps in valency adjustment devices

There are some overlaps here where similar functions can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. The anti-passive suffix has a similar function to incorporation based detransitivisation. This raises the question of whether the antipassive -m- should always be required in this case to promote an oblique or not. I'm inclined to say yes, because otherwise there would be confusion between classificatory incorporation and detransivising incorporation.

5. Aspect

Aspect is not really directly marked in the verb itself, but a lot of processes can indirectly mark aspect. Incorporation and preverbs can affect lexical aspect (telicity) by adding / removing bounds on the action. Mood and associated motion suffixes can also in some cases suggest or mark aspectual distinctions.

I guess that the next step after tidying up a few more bits of the grammar is probably to try to write a decent sized text in the language. That would give a better feel for what works, what doesn't, and what needs to go.

User avatar
Posts: 4681
Joined: 31 Mar 2013 12:16

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology + Questions

Post by DesEsseintes » 10 Nov 2018 09:56

I really like this, not least because of the heavily Algonquian feel, and would like to read and comment on it properly, but I happen to be a) ill b) working on the relay torch, so it will have to wait a bit.

Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology + Questions

Post by chris_notts » 12 Nov 2018 22:36

DesEsseintes wrote:
10 Nov 2018 09:56
I really like this, not least because of the heavily Algonquian feel, and would like to read and comment on it properly, but I happen to be a) ill b) working on the relay torch, so it will have to wait a bit.
Thanks! Sorry I didn't reply earlier, the CBB seemed to go down for a few days and I just realised it was working again. I hope you feel better soon.

It has to be said that my knowledge of Algonquian languages is quite limited, apart from a high level understanding of the direct/inverse system and noun incorporation. I've probably done more research on certain aspects of Salishan, Mayan, Kartvelian and Austronesian languages, in three cases most because those are strongly verb initial families with some very morphologically heavy members, and in the case of Kartvelian because of the spatial preverb system in Laz.

User avatar
eldin raigmore
Posts: 6281
Joined: 14 Aug 2010 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology + Questions

Post by eldin raigmore » 24 Nov 2018 01:32

DesEsseintes wrote:
10 Nov 2018 09:56
I really like this, ..., and would like to read and comment on it properly, but I ... will have to wait a bit.

User avatar
Posts: 22
Joined: 28 Nov 2012 19:07

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology

Post by Leo » 26 Nov 2018 03:40

chris_notts wrote:
07 Nov 2018 22:50
2. The deictic vowel (...) I do also wonder whether it would evolve other semantics.
In a minimalist experiment I expanded this system to pairs such as push/pull, stretch/squeeze, tell/listen but ended up adding a number of directional markers that blurred the initial logic. I am not sure what it could have evolved into if kept on its track.

Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology + Questions

Post by chris_notts » 30 Nov 2018 00:24

I've been thinking some more about simplifying the agreement system a bit. Currently, there are separate marking systems for argument focus (anti-agreement) and for other direct/inverse alternations, but this still feels a bit over-complex to me. In Sint as documented, the focus forms are used:

1. With fronted, focused arguments
2. With heads of relative clauses
3. With fronted interrogatives

These three tend to group together as triggers for both anti-agreement and as all requiring / using focus morphology / syntax in many natural languages.

Combined with this we have a covert direct/inverse alternation. Agent focus verbs count as inverse, as do ones which agree with their agent via AGR1 agreement markers. This alternation ties in with coordination and reference tracking because, if exactly one core argument of a transitive is gapped, it must be the highest ranked argument, i.e. the A of a direct verb and the P of an inverse verb.

So what this means is that I currently have three covert statuses that core arguments can have:

1. most topical (direct =A, inverse = P) -> preferentially gapped in coordinate clauses
2. less topical, post-verbal, not focused (direct = P, inverse = A) -> ???
3. less topical, pre-verbal, focus morphology (direct = P, inverse = A) -> argument focus, relative clause head, interrogative

This raises the obvious question: why not just merge (2) and (3)? Remove the anti-agreement / focus marking, and simply have the following rules:

1. highest ranked / topic -> preferential gapping in coordinate clauses
2. lowest ranked / focus -> can be fronted / argument focus, head of relative clause, interrogative

AGR1 agreement with an A of an inverse clause would still involve neutralisation of person, but some gender and number agreement would be retained. This is not really an issue, since the only time an SAP would rank lower than a third person would be exactly in the cases where it is overt and focal: fronted or head of relative clause.

This thought is reinforced by the following papers:

Inverse and Symmetrical Voice ... 9/document

This paper gives a number of examples where inverse-like voice is required in exactly the focus-like contexts I listed above. See for example the following from Mapudugun and Movima:
Iney kam langüm-e-i-Ø-mew Peyro?
who Q kill-INV-IND-3-3A P.
‘Who killed Peyro?’

transitive relative clause (direct)
is kaywanra [di’ joy-a-ɬe = is]
ART.PL food REL go-DIR-CO = 3PL.AB
‘the food they took’
[EAO_Vida en el chaco 030]

c. transitive relative clause (inverse)
is rey mowi:maj [di’ manne-kay-a = is] mod Movima rel meet-inv-ep = 3pl.ab
‘the Movimas who met them’
[JGD_160808-Fundacion-02 196]
Agent Focus in Yukatek and Lakandon Maya ... /3499/3205

This paper suggests that in at least some Mayan languages, the famous focus morphology is constrained by very direct/inverse like considerations:
Aissen argues for the presence of such a system in agent focus constructions in Tzotzil since they are only used when the agent is lower on the proximate/obviate hierarchy. AF verbs are furthermore only possible to use if the agent and the patient both are marked in third person. This restriction is not found in Tz’utujil, for example, where first person agents and patients are allowed in agent focus constructions (Aissen 1999:452).
Unifying Anti-Agreement and Wh-Agreement ... S9uwv1Kc9K

This paper discusses reduced agreement and special agreement in cases including focus fronting. The author proposes a hierarchy of features to be neutralised:
Feature Impoverishment Hierarchy (FIH)
person ≫ gender ≫ number

Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology + Questions

Post by chris_notts » 30 Nov 2018 00:33

Another reason I've been thinking about this is I've been writing the chapter on subordinate clauses, and the agreement patterns raise some questions for me. For example, if you start with a clause like:

it.started he.sang the man = the man started to sing

and you want to focus the argument, which pattern would you expect:

it.started the man FOC.sang
the man it.started he.sang
the man it.started FOC.sang
the man FOC.started FOC.sang

THE MAN started to sing

It feels wrong to separate a phasal verb and its complement. But what about verbs that are less integrated with their complement, e.g. verbs of speech?

The answer in at least one Mayan language with focus morphology seems to be that intervening structure tends to disallow use of the focus morphology: ... andout.pdf

However, other languages show anti-agreement effects even under long distance extraction.

If I simplify the agreement morphology so focus is marked just by direct/inverse alternations then this question feels less difficult. The rule simply becomes:

S extraction -> no change / direct voice
P extraction -> direct voice required
A extraction -> inverse voice required

In effect, the marked case is extraction or focus of a transitive A, which is highly marked cross-linguistically, not just in Mayan.
Last edited by chris_notts on 30 Nov 2018 00:39, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 35
Joined: 14 Feb 2012 00:49

Re: Overview of Sint Verbal Morphology

Post by chris_notts » 30 Nov 2018 00:35

Leo wrote:
26 Nov 2018 03:40
In a minimalist experiment I expanded this system to pairs such as push/pull, stretch/squeeze, tell/listen but ended up adding a number of directional markers that blurred the initial logic. I am not sure what it could have evolved into if kept on its track.
Interesting pairs. I know that in languages like yeli dnye where a similar distinction is strongly grammaticalised, pairs like come/go, take/bring, ... are distinguished only by the presence of absence of a "hither" marker, and I can imagine push/pull being a potential extension. Tell/listen I imagine would require considerably more bleaching / generalisation as those are more distinct actions.

User avatar
Posts: 2512
Joined: 27 Aug 2010 07:17
Location: nowhere [naʊhɪɚ]

Re: Sint Verbal Morphology: Changes to Focus Marking

Post by Omzinesý » 07 Feb 2019 22:25

This is an interesting project! I'll read it more thoroughly when I have time.
Is there any info on the boring things like phonology?

Post Reply