Update on the Grammar Writing Process III

I’ve recently done a lot of proofreading of basically anything besides the introduction chapter of the new Ayeri Grammar. I did this to weed out errors I’ve previously overlooked and also to make sure that what I’d written earlier in the morphology chapter was consistent with the rather extensive work I did in order to come to terms with why certain pre- and suffixes should be clitics. This detour took quite a while—from January to April—but it was probably worth it, since it clarified some questions I had. My quest for clarity on clitics versus affixes in Ayeri culminated in a lengthy blog article, a version of which, revised in parts, can be found in the new grammar as section 3.2.5.

Starting to document Ayeri’s syntax is the logical next step now after I tried to describe its phonology and morphology as well as I could. So, what I’m up to now is trying to describe the morphosyntactic structure of the various syntactic constituents: noun phrases, verb phrases, adjective phrases etc. Since there is very little agreement morphology in Ayeri, this should be rather straightforward for the most part, except for verb phrases (I recently discovered that Dalrymple (2001) contains a whole lot more examples than Bresnan (2016), so that might come in handy). Currently, however, I’m still only concerned with NPs and DPs. What’s still making me self-conscious about all this is that I still have never really studied syntax formally, as I pointed out earlier. So, if you take a look at the grammar and see something implausible, please let me know!

When I tried to figure out clitics in Ayeri earlier, I also came up with a lot of examples of coordination, and one thing I wondered is if the following is actually reasonable.

An attempt to describe formally the distribution of the progressive clitic over two coordinated verbs

What you can see here is an attempt to apply LFG to an example sentence which contains a coordinated constituent: manga sahaya rangya ‘is coming home’ is coordinated with nedraya ‘sits (down)’. The question now is, how to formally describe that manga as the (enclitic) progressive marker is to be understood as distributing over both verbs, sahaya ‘comes’ and nedraya ‘sits’? I actually looked up a few articles (Belyaev et al. 2015; Kaplan and Maxwell 1988; Maxwell and Manning 1996; Peterson 2004) and at least took a casual glance at them, but nowhere did I see any discussion of how to indicate when certain markers in the verb phrase distribute to multiple conjuncts. Instead, I could only find discussions of how to indicate the distribution of the subject to conjuncts. The distribution of the subject is also indicated in the argument-value matrix on the right in the illustration above, namely, in that the first verb’s SUBJ(ect) is connected by a line to the second verb’s empty SUBJ slot.

The question I now have is whether connecting items this way is possible also for other features, like ASP(ect). From what little I know, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be plausible to analogize here, but I might as well be wrong. If you know, please let me know as well. What is slightly frustrating is that a lot of times, you can only easily find information on English.

Also, I’ve been working on writing this grammar for almost a whole year now. Wow.

  • Belyaev, Oleg, et al. “Number Mismatches in Coordination: An LFG Analysis.” Proceedings of the LFG ’15 Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 18–20 Jul. 2015. Ed. by Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 2015. 26–46. Web. 25 May 2017. ‹https://web.stanford.edu/group/cslipublications/cslipublications/LFG/20/papers/lfg15belyaevetal.pdf›.
  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Dalrymple, Mary. Lexical Functional Grammar. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001. Print. Syntax and Semantics 34.
  • Kaplan, Ronald M., and John T. Maxwell, III. Constituent Coordination in Lexical-Functional Grammar. Palo Alto, CA: Xerox PARC, 1988. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹http://www2.parc.com/isl/groups/nltt/xle/coord.ps›.
  • Maxwell, John T., III, and Christopher D. Manning. “A Theory of Non-constituent Coordination Based on Finite-State Rules.” Proceedings of the LFG ’96 Conference, Rank Xerox, Grenoble, France, 26–28 Aug. 1996. Ed. by Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 1997. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹https://web.stanford.edu/group/cslipublications/cslipublications/LFG/1/lfg96maxwellmanning.pdf›.
  • Peterson, Peter G. “Coordination: Consequences of a Lexial-Functional Account.” Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 22.3 (2004): 643–679. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹http://www.jstor.org/stable/4048099›.

2 thoughts on “Update on the Grammar Writing Process III

  1. Man, syntax scares me. I feel like I’ve got a decent working knowledge (at least as pertains to conlangs) of all the other parts of linguistics, but syntax is like this monster of complicated graphs and trees and movements and invisible syntax nodes. Consequently, I’ve got all the major parts of a grammar I’ve been working on in a decent shape for a first draft, and next to nothing on syntax. Oddly its also the part I have the strongest intuitions about – when I construct example sentences I have to look up words and morphology, but I can always tell where each word goes. I’ve no idea how to formalize any of it or if my intuitions even make sense.

    Did you ever stumble upon a decent introductory text?

    1. Well, people have suggested I’m overdoing it with the formalism, so … 😉 A book title I keep seeing is Syntax by Carnie, which is an introduction to GG. I’ve used it myself a bit as a reference, but I haven’t completely worked it through, so I can’t really say if it’s useful for self-study. It should be reasonably easy to get hold of, though.

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