Category Archives: Grammar Musings

Posts on Ayeri grammar, or closely related things.

A Question of Alignment III: Definition of Terms

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

All articles in this series: Typological Considerations · ‘Trigger Languages’ · Definition of Terms · Some General Observations · Verb agreement · Syntactic Pivot · Quantifier Float · Relativization · Control of Secondary Predicates · Raising · Control · Conclusion

The terms ‘subject’, ‘topic’, and ‘focus’ were already used a number of times before in this series, but it seems advisable to sketch out working definitions in order to preclude confusion before continuing to look at how Ayeri fares with regards to some of these notions. As we will see, all of subject, topic, and focus relate to different ways in which the relative prominence of certain NPs is raised; subject and topic are also closely related to each other. It ought to be noted that while LFG treats topic and focus as grammaticalized discourse functions outside of the argument-structure frame of a verb, it treats the subject as both a discourse function and an argument function; topic and focus, on the other hand, must be identified with a corresponding argument function, for instance, SUBJ or OBJ (Bresnan et al. 2016: 99–100).


First things first, the subject can be defined in a variety of ways, and maybe especially because the notion of a subject is so basic, Comrie (1989) notes that if

linguists were invariably in agreement in stating which noun phrase, in each construction in each language, is the subject, then we could, perhaps, accept this inter-subjective agreement, and devote correspondingly less energy to trying to find an explicit definition of subject. However, it turns out that, in a wide range of cases, this inter-subjective agreement is lacking. (Comrie 1989: 104)

Dixon (2010) defines a subject as “the entity about which something is affirmed or denied” (76). He goes on to explain that, ignoring copula clauses like ‘We are tired and thirsty’, every language has two varieties of clauses, intransitive ones, where the verb has just one core argument, and transitive ones, where the verb has two core arguments. A basic definition based on this is given by the chart in (1).

    1. nominative–accusative alignment (S/A—P):

    2. ergative–absolutive alignment (S/P—A):

The chart in (1) shows the definition of the notion of subject for both nominative–accusative languages and ergative–absolutive languages. Languages of the world differ based on how they prefer to treat the two nominal relations of a transitive verb in relation to intransitive verbs: they may have a strong preference to either treat the agent (A)—the entity that prototypically acts in some way—or the patient/undergoer/theme (P)—the entity which is prototypically affected by the action in some way—the same as S, the sole argument of an intransitive verb. In the former case, the language is said to have NOMACC alignment (1a) (S/A is the ‘nominative’ subject), whereas in the latter case, the language is said to have ERGABS alignment (1b) (S/P is the ‘absolutive’ subject). Comrie (1989) illustrates this difference with an example from Chukchi, which we will here contrast with English:[1. In English, you is the same for both singular and plural as well as subjective and objective case, which is why I replaced it with the unambiguous her in (2).]

  1. Chukchi (adapted from Comrie 1989: 104):

While English treats the actor of the intransitive sentence (2a) the same as that of the transitive one (2b)—both sentences use I in the nominative—Chukchi appears to use a different pronoun for the actor of the intransitive sentence (3a) than the actor of the transitive one (3b)—absolutive ɣəm versus ergative ɣəmnan, respectively. At least in Standard English, it would be ungrammatical to use the pronoun me in place of I in (2b), since me can only be used for first-person objects of the verb, but not for subjects of transitive clauses.

However, Comrie (1989) also urges to consider that grammatical relations and their representation in morphology are not always as clear-cut as in the example above. While he characterizes the prototypical subject as the intersection of agent and topic as far as cross-linguistic evidence is concerned (107), he also points out that subjects do not necessarily have to unite all the properties typically associated with them (110). This seems to be the case with Tagalog, for instance, as observed by both Schachter (1976) and Kroeger (1991), and may considerably complicate making a definitive statement.

Moreover, Comrie (1989) points out that statistically, languages of the world show a strong preference for NOMACC alignment, possibly due to the fact that human perception values actors as more relevant to discourse than patients, which is why actors are far more likely also to be pragmatic topics (120). Yet, though, dominantly NOMACC-aligned languages may show a bias towards an ERGABS treatment, for instance, of resultative constructions. On the other hand, dominantly ERGABS languages show a bias towards a NOMACC treatment, for instance, of addressees of imperatives (116–119).

According to Carnie (2013), from the point of view of constituent structure (which is key in Generative Grammar), a subject is conventionally understood as a “DP that has the property indicated by the predicate phrase. What the sentence is about. In most sentences, this surfaces in the specifier of [the tense phrase]” (221). However, as we have seen above, this notion is challenged by languages such as Tagalog (Kroeger 1991: 225). What Carnie (2013) refers to in terms of constituent structure is basically indicated by (4). For systemic reasons, Carnie (2013) refers to a DP subject which serves as the specifier of a TP. This corresponds to the subject NP and the IP here. Unlike GG, LFG treats tense as a semantic feature, not as a functional head with a fixed position in constituent structure, hence the difference in labeling.

LFG defines a subject function, SUBJ. Which argument of the verb the subject is mapped onto is understood to be based on the relative prominence of the subject argument along some dimension compared to other arguments. For instance, NOMACC languages prefer the semantically most prominent available role of a verb’s argument structure, ERGABS languages instead pick the argument most affected by the actor’s action, and active languages focus on the argument in control of the action (Bresnan et al. 2016: 95–96). The mapping between grammatical functions like SUBJ and the lexical components that make it up also does not need to be a one-to-one correspondence, since LFG allows for the distributed exponence of grammatical features like in the example of Warlpiri in (5). The only condition is that grammatical functions be uniquely defined within their minimal f-structure (Bresnan et al. 2016: 45). As (5) shows, multiple NPs in different positions in the constituent structure may feed semantic information to a single function defined by the argument structure of the verb.

  1. Warlpiri (Bresnan et al. 2016: 325):

The subject role θ̂ is defined at least in the context of English as “the most prominent semantic role of a predicator” (Bresnan et al. 2016: 330). Furthermore, Bresnan et al. (2016) devise two a-structure features, [± o] (objective) and [± r] (restrictive). According to this classification, SUBJ is assigned the features [– r, – o], since the subject is not restricted to a certain semantic role, nor needs to have a semantic role.[1. This ought to make Kroeger (1991)’s analysis compatible to LFG as well.] Also, subjects do not complement transitive predicators like objects do, so they are not ‘objective’. Bresnan et al. (2016)’s lexical mapping theory assumes that all languages have subjects, which goes counter to Schachter (1976, 2015)’s claim that subjects are possibly not universal (Bresnan et al. 2016: 330–331).


The notion of topic refers essentially to who or what a longer stretch of conversation is about. Givón (1983) defines the topic of a ‘thematic paragraph’—as he calls a coherent unit of discourse above the level of a single sentence—as “the continuity marker, the leitmotif” (8). The topic is thus

the participant most crucially involved in the action sequence running through the paragraph; it is the participant most closely associated with the higher-level “theme” of the paragraph; and finally, it is the participant most likely to be coded as the “primary topic”—or grammatical subject—of the vast majority of sequentially-ordered clauses/sentences comprising the thematic paragraph. (8)

This indicates that topic and subject are closely related concepts, as already mentioned above in reference to Comrie (1989). Languages employ various means to indicate topics; right- and left-dislocation, as known from English, or topic-marking particles as in Japanese and Korean, are only two among many possibilities (Dixon 2010: 174).

Topicality also interfaces with definiteness in that chain-initial topics may be definite (already introduced into discourse) or indefinite (newly introduced into discourse), while chain-medial topics and chain-final topics are always expected to be definite (Givón 1983: 10). Dixon (2010: 171) adds that topic NPs are coreferential with arguments of clauses immediately preceding or following the current clause. Moreover, the strategy of passivization (in NOMACC languages) or of antipassivization (in ERGABS languages) exists, among others, in order to keep a certain discourse item persistent in the highly topical subject position even if it would otherwise be the object of the clause. This is related in turn to the notion of syntactic pivot in clause coordination (172).


Regarding the definition of focus, Dixon (2010: 174) only mentions contrastive focus, which basically raises the prominence of a certain NP within a single clause. It is not necessary for the focussed NP to be coordinated with another NP by ‘or’. Dixon (2010) also warns that focus is often confused with topic. Perhaps this is in part also, as Bresnan et al. (2016) mention, due to the fact that English may use the topic position for either topic or focus under certain circumstances (98):

  1. Q: What did you name your cat?
    A: ROSIE I named her. (Rosie = FOC)

The answer to a wh-question is considered focused, so Rosie in (6) is the focus in ‘I named her ROSIE’. However, in the example above, Rosie is fronted, which following Givón (1983), constitutes a disruptive action used to establish a new topic of conversation: left-dislocation in languages with rigid SVO word order such as English is typically associated with low topic continuity, and left-dislocated NPs can be found most often as initiating a topic chain (32).

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Print. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Comrie, Bernard. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Syntax and Morphology. 2nd ed. London: Blackwell, 1989. Print.
  • Dixon, Robert M. W. Methodology. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print. Vol. 1 of Basic Linguistic Theory by Robert M. W. Dixon. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010–12.
  • Givón, Talmy. “Topic Continuity in Discourse: An Introduction.” Topic Continuity in Discourse: A Quantitative Cross-Language Study. Ed. Talmy Givón. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1983. 1–41. Print. Typological Studies in Language 3.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹›.
  • Schachter, Paul. “The Subject in Philippine Languages: Topic, Actor, Actor-Topic, or None of the Above?” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 493–518. Print.

A Question of Alignment II: ‘Trigger Languages’

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

All articles in this series: Typological Considerations · ‘Trigger Languages’ · Definition of Terms · Some General Observations · Verb agreement · Syntactic Pivot · Quantifier Float · Relativization · Control of Secondary Predicates · Raising · Control · Conclusion

The notorious term ‘trigger language’ comes up in discussions on Conlang-L as early as 1995, where it may well have originated as an established term in the fictional-language community for what will be described below in brief. That is, I have not been able to find any earlier mentions of the term ‘trigger’ as referring to an alignment system in the archives; other mainstays of the fictional-language community, such as the ZBB, were established only about a decade later. In a message dated December 16, 1995, John Cowan writes that he wants “to propose a reform of Radilu, to make it use the Tagalog concept of a trigger” (Cowan 1995). By his definition, this entails that

each clause contains one noun phrase which is not marked for case, but rather has a distinct marking called the “trigger marker”. […] The verb carries a marking (which of course looks nothing like the noun case markers) that tells the true case of the trigger. […] This involves changing the name of “nominative” and “accusative” to “actor” and “patent” [sic], since there is no longer a “subject” or “object” as such. Of course, word order is free (Cowan 1995)

He also notes that “Usually the trigger is definite (Tagalog doesn’t have articles)” (Cowan 1995). Essentially, it seems that the motivation for Cowan’s system is that the ‘trigger’ indicates that a certain NP is definite. As we will see further on, this is similar to how Tagalog marks one of its relations on the verb, with that relation being definite. Things are more complicated in reality, though. Especially the claim that Tagalog lacks subjects and objects is problematic. However, the term ‘trigger’ seems to have currency in that, for instance, Schachter (2015) chooses it explicitly to refer to the “non-case-marked argument” (1659). In a parenthetical remark he adds that some

previous treatments have referred to the argument in question as the topic and some as the subject. However, as will become clear below, each of these labels appears to carry some inappropriate connotation, making a netural term like Trigger seem preferable […] There also seems to be good reason to reject the term focus. (Schachter 2015: 1659)

It may be noted that term ‘focus’ is used in Schachter and Otanes (1972), the main reference grammar of Tagalog. What is interesting in comparing Schachter (2015)’s and Kroeger (1991)’s respective analyses of Tagalog’s syntactic alignment is that both make the same observation in spite of coming to opposite conclusions: Tagalog is ambiguous as to whether the subject notion is vested in the NP whose role is marked on the verb or the actor, since certain syntactic constructions typically associated with subjects apply to either or both. While this ambiguity leads Schachter (1976, 2015) to ultimately conclude that Tagalog lacks a single unified relation which can be analyzed as a syntactic subject,[1. Cowan (1995)’s sketch may be based on Schachter (1976). Curiously, Schachter (2015) does not acknowledge Kroeger (1991) at all, nor does he refer to any other research more recent than 1985. The reason may be that Schachter retired in the early 1990s, as the UCLA linguistics department’s Department history suggests. It may also be noted that Schachter (2015) was apparently published posthumously.] Kroeger (1991) reaches the opposite conclusion by performing further tests and taking a functionalist rather than purely structuralist perspective. Thus, he concludes:

  • “Tagalog has a well-defined grammatical subject” (225). What Schachter (1976) lists as evidence against are special cases which can be explained by the high semantic and pragmatic prominence of actors more generally (Kroeger 1991: 225). Tagalog basically applies the the notion of a logical subject distinct from the syntactic subject to some constructions, though the syntactic subject is more important overall (36).
  • “grammatical relations are defined independently of phrase structure” (225);[1. This point especially may be a problem for generative theories of syntax.]
  • “patients can become subjects even when the agent is expressed as a direct (non-oblique) argument of the verb” (225).
  • “Subject selection in Tagalog does not work by demotion or suppression of thematically more prominent arguments. Rather, all arguments seem to be equally eligible for mapping onto the subject relation” (226).

Kroeger (1991) also provides evidence based on statistics and examples that the marked-for relation, which he classifies as being in the nominative case according to his hypothesis that it is the syntactic subject, is neither especially salient in terms of pragmatic topichood, nor does it show signs of carrying pragmatic focus specifically. He finds that rather, nominative marking works independent of discourse functions (56 ff.). All things considered, the term ‘trigger language’ is probably ill-fitting, not just for Ayeri.

The tests for typical properties associated with grammatical subjects which Kroeger (1991) performs partially extend those presented in Schachter (1976). Moreover, his conclusions build on a more modern, functionally oriented approach than Schachter’s. For this reason, I will follow Kroeger rather than Schachter. Either way, in order to compare what is going on in Ayeri, we will have to test verb agreement, syntactic pivot, relativization, control of secondary predicates, raising, and control.[1. The tests which Kroeger (1991) dismisses as irrelevant to determining subjecthood in Tagalog have been omitted here if they were also not profitable to answering this question for Ayeri. The same goes for a number of tests which are specific to the grammar of Tagalog and thus have no application in Ayeri.] First of all, it will be helpful, however, to define some terms which will be used in the discussion further on.

A Question of Alignment I: Typological Considerations

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

All articles in this series: Typological Considerations · ‘Trigger Languages’ · Definition of Terms · Some General Observations · Verb agreement · Syntactic Pivot · Quantifier Float · Relativization · Control of Secondary Predicates · Raising · Control · Conclusion

Verbs govern the relations of the various phrase types to each other and they are thus central to the formation of clauses. Just from looking at the numerous examples given both on this website and in the grammar, it should be clear that Ayeri’s preferred word order is verb-first, which opens up a few typological questions—first and foremost, whether Ayeri actually has a verb phrase, or in terms of generative grammar: whether it is configurational in this regard. Ayeri definitely has a constituent structure as far as NPs, APs, PPs, etc. are concerned. However, due to VSO word order, it is not obvious whether verb and object actually form a VP constituent together, since V and O are not adjacent to each other. Since Ayeri marks topics in terms of morphology, it will also be necessary to discuss how this mechanism works and how it relates to the notion of the subject.

A discussion of subject, topic, and configurationality is interesting also in that Ayeri’s syntactic alignment was originally inspired by the Austronesian or Philippine alignment system, though then under the term ‘trigger language’ which is itself not unproblematic. Tagalog, an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian branch, spoken mainly in the Philippines (Hammarström et al. 2017: Tagalog; Schachter and Otanes 1972), usually serves as the academic poster child in descriptions of Austronesian alignment. Ayeri departs from Tagalog’s system in a number of ways, though, and probably towards the more conventional. Austronesian alignment is not necessarily the best model to liken Ayeri’s syntax to. It will nonetheless be informative to compare both systems based on the work of Kroeger (1991, 1993), who provides an analysis of Tagalog’s syntactic alignment roughly in terms of the LFG framework and describes some heuristics which may be helpful in establishing what is actually going on in Ayeri. As mentioned in a previous blog article (“Happy 10th Anniversary, Ayeri”, 2013-12-01), I started Ayeri in late 2003—then still in high school and not knowing much about linguistics. Of course, I had to go and pick as a model the one alignment system which has long been “a notorious problem for both descriptive grammarians and theoretical syntacticians” to the point where it “sometimes seems as if Austronesian specialists can talk (and write) of nothing else” (Kroeger 2007: 41).

As mentioned above, Ayeri’s unmarked word order gives the verb first, and then, in decreasing order of bondedness to the verb, the phrases which make up the verb’s arguments: subject (agent), direct object (patient), indirect object (dative), followed by adverbials in the genitive, locative, instrumental, and causative case. Ayeri’s basic word order is thus VSO, a trait it has in common with about 7 % of the world’s natural languages according to Dryer (2013). Regarding word order typology, we can declare the generalization in (1), which is consistent also with word order in other areas of the language, where the head precedes the modifier. The head is here represented by the verb, the modifier by the object—like English, Ayeri is a VO language, thus. In addition to this, however, Ayeri regularly puts the verb as the head of the clause itself first.

    1. Order of subject, object and verb: VSO
    2. Order of verb and object: VO

It is commonly assumed that languages have a subject which occupies a certain position in the constituent structure which commands a constituent jointly formed by the verb and its dependents—the predicate. An SVO sentence in English thus very generally looks like in (2) (compare the examples in Bresnan et al. 2016: 101–111).

However, Ayeri is a VSO language, so the question arises how the basic constituent structure should be diagrammed in tree form, since V and O are not adjacent. As an initial hypothesis one might assume that they cannot form a unit together, since S somehow stands in between the constituents it is supposed to command. A very first stab at diagramming would probably be to come up with a flat, non-configurational structure, all but lacking a VP, as shown in (3).

  1. ?

Such a structure, though, does not do Ayeri justice in that, for instance, right-node-raising of a subject and object NP together is possible, so there is evidence that they form a constituent subordinate to the verb. NP–XP constructions where XP is not a maximal projection of a verb also exist in isolation, so NP and XP are probably contained in a small-clause constituent S separate from the verb. The verb in the initial position furthermore shows inflection, so one might rather construe it as an I⁰, projecting an IP, which frees up VP for other purposes while we can use IP to govern both Iʹ and S. In fact, such a structure is basically the conclusion Chung and McCloskey (1987) come to for Irish, which is also a VSO language (4a). Bresnan et al. (2016) give the chart in (4b) for Welsh, equally a VSO language (also compare Dalrymple 2001: 66, sourcing Sadler 1997). Kroeger (1991) suggests the two structures depicted in (4c) for Tagalog, based on the suggested constituent structure for Celtic languages.

    1. Irish (Chung and McCloskey 1987: 235):

    2. Welsh (adapted from Bresnan et al. 2016: 134):

    3. Tagalog (Kroeger 1991: 131):

What all of these c-structures have in common is that the inflected verb appears in I⁰, which is a sister of S. S, in turn, is a small clause containing the arguments of the verb. In the cases of Irish and Welsh, however, there is a VP sister of the subject NP which itself does not have a head, but contains the object NP as a complement. In the case of Tagalog, S is non-configurational, that is, while XP may contain a non-finite verb, the subject and object NPs are on equal footing.

Bresnan et al. (2016: 129–138) inform that the phenomenon of the verb ending up in a different head position (V⁰ apparently moves to I⁰) in (4b) is commonly known as ‘head movement’, except that LFG is built specifically without any movement. Since LFG is based on the assumption that all nodes in a syntactic structure are base-generated, that is, that there are no transformational rules generating the surface structure from a deeper layer of representation underneath it, there cannot be a trace of V left behind in VP. LFG avoids empty categories, as there is no information contained in an empty node. The functional information provided by the verb is not lost, however, it is merely now provided by the verb in I⁰. Essentially, the Welsh example does not violate endocentricity, since the finite verb in I⁰ still forms the verbal head in the functional structure representation of the clause. With regards to constituent structure, V⁰, if present, c-commands its NP sister; both V⁰ and NP are dominated by VP:

    1. Exhaustive domination (Carnie 2013: 121):

      “Node A exhaustively dominates a set of terminal nodes {B, C, …, D}, provided it dominates all the members of the set so that there is no member of the set that is not dominated by A and there is no terminal node G dominated by A that is not a member of the set.”

    2. C-command (Carnie 2013: 127):

      “Node A c-commands node B if every node dominating A also dominates B, and neither A nor B dominates the other.”

The AVM in (4b) shows that the contents normally found in V⁰ are provided by the head of its equivalent functional category, I⁰. I⁰ and VP are said to map into the same f-structure (Bresnan et al. 2016: 136). Endocentricity still holds in that IP dominates all nodes below it, thus also I⁰ and the object NP. In addition, I⁰ c-commands its sister node and all of its children, hence also the object NP. As Bresnan et al. (2016) put it: “X is an extended head of Y if X is the Xʹ categorial head of Y […], or if Y lacks a categorial head but X is the closest element higher up in the tree that functions like the f-structure head of Y” (136). For our example, replace X with I⁰ and Y with VP in the second half of the quote: I⁰ is the closest element higher up in the tree that functions like the f-structure head of VP, which itself lacks a categorial head.

The analysis of the sentence structure of Celtic languages shows that VSO languages do not automatically need to be considered ‘non-configurational’ and lacking a VP if the notion of extended heads is accepted. In any case, tests need to be performed to see whether one of the analyses presented in (4) holds true for Ayeri as well. However, this will not be in the scope of this series of blog articles.

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Print. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Chung, Sandra, and James McCloskey. “Government, Barriers, and Small Clauses in Modern Irish.” Linguistic Inquiry 18.2 (1987): 173–237. Web. 11 Aug. 2017. ‹›.
  • Dalrymple, Mary. Lexical Functional Grammar. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001. Print. Syntax and Semantics 34.
  • Dryer, Matthew S. “Order of Subject, Object and Verb.” The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Eds. Matthew S. Dryer and Martin Haspelmath. 2013. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2017. ‹›.
  • Hammarström, Harald et al., eds. “Language: Tagalog.” Glottolog. Version 3.0. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2017. ‹›.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹›.
  • ———. “Another Look at Subjecthood in Tagalog.” Pre-publication draft. Philippine Journal of Linguistics 24.2 (1993): 1–16. Web. ‹
  • ———. “McKaughan’s Analysis of Philippine Voice.” Piakandatu ami Dr. Howard P. McKaughan, 41–. Eds. Loren Billings and Nelleke Goudswaard. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines and SIL Philippines, 2007. Print.
  • Sadler, Louisa. “Clitics and the Structure-Function Mapping.” Proceedings of the LFG ’97 Conference, University of California, San Diego, CA. Eds. Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 1997. Web. 12 Aug. 2017. ‹›.
  • Schachter, Paul and Fe T. Otanes. 1972. Tagalog Reference Grammar. Berkeley: U of California P, 1983. Google Books. Google, 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. ‹›.

Update on the Grammar Writing Process IV

Grammar writing has gone slowly again for the past couple of weeks, which is mostly due to reading up on things. I have now arrived at discussing verbs, which are the most complex part of speech since they are at the head of clauses—not just structurally, but also functionally. Important questions right now are:

  • What evidence is there for a constituent S which holds all the verb’s arguments besides the fact that verbless clauses exist complete with predication?
  • Is there a VP in hiding? This requires performing tests on constituency as well (there is a way to say does so as well, so there should be a VP even if the verb word itself is the head of the superordinate IP).

This is to say, I assume that Ayeri’s basic sentence structure looks essentially like this:

The sentence 'Ang konja Yan pahiley' ('Yan eats a cookie') charted in terms of LFG

And then, there are some further questions which I’d like to answer:

  • Austronesian alignment gave the impetus for Ayeri’s strategy of marking one certain NP on the verb, however, after reading Kroeger (1991) it became clear to me that there are strong differences between the real thing and what I have. This is mostly due to not consistently following the original model but falling back on structures familiar from German and English. Thus: what is a so-called ‘trigger conlang’ of which Ayeri is supposedly a prominent example,[1. The oldest message on Conlang-L (itself the oldest conlanging group on the internet I’m aware of) which uses the term ‘trigger’ to refer to case/voice marking I could find is by John Cowan, dated December 16, 1995. The archives 1991–1997 seem to only survive archived by the Wayback Machine anymore. Search for the time stamp, “Sat Dec 16 13:09:06 1995”, on the linked archive page to read the message.] and how is Ayeri actually positioned in this regard?
  • In consequence, how does Ayeri deal with more complex sentence structures, for instance, involving raising and control, as opposed to what Kroeger (1991) describes?
  • Ayeri basically grammaticalizes topic marking by way of agreement morphology. How (un)typical is this with regards to typology? (e.g., see Li and Thompson 1976 for something very old and basic)
  • Does the way in which Ayeri deals with topicalization have any effects on binding? Topics are supposed to operate outside of the functional hierarchy which Bresnan et al. (2016) propose as an important factor in pronominal binding.
  • Since I’ve been trying my hands on an LFG-based analysis, how do verbs behave regarding assigning roles in argument structure? (Dalrymple 2001: 203–215, Bresnan et al. 2016: 329–348)

To be honest, when I started working on Ayeri in 2003, I would not have understood a word of what Kroeger (1991) writes, so it was basically clear from the beginning that there’d be large inconsistencies with regards to the intention of playing around with Austronesian alignment. The thing is, besides Tagalog’s infamous marking of the ang phrase’s role on the verb (actor, goal, direction, beneficiary, etc.), whatever that phrase is syntactically, It also has effects on raising, control, and binding, which I have long ignored out of a lack of knowledge and awareness of these grammatical processes. Even when I tried to come to terms with Ayeri’s syntactic alignment in an often-clicked blog article in 2012, I applied some of the tests discussed there only mechanically, without actually understanding what they’re about.

It also may be noted that Kroeger (1991) analyzes It as the subject because of consistencies with syntactic traits usually associated with subjects, though with the added complication that it’s not fixed to its conventional position as the specifier of VP.[1. This is probably not much of a problem for the likes of LFG or HPSG, but likely more of a problem for generative grammar.] You can also see It variously analyzed as focus or topic, which is terribly confusing especially when you don’t know a lot, and this confusion had a major impact on what I ended up with in Ayeri. It will also be necessary, thus, to look at whether the logical subject and the syntactic subject in Ayeri coincide. My gut feeling is that they do, which would make Ayeri more similar, in fact, to analyses of the basic clause structure of Celtic languages such as Welsh or Irish (compare, for instance, Chung and McCloskey 1987, Sadler 1997, Dalrymple 2001: 66, Bresnan et al. 2016: 130–138).

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Chung, Sandra, and James McCloskey. “Government, Barriers, and Small Clauses in Modern Irish.” Linguistic Inquiry 18.2 (1987): 173–237. Web. 11 Aug. 2017. ‹›.
  • Dalrymple, Mary. Lexical Functional Grammar. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001. Print. Syntax and Semantics 34.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹›.
  • Li, Charles N. and Sandra A. Thompson. “Subject and Topic: A New Typology of Language.” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 457–485. Print.
  • Sadler, Louisa. “Clitics and the Structure-Function Mapping.” Proceedings of the LFG ’97 Conference, University of California, San Diego, CA. Ed. by Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 1997. Web. 12 Aug. 2017. ‹›.

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. ‹›.
  • 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. ‹›.
  • 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. ‹›.
  • Peterson, Peter G. “Coordination: Consequences of a Lexial-Functional Account.” Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 22.3 (2004): 643–679. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹›.

Some Further Thoughts on Agreement in Ayeri

Ayeri makes use of grammatical gender to at least some degree. As a category, gender is by far not as pervasive as in Romance languages, though, since in Ayeri it only matters in picking the correct case suffix for agents and patients (animate vs. inanimate) as well as in 3rd person pronouns and verb agreement (masculine/feminine/neuter animate vs. inanimate). The fact that gender plays a role in verb agreement opens up possibilities for adding some quirks. As pointed out in a previous blog article,

Ayeri usually exhibits verbs as agreeing with agents and occasionally patients, not topics as such. This may be a little counterintuitive since the relation between topics and subjects is close, but is possibly due to the fact that the unmarked word order is VAP. This means that agent NPs usually follow the verb, and it strikes me as not too unnatural to have an agreement relation between the verb and the closest NP also when non-conjoined NPs are involved (Corbett [2006:] 180). This conveniently explains why verbs can agree with patients as well if the agent NP is absent.

This brings up the idea that Ayeri should likely exhibit agreement with the closest conjunct when a word is forced to agree with coordinated NPs of different genders, instead of finding some way to resolve conflicting gender features. Yet, however, I have often been following the rule that a masculine entity and a feminine entity, regardless of number, resolve to masculine as the default gender, though sometimes I have also used the neuter as a third category to escape to (Wechsler 2009 actually quotes Icelandic as following this route):

M + F = M (N attested)
F + M = M (N attested)

I was originally wondering if I should get rid of this system and instead use nearest-conjunct agreement throughout, but—why not have both? In this little blog article I basically want to sketch out an idea I had in the hope that it is well within the confines of what natural languages do. Note that the tables given in the following refer strictly to verb agreement, where the verb precedes any NPs it agrees with. Thus, for the outcome of nearest-conjunct agreement, it is assumed that the agreement target precedes the agreement controller, so that the verb should in most cases agree with the first conjunct.

Now, if NPs referring to people or other entities to which masculine and feminine apply as grammatical categories have their diverging gender features resolved to masculine as the default, what about combining either masculine or feminine with neuter? This is shown in the following table:

M + N = M
N + M = N
F + N = M (F possible)
N + F = N

From this table we can gather that in general, there is nearest-conjunct agreement for combinations of masculine/feminine and neuter, though feminine and neuter equally resolve to masculine as the default if the feminine conjunct is closer to the agreement target. Note that for agreement with simplex NPs, there is no default gender, so masculine gender will trigger masculine agreement, feminine gender will trigger feminine agreement, etc. As indicated in the table above, true nearest-conjunct agreement with the feminine conjunct is possible as well, however, basically ignoring any further complications. It takes not a lot of imagination to assume that the regularization towards nearest-conjunct agreement would be a point of divergence between the formal and the colloquial language and also very likely a fertile ground for prescriptivist bickering.

So far, we have only looked at the combinations within the animate tier. The following table lists the possible permutations for combinations of animate and inanimate NPs:

M + INAN = M
F + INAN = M (F possible)
N + INAN = N

For consistency, the same rules as above operate here: masculine and feminine mixed with inanimate show nearest-conjunct agreement. If, however, a feminine conjunct comes first, agreement will default to masculine, though again, nearest-conjunct agreement to feminine is possible.

Wechsler (2009: 571–73) furthermore discusses Corbett (1991)’s observation that there may be differences in how languages go about gender resolution with regards to semantic and syntactic resolution—i.e. resolution of conflicts in gender between the semantics and the form of a word—and finds that animacy plays a role in that. This is relevant in cases where grammatical and semantic gender diverge, as in hybrid nouns like German Mädchen ‘girl’. Mädchen semantically refers to a female person but by its form is of neuter gender, since the diminutive suffix -chen always derives neuter nouns. The question now is, which gender do pronouns and agreement referring to the girl have, neuter or feminine? In fact, variation can be observed in these cases.

While Ayeri assigns masculine and feminine semantically (with neuter for the remainder of animate entities which are neither male nor female), there are occasional idiosyncrasies with nouns very obviously referring to non-living things being assigned animate neuter gender, such as nanga ‘house’. It might be interesting to develop some further ideas for likely outcomes in that regard even though canonically, nearest-conjunct agreement should operate in those cases and conlangs, by their nature, probably produce a lot less variation than actual natural languages do.

  • Corbett, Greville G. Agreement. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. Print. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics.
  • ———. Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics.
  • Wechsler, Steven. “‘Elsewhere’ in Gender Resolution.” The Nature of the Word: Studies in Honor of Paul Kiparsky. Ed. by Kristin Hanson and Sharon Inkelas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. Print. 567–586. Current Studies in Linguistics.
  • I can’t seem to keep my terminology straight: I corrected *nearest-conjunct resolution to nearest-conjunct agreement in a few places.

Clitics in Ayeri: Thoughts and Notes

  • The article below has been included more or less verbatim in the new grammar as section 3.2.5. I have also corrected and added a few things there which are not reflected in this blog article.

For the past months, work on writing my grammar has been stalling since I’ve been trying to figure out which of the functional morphemes that are maybe a little untypical as inflections might in fact be clitics. After having read Spencer and Luís (2012) on the topic nearly cover-to-cover, I’ve become a little disenchanted about the whole effort, since clitics appear to be very elusive things which can’t be easily defined in a formal way (126). Based on my reading, some characteristic traits appear to be:[1. This list also subsumes the criteria proposed in Zwicky and Pullum (1983), though the page numbers given here refer to Spencer and Luís (2012).]

  • Clitics behave in part like function words and in part like affixes, but in any case they are not free morphemes (38, 42).
  • Clitics tend to be phonologically weak items (39).
  • Clitics prominently—and importantly—tend to attach ‘promiscuously’ to surrounding words. That is, unlike inflection, they are not limited to connect to a certain part of speech or to align with their host in semantics (40, 108–109).
  • Clitics tend to appear in a second position, whether that is after a word or an intonational or syntactic phrase (41)
  • Clitics tend to be templatic and to cluster, especially if they encode inflection-like information (41, 47–48).
  • Clitics have none of the freedom of ordering found in true words and phrases (43).
  • Positions of ‘special’ clitics tend to not be available to free words (44).
  • Clitics tend to be functional morphemes, and to realize a single morphosyntactic property (67, 179).
  • There are no paradigmatic gaps (108–109).
  • There tends to be no morphophonemic alteration like vowel harmony, stress shift or sandhi between a clitic and its host (108–109).
  • There tends to be no idiosyncratic change in meaning when a clitic and a clitic host come together, unlike there may be with inflection (108, 110).
  • Similar to affixes, clitics and their host tend to be treated as a syntactic unit, that is, there is lexical integrity, so you can’t put word material in between a clitic and its host (108, 110).
  • Clitics usually get joined to a host word after inflection (108, 110)
  • Affixes tend to go on every word in a conjunct (narrow scope), while clitics have a tendency to treat a conjunct as a unit to attach to (wide scope; 139, 196 ff.).

However, Spencer and Luís (2012) point out many counterexamples in order to drive their point home that the border between clitics and affixes is often fuzzy. It comes as no surprise that according to their assessment, there’s a lot of miscategorization in individual grammars as a result (107). Another consequence of definitional fuzziness is that since not all of the traits described above are always present, making a checklist and summing up the tally is only of limited value. The traits enumerated above are sufficient, but not necessary, conditions.

This blog article has become rather long and technical in retrospect, but I needed to write it all down in order to get a clear head about the status of various particles and affixes in Ayeri which behave not quite like function words or inflection, and which I’ve thus long suspected to belong to the interstitial category of clitics. The first part of this article will detail all the particles and affixes which precede the lexical heads they modify, the second one will elaborate on suffixes. This article is also likely to find its way into the 2016/17 edition of the Ayeri Grammar, which I’m still working on, as a subchapter to the chapter on morphological typology.

1. Preposed particles and prefixes

Now, I think what should be rather unproblematic with regards to analysis as clitics in Ayeri are the preverbal elements, that is, the topic marker, one or several modal particles, the progressive marker, and also the emphatic affirmative and negative discourse particles. All of these particles essentially have functional rather than lexical content, and are usually unstressed. They come in a cluster with a fixed order, and they appear in a position where no ordinary word material could go, since Ayeri is strictly verb-initial. In conjuncts it’s also unnecessary to mark every verb with one or several of them:

    1. [gloss]Ang kece nay dayungisaye māva yanjas yena.
      ang ket-ye nay dayungisa-ye māva-Ø yan-ye-as yena
      AT wash-3SG.F and dress-3SG.F mother-TOP boy-PL-P 3SG.F.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘The mother washes and dresses her boys.’
    2. [gloss]Manga sahaya rangya nay nedraya ang Tikim.
      manga saha-ya rang-ya nay nedra-ya ang Tikim
      PROG come-3SG.M home-LOC and sit-3SGM A Tikim[/gloss]
      ‘Tikim is coming home and sitting down.’
    3. [gloss]Ang mya ming sidegongya nay la-lataya ajamyeley.
      ang mya ming sideg-ong-ya.Ø nay la~lata-ya.Ø ajam-ye-ley
      AT can repair-IRR-3SG.M.TOP and ITER~sell-3SG.M.TOP toy-PL-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘He should be able to repair and resell the toys.’

In (1a), therefore, the agent-topic marker ang only occurs before kece ‘(she) washes’, and the conjoined verb dayungisaye ‘(she) dresses’ is also within its scope. Repeating the marker as well before the latter verb could either be considered ungrammatical because there is only one topic there—māva ‘mother’—or the sentence could be interpreted as having two conjoined clauses with different subjects: ‘She1 washes and mother2 dresses her boys.’ The latter outcome has māva as the topic only of dayungisaye, while kece‘s topic is the person marking on the verb—a pro-drop subject, essentially.

In (1b), then, the progressive marker manga equally has scope over both verb conjuncts, sahaya ‘(he) comes’ and nedraya ‘(he) sits’ in what I presume is a case of extended/distributed exponence, since the verb conjuncts can be represented by the incomplete f-structure matrix (cf. Bresnan et al. 2016; Butt and King 2015) shown in (2). Manga is treated there as being part of things the verb inflects for, that is, progressive aspect. The topic marker ang is not a semantic property of the verb, but announces the case and—for agents and patients—the animacy value of the topicalized noun phrases (NPs), so the f-structure in (2) lists this information under the TOP relation.

  1. Part of the f-structure of saha- ‘come’ in (1b):

    PRED ‘come ⟨(↑ SUBJ), (↑ OBLloc)⟩’
    CASE A
    ANIM +

Modal particles, exemplified in (1c), are probably slightly less typical as clitics since it seems feasible for them to be stressed for contrast. What is not possible, however, is to front either mya or ming, and the verb itself also can’t precede the particles, which is demonstrated in (3). It’s also not possible to coordinate any of the elements in the preverbal particle cluster with nay ‘and’, as we will see in (4).

    1. * mya ang ming sidegongya
    2. * ming ang mya sidegongya
    3. * sidegongya ang mya ming
    1. * ang nay mya ming sidegongya
    2. * ang mya nay ming sidegongya
    3. * ang mya ming nay sidegongya

It needs to be pointed out that unlike verbs, modal particles in Ayeri resist inflection, so in (1c) the irrealis suffix -ong is realized on the verb sidegongya ‘(he) would repair’ instead of on one or both of the modal particles as * mingong and * myong, respectively. The combination of mya ‘be supposed to’ with an irrealis-marked verb together indicates that the speaker thinks the action denoted by the verb should be carried out. On the other hand, the marking on the verb may also be interpreted as being valid for the whole verb complex, and just generally adds the feature [MOOD IRR] to the verb’s feature list in analogy to [ASP PROG] in (2). With regards to negation, it’s just the same: only the verb can be negated, but not the modal particle. Possibly, it would be useful in this case to abstract the modal particles as a feature [MODALITY] as listed by ParGram for purposes of functional representation. At least superficially, it looks as though Ayeri acts differently from English here in that the verb is possibly not a complement of the modal. I suppose that this is mostly apparent from the fact that in Ayeri, the verb inflects, not the modal particle. Furthermore, modal particles in Ayeri can’t be modified by adverbs like regular verbs can:

    1. [gloss]Ming tigalye ban nilay ang Diya.
      ming tigal-ye ban nilay ang Diya
      can swim-3SG.F well probably A Diya[/gloss]
      ‘Diya can probably swim well.’
    2. * [gloss]Ming nilay tigalye ban ang Diya.
      ming nilay tigal-ye ban ang Diya
      can probably swim-3SG.F well A Diya[/gloss]

In order to not confuse things even more, it seems advisable to decree that combinations of topic particle and modal particle, as well as modal particle and verb, likewise not be interrupted by parenthetical material like naratang ‘they say’, so that:

    1. [gloss]Naratang, ang ming tigalye ban Diya kodanya.
      nara-tang ang ming tigal-ye ban Diya kodan-ya
      say-3PL.M.A AT can swim-3SG.F well Diya lake-LOC[/gloss]
      ‘They say Diya can swim well in a lake.’
    2. * Ang, naratang, ming tigalye ban Diya kodanya.
    3. * Ang ming, naratang, tigalye ban Diya kodanya.
    4. ? Ang ming tigalye, naratang, ban Diya kodanya.
    5. Ang ming tigalye ban, naratang, Diya kodanya.
    6. Ang ming tigalye ban Diya, naratang, kodanya.
    7. Ang ming tigalye ban Diya kodanya, naratang.

Of all the other parts of speech, only nouns also have preposed modifiers. This is the case with proper nouns, where the name will be preceded by a case marker instead of receiving a case-marking suffix. This case marker is phonologically weak in that it is no longer than other affixes, and unstressed, with the exception of the causative case marker , which bears at least secondary stress since it contains a long vowel. We already saw case particles preceding names in (1b) and (5) above: ang Tikim and ang Diya; ang marks the proper-noun NPs as agents in both cases. The case marker is missing when the NP is topicalized, as exemplified by (6), where the agent NP appears as just Diya, not ang Diya. While case suffixes have narrow scope as in (7a) and thus need to be repeated on every NP in a conjunct, preposed case markers may be used with wide scope if both conjuncts are proper nouns as in (7c). Narrow scope with proper nouns may add an individuating connotation in (7d).

    1. [gloss]Toryon veneyang nay badanang.
      tor-yon veney-ang nay badan-ang
      sleep-3PL.N dog-A and father-A[/gloss]
      ‘The dog and father are (both) sleeping.’
    2. * [gloss]Toryon veney nay badanang.
      tor-yon veney_ nay badan-ang
      sleep-3PL.N dog_ and father-A[/gloss]
    3. [gloss]Sa sobisayan ang Niva nay Mico narānye.
      sa sobisa-yan ang Niva nay Mico narān-ye-Ø
      PT study-3PL.M A Niva and Mico language-PL-TOP[/gloss]
      ‘Languages is what Niva and Mico study.’
    4. [gloss]Sa sobisayan ang Niva nay ang Mico narānye.
      sa sobisa-yan ang Niva nay ang Mico narān-ye-Ø
      PT study-3PL.M A Niva and A Mico language-PL-TOP[/gloss]
      ‘Languages is what Niva and Mico (each) study.’

Taking the above characteristics into account, one may argue that the preposed case markers are clitics. They also often enough follow other phonetic material, so it should be possible to analyze case markers as indiscriminately attaching to the word on the left while syntactically modifying the word to the right:

  1. ? Sa sobisayan=ang Niva nay Mico narānye.

There is no audible break or change in intonation between sobisayan and ang, and there is also no morphophonemic modification occurring between them either: if ang were a suffix, stress would shift from /sobiˈsajan/ to /sobiˌsajaˈnang/. According to Klavans (1985), a clitic’s phonological leaning to the preceding word while modifying the following one is a process which is attested in natural languages, and she quotes examples from Kwak’wala, a Wakashan language of British Columbia (Hammarström et al. 2017), for instance:

  1. Adapted from Klavans (1985: 106):
    1. [gloss]nəp’idi-da gənanəm [x̣a gukʷ]​N​’ [sa t’isəm]​N​’
      throw-DEIC child OBJ house OBL rock[/gloss]
      ‘The child hit the house with a rock by throwing.’ (Levine 1980)

Since clitics should be treated as syntactically coherent with their hosts, it shouldn’t be possible, then, to interrupt sobisayan and ang with parenthetical word material in the same way it wasn’t possible in (6). This assumption proves false, however, since Ayeri does not take an issue with placing things other than a case marker after the verb cluster and before the first NP, while the interruption of ang and Niva, on the other hand, is indeed ungrammatical:

    1. [gloss]Sa sobisayan, naratang, ang Niva nay Mico narānye.
      sa sobisa-yan nara-tang ang Niva nay Mico narān-ye-Ø
      PT study-3PL.M say-3PL.M.A A Niva and Mico language-PL-TOP[/gloss]
      ‘Languages is what Niva and Mico, they say, study.’
    2. * [gloss]Sa sobisayan ang, naratang, Niva nay Mico narānye.
      sa sobisa-yan ang nara-tang Niva nay Mico narān-ye-Ø
      PT study-3PL.M A say-3PL.M.A Niva and Mico language-PL-TOP[/gloss]

It is furthermore possible for the case marker to begin an utterance, namely, in equative sentences like the one in (11a). In this case, there is no way for the case marker to lean on a host to its left, but only to its right. In these cases as well, it isn’t possible for parenthetical material to be placed between the case marker and its target of modification, as in (11b).

    1. [gloss]Ang Misan lajāyas puti.
      ang Misan lajāy-as puti
      A Misan student-P zealous[/gloss]
      ‘Misan is a zealous student.’
    2. * [gloss]Ang, paronyang, Misan lajāyas puti.
      ang paron-yang Misan lajāy-as puti
      A believe-1SG.A Misan student-P zealous[/gloss]

Since the case marker and its modification target cohere that closely, we have to assume that here as well, the case marker is proclitic rather than enclitic. Unlike “typical” clitics, however, its attachment is not strictly speaking ‘promiscuous’, unlike in our first hypothesis, but always with a proper noun very specifically. This property puts it very close to an affix—just like the suffixed case markers. More typical of function words, though, there is no morphophonemic interaction between the flexive and the word it inflects, for example, there is no /saːdʒaːn/ from sa (P) + Ajān. This overlap in form between affix and function word is typical of clitics, according to the traits excerpted from Spencer and Luís (2012) above. Moreover, , as mentioned above, represents an exception to other case particles in that it takes secondary stress due to being a long syllable, which cannot be unstressed. Ayeri does not allow words to end in secondary-stressed syllables, but only allows secondary-stressed syllables to precede a stressed one, since word stress spreads backwards from the right edge of phonological words. If we don’t want to create an exception for alone, thus, it is more likely for the preposed case markers to lean to the right rather than to the left also on phonological grounds, like in (12).

  1. Sa sobisayan ang=Niva nay Mico narānye.

From this discussion of prenominal particles, let us return to verbs again for a moment. Besides the preverbal particles discussed above, there is also what is spelled as a prefix on the verb which appears to be a little odd as such in that it can have wide scope over conjoined verbs. This is the prefix da- often meaning ‘so, thus’, displayed in (13).

  1. [gloss]Ang da-pinyaya nay hisaya   Yan sa Pila.
    ang da-pinya-ya nay hisa-ya Ø Yan sa Pila
    AT so-ask-3SG.M and beg-3SG.M TOP Yan P Pila[/gloss]
    ‘Yan asks and begs Pila to (do so).’

Da-, where it is not used for presentative purposes,[1. Although this use is probably related to the anaphoric use.] is a functional morpheme in that it basically acts as an anaphora for a complementizer phrase (CP) the speaker chooses to drop. Thus, it does not mark any of the intrinsic morphological categories of the verb (tense, aspect, mood, modality, finiteness), just like the topic marker refers to a syntactic relation the verb subcategorizes but none of its inflectional categories. As an anaphora, da- cannot stand alone, though it is possible to use a full demonstrative form danya ‘such one’ in its place:

  1. [gloss]Ang pinyaya nay hisaya   Yan sa Pila danyaley.
    ang pinya-ya nay hisa-ya Ø Yan sa Pila danya-ley
    AT ask-3SG.M and beg-3SG.M TOP Yan P Pila[/gloss]
    ‘Yan asks and begs Pila such.’

Unlike the preverbal particles, da- can be associated with a full form, though it still displays special syntax in that unlike English -n’t or ‘ll, for instance, it does not occur in the same place as the full form. Note also how da- is appended to the right of tense prefixes, which express a property of the verb, as shown in (15).

    1. [gloss]Ang da-məpinyaya sa Pila.
      ang da-mə-pinya-ya.Ø sa Pila
      AT so-PST-ask-3SG.M.TOP P Pila[/gloss]
      ‘He asked Pila to.’
    2. [gloss]Ang da-məpinyaya nay məhisaya   Yan sa Pila.
      ang da-mə-pinya-ya.Ø nay mə-hisa-ya Ø Yan sa Pila
      AT so-PST-ask-3SG.M and PST-beg-3SG.M TOP Yan P Pila[/gloss]
      ‘Yan asked and begged Pila to.’

The verb form in (15) becomes ungrammatical with the order of its prefixes reversed, so it is not acceptable to say: * məda-pinyaya, although note that pre- and suffixes proper also have a fixed order in Ayeri, so this alone is probably not enough evidence to claim that da- is not possibly a prefix. Furthermore, while the tense prefixes undergo crasis, this is not the case with da-:

    1. [gloss]Da-amangreng.
      ‘It happens thus.’
    2. * Dāmangreng.
    1. [gloss]Māmangreng.
      ‘It happened.’
    2. * Məamangreng.

Besides the characteristic of not seeking out certain parts of speech, the da- prefix at least satisfies the criteria of being a phonologically reduced form of an otherwise free functional morpheme, and it occurs in a place where normal syntax would not put its corresponding full form. It has wide scope over conjuncts, is attached outside of inflection for proper categories of the verb, and doesn’t interact with its host with regards to morphophonemics. Besides these more typical traits of clitics, there is also no way to place words between da- and the verb stem:

  1. * [gloss]Da, naratang, amangreng.
    da nara-tang amang-reng
    thus say-3PL.M.A happen-3SG.INAN.A[/gloss]
    Intended: ‘It happens, they say, thus.’

The prefix sitang- ‘self’ behaves in the same way as da-, since it also abbreviates a reflexive NP, for instance, sitang-yes ‘herself’ where ‘herself’ as a patient is coreferential with the agent of the clause. Reflexivity, however, is a category a verb in Ayeri could be said to inflect for that way, though on the other hand, Ayeri also does not have any verbs which are obligatorily reflexive to indicate anticausativity like in Romance languages:

    1. [gloss]Adruara biratayreng.
      adru-ara biratay-reng
      break-3SG.INAN pot-A.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘The pot broke.'[1. Actually, I’m slightly tempted to make the S a patient here to reflect that the pot does not cause itself to break but rather suffers breaking.]
    2. * [gloss]Sitang-adruara biratayreng.
      sitang-adru-ara biratay-reng
      self-break-3SG.INAN pot-A.INAN[/gloss]
      Intended: ‘The pot broke.’ (an unspecified force broke it)
    1. [French]
    2. [gloss]Le pot s’est cassé.
      le pot se=est cassé
      the pot self=be.3SG.PRES broken[/gloss]
      ‘The pot broke.’ (an unspecified force broke it)
    3. [gloss]Le pot est cassé.
      le pot est cassé
      the pot be.3SG.PRES broken[/gloss]
      ‘The pot is broken.’

Ayeri has a tendency to reuse prefixes with different parts of speech, and thus da- is also used with nouns, forming part of the series of deictic prefixes, da- ‘such (a)’, eda- ‘this’, ada- ‘that’. The prefix in all these cases represents a grammatical function, is unstressed, and may have wide scope over conjoined NPs, unless an individuating interpretation is intended, as in (21b). These traits are typical of clitics, as we have seen, though (22) shows that unlike with verbs, the deictic prefixes do undergo crasis here, which is a trait more typically associated with affixes.

    1. [gloss]Sinyāng eda-ledanas nay viretāyās tondayena-hen?
      sinya-ang eda-ledan-as nay viretāya-as tonday-ena-hen
      who-A this-friend-P and supporter-P art-GEN-all[/gloss]
      ‘Who is this friend and supporter of all arts?’
    2. [gloss]Sinyāng eda-ledanas nay eda-viretāyās tondayena-hen?
      sinya-ang eda-ledan-as nay eda-viretāya-as tonday-ena-hen
      who-A this-friend-P and this-supporter-P art-GEN-all[/gloss]
      ‘Who is/are this friend and this supporter of all arts?’
  1. [gloss]Sa ming nelnang edāyon.
    sa ming nel-nang eda-ayon-Ø
    PT can help-1PL.A this-man-TOP[/gloss]
    ‘This man, we can help him.’

The deictic prefixes also cannot be used with all types of NPs, only with those headed by generic and proper nouns; the picky nature of the deictic prefixes also makes them more typical of affixes than of clitics. The preverbal particles, on the other hand, also only occur with verbs, and I’ve nonetheless argued for them being clitics above.

As mentioned initially, Spencer and Luís (2012) give numerous counterexamples to the catalog of traits typically associated with clitics. One of this counterexample is what they term ‘suspended affixation’, which occurs in Turkish, for instance, where the plural suffix -lEr and subsequent suffixes can be left out in coordination (23a), as well as case markers (23b), and adverbials with case-like functions (23c):

    1. [Turkish]

      [gloss]bütün kitap(…) ve defter-ler-imiz
      all book and notebook-PL-1PL.POSS[/gloss]
      ‘all our books and notebooks’ (199)

    2. [gloss]Vapur hem Napoli(…) hem Venedik’-e uğruyormuş
      boat and Naples and Venice-LOC stops.EVIDENTIAL[/gloss]
      ‘Apparently the boat stops at both Naples and Venice’ (ibid.)
    3. [gloss]öğretmen-ler(…) ve öğrenci-ler-le
      teacher-PL and student-PL-WITH[/gloss]
      ‘with (the) students and (the) teachers’ (ibid.)

They note that, in “the nominal domain especially, wide scope inflection is widespread in the languages of Eurasia, becoming more prominent from west to east”, and that wide scope affixation “can be found with inflectional and derivational morphology in a number of languages, and it is often a symptom of recent and not quite complete morphologization” (200). They report Wälchli (2005) to find that this is especially the case with ‘natural coordination’, that is, the combination of items very frequently occurring in pairs like knife and fork or mother and father, as opposed to cases of occasional coordination (Spencer and Luís 2012: 200). Whether this is also true for Ayeri would require a separate survey.[1. Or, since it’s a fictional language and I’ve never thought about this before, making up supplemental rules.]

Given the evidence from Turkish, the categorization of deictic prefixes as either affixes or clitics is unclear, especially since the diagnostic of scope is devalued by the Turkish examples. On the other hand, suffixes on nouns don’t behave this way, as demonstrated in (24)—they rather behave like typical affixes in that they mandatorily occur on each conjunct. The question is, thus, whether an exception should be made for prefixes on nouns. We may as well assume that they are clitics.

    1. [gloss]sobayajang nay lajāyjang
      sobaya-ye-ang nay lajāy-ye-ang
      teacher-PL-A and student-PL-A[/gloss]
      ‘(the) teachers and (the) students’
    2. * [gloss]sobayaye nay lajāyjang
      sobaya-ye nay lajāy-ye-ang
      teacher-PL and student-PL-A[/gloss]
    3. * [gloss]sobaya nay lajāyjang
      sobaya nay lajāy-ye-ang
      teacher and student-PL-A[/gloss]

From a functional point of view, the exact nature of the deictic prefixes shouldn’t matter either way—ParGram also cites a [DEIXIS] feature with PROXIMAL and DISTAL as its values, which fits eda- ‘this’ and ada- ‘that’ just fine. At present I’m at a loss about the feature representation of ‘such (a)’, however, since it is clearly deictic, but neither proximal nor distal. In this case it should be possible to just use [DEIXIS this/that/such] as well, I suppose, hence:

    1. [gloss]edāyon
      ‘this man’
    2. PRED ‘man’
      DEIXIS this

As described above, proper nouns are case marked by probably clitic case markers in front of the noun. In fact, these markers are somewhere at the left periphery of the NP, so the deictic prefixes stand in between the case marker and the proper noun itself, which is unproblematic for lexical integrity, since the deictic prefixes are not free morphemes. And even if they were part of inflection, the case markers, as clitics, would be on the outside—the order deictic prefix – case marker – noun is ungrammatical. An example is given in (26).

    1. [gloss]Ang koronay sa eda-​Kagan.
      ang koron-ay.Ø sa eda-​Kagan
      AT know-1SG.TOP P this-Kagan[/gloss]
      ‘I know this Kagan.’
    2. * [gloss]Ang koronay eda-​Kaganas.
      ang koron-ay.Ø eda-​Kagan-as
      AT know-1SG.TOP this-Kagan-P[/gloss]
    3. * [gloss]Ang koronay eda-sa Kagan.
      ang koron-ay.Ø eda-sa Kagan
      AT know-1SG.TOP this-P Kagan[/gloss]

The question now is, what happens to coordinated proper nouns? Since the suffixed case markers on common nouns have the distributional properties of affixes, they occur on every conjunct, the deictic prefix, however, only occurs on the first unless an individuating reading is intended, as shown in (20). For proper nouns it ought to be possible for both a case marker and a deictic prefix to have scope over coordinated proper nouns (27a). Yet, however, my gut tells me that this is slightly odd-sounding (German/English bias?), so I would prefer the strategy in (27b), which avoids the problem altogether by making the names an adjunct to the demonstrative edanya ‘this/these one(s)’.[1. Honestly, it’s these cases where you wish you could just ask a speaker of your fictional language for their judgement instead of relying on your own intuition, which will most certainly be tainted by interference from your native language. While I am the one to make up the rules for Ayeri, I try to be wary of carrying all too familiar patterns over into my creation accidentally.] The example in (27c) is unproblematic and here as well indicates that the two people are referred to individually and not as a group.

    1. ? [gloss]Ang koronay sa eda-​Kagan nay Ijān.
      ang koron-ay.Ø sa eda-​Kagan nay Ijān
      AT know-1SG.TOP P this-​Kagan and Ijān[/gloss]
      ‘I know these Kagan and Ijān.’
    2. [gloss]Ang koronay edanyās, Kagan nay Ijān.
      ang koron-ay.Ø edanya-as Kagan nay Ijān
      AT know-1SG.TOP Kagan and Ijān[/gloss]
      ‘I know these, Kagan and Ijān.’
    3. [gloss]Ang koronay sa eda-​Kagan nay eda-​Ijān.
      ang koron-ay.Ø sa eda-​Kagan nay eda-​Ijān
      AT know-1SG.TOP P this-​Kagan and this-​Ijān[/gloss]
      ‘I know this Kagan and this Ijān.’

Of the deictic prefixes, da- is not only available to verbs and nouns, but also to adjectives. Like with verbs, it is short for danya ‘such one’ in this case (28a). The resulting meaning is ‘the adj. one’; da- essentially acts as a nominalizer, at least to the extent the compound of da- + adjective inherits the distributional properties of danya as a demonstrative pronoun. Thus, it can be case- and topic marked (28bc), and also be modified by another adjective (28c). On the other hand, it can’t be reduplicated for diminution, and also also can’t be pluralized. Since adjectives follow their heads, the original order of demonstrative – adjective remains intact.

    1. [gloss]Le noyang danyaley tuvo.
      le no-yang danya-Ø tuvo
      PT.INAN want-1SG.A red[/gloss]
      ‘The red one I want.’
    2. [gloss]Ang noay da-tuvoley.
      ang no-ay.Ø da-tuvo-ley
      AT want-1SG.TOP one-red-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘I want the red one.’
    3. [gloss]Le noyang da-tuvo kivo.
      le no-yang da-tuvo-Ø kivo
      PT.INAN want-1SG.A one-red-TOP small[/gloss]
      ‘The little red one I want.’

The prefix, again, coheres tightly in that no additional material can be inserted. Like with nouns above, inflecting each form in a group of coordinated adjectives results in an individuating reading (29a). It should be possible for the prefix to take wide scope (29b), though it seems better to me to instead rephrase the coordinated adjective as a relative clause (28c), for instance, besides using the full form danya + adjectives. Since case markers go on every conjunct, (29d) is not grammatical.

    1. [gloss]Ang noay da-tuvoley nay da-lenoley.
      ang no-ay.Ø da-tuvo-ley nay da-leno-ley
      AT want-1SG.TOP one-red-P.INAN and one-blue-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘I want the blue one and the red one.’
    2. ? [gloss]Ang noay da-tuvoley nay lenoley.
      ang no-ay.Ø da-tuvo-ley nay leno-ley
      AT want-1SG.TOP one-red-P.INAN and blue-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘I want the red and blue one.’
    3. [gloss]Ang noay adaley si tuvo nay leno.
      ang no-ay.Ø ada-ley si tuvo nay leno
      AT want-1SG.TOP that-P.INAN REL red and blue[/gloss]
      ‘I want that which is red and blue.’
    4. * [gloss]Ang noay da-tuvo nay lenoley.
      ang no-ay.Ø da-tuvo nay leno-ley
      AT want-1SG.TOP one-red and blue-P.INAN[/gloss]

Possessive pronouns like ‘my’, vana ‘your’, etc. behave the same way when derived to free-standing anaphora (da-nā ‘mine’, da-vana ‘yours’, etc.) from their usual role as modifiers, except they can’t themselves be modified by adjectives in the way da-tuvo ‘the red one’ is in (28c). Taking all of the examples above into account, da- with adjectives and possessive pronouns seems to be most like a simple clitic according to Zwicky’s (1977) definition, compared to the other contexts it can appear in:

Cases where a free morpheme, when unaccented, may be phonologically subordinated to a neighboring word. Cliticization of this sort is usually associated with stylistic conditions, as in the casual speech cliticization of object pronouns in English; there are both formal full pronouns and casual reduced pronouns. (Zwicky 1977: 5)

Typical of a simple clitic as well, the distribution of da- is restricted by grammatical context, as pointed out regarding example (27b). Unlike in English, which Zwicky (1977) gives examples of, the condition in Ayeri is likely not phonological in this case. The nature of the condition, however, is not predetermined in Spencer and Luís (2012), when they write that

we may therefore need to define simple clitics along the lines of Halpern (1998), namely, as clitics that may be positioned in a subset of the positions within which the full forms are found, rather than as clitics that have the same distribution as their full-form counterparts as in Zwicky (1977). Under this broader definition, we capture the fact that simple clitics differ from special clitics in that they can appear in some of the positions that are occupied by their corresponding full forms, while special clitics never can. (Spencer and Luís 2012: 44)

Besides deictic prefixes, nouns may also receive a prefix expressing likeness, ku-. This prefix is also applicable to adjectives, and is maybe more adverbial in terms of semantics than purely functional morphemes like da-. In contrast to da-, ku- has no full-form equivalent. Some examples of it leaning on nouns are given in (30). Like the deictic prefixes, ku- appears in a position which is privileged to dependent functional morphemes in that any modifiers which appear as free words or phrases (adjectives, relative clauses, nominal adjuncts) follow nouns. Slightly untypical of a clitic, it is not fully ‘promiscuous’ regarding its phonological host in that it requires a nominal, adjectival or phrasal host.

    1. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku-depangas.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku-depang-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like-fool-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like a fool.’
    2. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku-depangas nay karayās.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku-depang-as nay karaya-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like-fool-P and coward-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like a fool and a coward.’
    3. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku-depangas nay ku-karayās.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku-depang-as nay ku-karaya-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like-fool-P and like-coward-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like a fool and like a coward.’
    4. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku-ada-depangas.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku-ada-depang-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like-that-fool-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like that fool.’
    5. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku-ada-depangas nay ada-karayās.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku-ada-depang-as nay ada-karayās
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like-that-fool-P and that-coward-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like that fool and that coward.’
    6. * [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ada-ku-depangas.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ada-ku-depang-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān that-like-fool-P[/gloss]

Generally, ku- fulfills the function of the preposition like in English in (30). However, if it were a preposition in Ayeri, it should trigger the locative on its dependent. In the examples above, however, the NP ku- modifies takes the patient case, like predicative NPs are otherwise wont to do. While prepositions like kong ‘inside’ in (31) are free morphemes in Ayeri, ku- is bound, which becomes apparent by introducing a parenthetical remark again:

    1. [gloss]Ang yomāy, surpareng, kong sayanya.
      ang yoma-ay.Ø surpa-reng kong sayan-ya
      AT be-1SG.TOP seem-3SG.A.INAN inside cave-LOC[/gloss]
      ‘I am, it seems, inside a cave.’
    2. [gloss]Ang yomāy kong, suprareng, sayanya.
      ang yoma-ay.Ø kong surpa-reng sayan-ya
      AT be-1SG.TOP inside seem-3SG.A.INAN cave-LOC[/gloss]
      ‘I am inside, it seems, a cave.’
    1. [gloss]Ang misya   Amān, surpareng, ku-depangas.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān surpa-reng ku-depang-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān seem-3SG.A.INAN like-fool-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts, it seems, like a fool.’
    2. * [gloss]Ang misya   Amān ku, surpareng, depangas.
      ang mis-ya Ø Amān ku surpa-reng depang-as
      AT act-3SG.M TOP Amān like seem-3SG.A.INAN fool-P[/gloss]
      ‘Amān acts like a, it seems, fool.’

Examples (30ab) show that similar to the deictic prefixes, ku- precedes its target of modification and can have wide scope with coordinated NPs. As (30c) shows, narrow scope is possible as well, and in this case, again, each conjunct is to be interpreted separately instead of ku- modifying both conjuncts collectively. If combined with ada- as a deictic prefix, for instance, ku- even precedes that (30d), and changing the order of the prefixes is not possible, as is shown in (30f). As (30e) shows, ku- may also have scope over two individuating noun phrase conjuncts. Ku- is also applicable to pronouns, so (33) is possible, for example.

    1. [gloss]Ang silvye   Pada ku-yes.
      ang silv-ye Ø Pada ku-yes
      AT look-3SG.F TOP Pada like-3SG.F.P[/gloss]
      ‘Pada looks like her.’

    2. [gloss]Sa silvye ang Pada ku-ye.
      sa silv-ye ang Pada ku-ye
      PT look-3SG.F A Pada like-3SG.F.TOP[/gloss]
      ‘Like her Pada looks.’

With proper nouns, we get the same distributional properties as with generic nouns, except that ku- appears (rather idiosyncratically) as a suffix at the right edge of an NP—or at the right edge of the first NP conjunct—if the NP is preceded by a case marker, as shown in (34). Admittedly, I hadn’t considered the behavior of ku- with names before and felt adventurous in introducing this little twist. I hope it’s viable.

    1. [gloss]Ang lentava sa Tagāti diyan-ku.
      ang lenta-va sa Tagāti diyan-ku
      AT sound-2.TOP P Tagāti worthy-like[/gloss]
      ‘You sound like Mr. Tagāti.’
    2. [gloss]Ang lentava sa Tagāti diyan-ku nay diranas yana.
      ang lenta-va sa Tagāti diyan-ku nay diran-as yana
      AT sound-2.TOP P Tagāti worthy-like and uncle-P 3SG.M.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘You sound like Mr. Tagāti and his uncle.’
    3. [gloss]Sa lentavāng ku-​Tagāti diyan.
      sa lenta-vāng ku-​Tagāti diyan
      PT sound-2.A like-​Tagāti worthy[/gloss]
      ‘Like Mr. Tagāti you sound.’

With adjectives, however, there are no idiosyncrasies to this degree; ku- appears only as a prefix here, as with generic nouns:

    1. [gloss]Surpya ku-suta ang Maran.
      surp-ya ku-suta ang Maran
      seem-3SG.M like-busy A Maran[/gloss]
      ‘Maran seems like he’s busy.’
    2. [gloss]Surpya ku-suta nay baras ang Maran.
      surp-ya ku-suta nay baras ang Maran
      seem-3SG.M like-busy and gruff A Maran[/gloss]
      ‘Maran seems like he’s busy and gruff.’

As (35b) shows, ku- again can have wide scope over conjuncts. What further distinguishes ku- from a prefix here is that it doesn’t undergo crasis if the adjective begins with an /u/, hence ku-ubo /kuˈubo/ ‘like bitter’, not * kūbo /ˈkuːbo/.[1. The phonology chapter of the new grammar has so far read in a footnote that this would be permissible, though given ku-‘s behavior elsewhere it doesn’t make sense to keep this rule, in retrospect.] Again, the position ku- appears in is special in that whatever modifies adjectives usually trails after them.

Another case I hadn’t considered before is that ku- should be able to subordinate infinite CPs. Since ku- leans on a whole phrase in (35), which affixes can’t do, its status as a clitic should be unmistakable in this context.

  1. [gloss]Silvyeng ku-tahayam misungas.
    silv-yeng ku-taha-yam misung-as
    look-3SG.F.A like-have-PTCP secret-P[/gloss]
    ‘She looks as though having a secret.’

2. Suffixes

I hope that I could shed some light on the prefixes and particles occuring before lexical heads so far, however, Ayeri also has a number of morphemes trailing lexical heads as suffixes which do not seem quite like typical inflection. These are, for one, person suffixes on the verb, which I already tried to come to terms with in a previous blog article. In this article, I had assumed a priori that the case- and topic-marked suffixes on the verb are clitics. However, what I didn’t do is to test whether they actually fulfill formal criteria of clitics. Especially tricky in this regard is maybe that “a pronominal affix or incorporated pronominal is effectively a clitic masquerading as an affix. Therefore, if there are pronominal affixes then they should behave exactly like clitics with respect to crucial aspects of morphosyntax” (Spencer and Luís 2012: 144). Spencer and Luís (2012) then proceed to give examples from Breton and Irish where the person marking on the verb is in complementary distribution with full NPs:

    1. [Breton]
    2. [gloss]Bremañ e lennont al levrioù
      now PRT read.PRES.3PL the books[/gloss]
      ‘Now they are reading the books’ (145, from Borsley et al. 2007)
    3. [gloss]Bremañ e lenn ar vugale al levrioù
      now PRT read.PRES.3SG the children the books[/gloss]
      ‘Now the children are reading the books’ (ibid.)
    4. * [gloss]Bremañ e lennont ar vugale al levrioù
      now PRT read.PRES.3PL the children the books[/gloss]
    1. [Irish]
    2. [gloss]Chuirfinn (*mé) isteach ar an phost sin
      put.COND.1SG (​I​) in on the job that[/gloss]
      ‘I would apply for that job’ (145, from McCloskey and Hale 1984)
    3. [gloss]Chuirfeadh sibh isteach ar an phost sin
      put.COND.3SG you in on the job that[/gloss]
      ‘You would apply for that job’ (ibid.)
    4. [gloss]Chuirfeadh Eoghan isteach ar an phost sin
      put.COND.3SG Owen in on the job that[/gloss]
      ‘Owen would apply for that job’ (ibid.)

What we can see in (37) is that, according to Spencer and Luís (2012), the verb shows no number marking, defaulting to the singular form, in non-negative clauses if the subject of the verb is overt as either a full noun or a pronoun: plural marking on the verb and a full subject can’t coincide in this case, which is why (37c) is marked ungrammatical. In (38a) we can see that there is no need for an explicit first-person pronoun, since that function is already expressed by person marking on the verb—person inflection on the verb seems to be in complementary distribution with full subject pronouns at least for some parts of the paradigm. In (38b) we have an overt 2nd-person subject pronoun, but in this case, the verb does not agree with it and instead defaults to the 3rd-person form, a clear case of which is given in (38c).

While in Ayeri, there is no defaulting to a certain person in the presence of an overt subject NP as such, there is still the effect of complementary distribution between a pronominal suffix in the absence of an overt subject NP and a functionally impoverished as well as phonologically reduced form in its presence:

    1. [gloss]Suta ang Niyas.
      suta ang Niyas
      busy A Niyas[/gloss]
      ‘Niyas is busy.’
    2. [gloss]Yāng suta.
      yāng suta
      3SG.M.A busy[/gloss]
      ‘He is busy.’
    1. [gloss]Lampya ang Niyas.
      lamp-ya ang Niyas
      walk-3SG.M A Niyas[/gloss]
      ‘Niyas is walking.’
    2. [gloss]Lampyāng.
      ‘He is walking’
    1. * [gloss]Lampyāng ang Niyas.
      lamp-yang ang Niyas
      walk-3SG.M.A A Niyas[/gloss]
    2. * [gloss]Lampya yāng.
      lamp-ya yāng
      walk-3SG.M 3SG.M.A[/gloss]

Example (39b) shows the free form of the third singular masculine agent pronoun, yāng. This is in complementary distribution with a full NP, which in (39a) is ang Niyas. In (40a) we can see that the verb agrees with the subject NP in person, gender and number in that it exhibits the suffix -ya. If the overt subject NP is missing, the verb is marked with the same form as the free pronoun, -yāng, which feeds the verb as a syntactic argument. That is, the person suffix itself fills the SUBJ relation of the verb’s subcategorization frame. (42) lists the constituent parts of lampyāng and their associated grammatical features.

  1. lamp- Vstem (↑ PRED) = ‘walk ⟨(↑ SUBJ)⟩’
    -yāng Vinfl (↑ SUBJ PRED) = ‘pro’
    (↑ SUBJ PERS) = 3
    (↑ SUBJ NUM) = SG
    (↑ SUBJ GEND) = M
    (↑ SUBJ ANIM) = +
    (↑ SUBJ CASE) = A
  2. PRED ‘walk ⟨(↑ SUBJ)⟩’
    PRED ‘pro’
    PERS 3
    NUM SG
    GEND M
    ANIM +
    CASE A

Since (43) shows that functionally, the inflection takes the role of the subject relation, (41a) is ungrammatical in that the pronominal suffix -yāng on the verb is redundant in the presence of a full NP which expresses the same features except that the subject NP’s [PRED] value is ‘Niyas’, not ‘pro’. Example (44) shows the annotations for lampya as agreeing with an overt NP. Here, the suffix does not have a [PRED] feature—it is not available for predication. The agreement suffix -ya defines that the subject NP has a certain set of person features. The NP which controls verb agreement (in canonical cases the agent NP) needs to match up with these features in order to establish an agreement relationship. I suppose that by constraining (=c) the subject’s predicator not to be a pro-form in (44) it should also be possible to rule out cases like in (41b), where person agreement is triggered by a pronominal NP, which is ungrammatical, since Ayeri basically supplants person agreement with a pronominal suffix in those cases. If -yāng were a simple inflectional affix, one of the two examples in (41) should be grammatical.

  1. -ya₁ Vinfl (↑ SUBJ PRED) =c ¬ ’pro’
    (↑ SUBJ PERS) = 3
    (↑ SUBJ NUM) = SG
    (↑ SUBJ GEND) = M
    (↑ SUBJ ANIM) = +

The behavior of the pronominal person marking on the verb is thus rather complex, and decidedly unlike inflection in that what looks like an affix on the verb is also an argument of it, like a pronoun, as displayed in (42). Another layer of complexity is added by the fact that such an incorporated pronoun is also eligible for topicalization. As we have seen above, topic marking on nouns is realized by suppressing the realization of the overt case marker, whether it is a proclitic or a suffix. The topic-marked forms of pronouns are also underspecified for case, and they happen to be the same as those of the person-agreement suffixes as exemplified by -ya in (40a). Thus, a topic-marked pronominal suffix on the verb will look exactly like ordinary agreement with a full NP, except that there is no full NP to agree with—hence the subscript numbers in (44) and (45) to distinguish between both kinds of -ya.[1. Assuming that the person suffix on the verb always co-indexes the topic and that one therefore doesn’t need to distinguish a person-agreement suffix from a homophonous topicalized pronominal suffix is a premature conclusion. In fact, the agreement suffix always agrees with the subject of the verb, which is most often the agent NP but may, in absence of an agent NP, also be the patient NP. The topic may consist of any NP, also oblique ones, which the verb then does not agree in person with.]

  1. -ya₂ Vinfl (↑ SUBJ PRED) = ‘pro’
    (↑ SUBJ PERS) = 3
    (↑ SUBJ NUM) = SG
    (↑ SUBJ GEND) = M
    (↑ SUBJ ANIM) = +
    (↑ SUBJ CASE) = Ø ⇒ (↑ TOP) = ↓

Comparing the feature list in (45) with that in (42) and (44), we see that (45) is basically the same as (42), except that either the [CASE] feature is not set, or that the suffix is underspecified for case. In absence of an NP to agree with, it follows from this definitional lack that the person marking on the verb itself is to be identified as constituting the topic, and the correspondent of the preverbal topic marker. In the following case, the preverbal topic marker defines that the topic is an animate agent:

  1. ang Cl (↑ TOP CASE) = A
    (↑ TOP ANIM) = +

Instances of other case-unmarked nouns can be ruled out as being also part of the topic relation on the grounds of cohesion: if the topic is defined as an agent and it can’t be assumed from context that the case-unmarked noun in question is also part of the agent NP, discard it as a candidate. Besides, every core θ-role (agent, patient, recipient) can only be assigned once, so if the role specified by the topic marker is already assigned, another NP in the same clause can’t also be assigned it. This gets more difficult with non-core roles, though I assume that oblique arguments are less likely to be topicalized.

What has led me to confusion about the status of the pronominal suffixes in the past is essentially that “a pronominal affix or incorporated pronominal is effectively a clitic masquerading as an affix” (Spencer and Luís 2012: 144). While the pronominal suffixes in Ayeri behave in a special way regarding syntax, they lack wide scope, which is typical of affixes (apart from the examples from Turkish quoted earlier). Unlike Breton or Irish, Ayeri’s pronominal affixes do not default to some form, and verbs cannot be unmarked either, that is, verbs always have to be inflected in some way, mostly for phonotactic reasons. Thus, in coordination, every conjunct has to be inflected for person features:

    1. [gloss]Nedrayāng nay layayāng.
      nedra-yāng nay laya-yāng
      sit-3SG.M.A and read-3SG.M.A[/gloss]
      ‘He is sitting and reading.’
    2. * [gloss]Nedrayāng nay laya.
      nedra-yāng nay laya
      sit-3SG.M.A and read[/gloss]
    3. * [gloss]Nedra nay layayāng.
      nedra nay laya-yāng
      sit and read-3SG.M.A[/gloss]

In the case of nedra- and laya- in (47), leaving off the person marking would theoretically work, since * nedra and * laya satisfy phonotactic constraints. However, Ayeri also has a great number of verb stems which end in a consonant cluster, such as anl- ‘bring’ or tapy- ‘set’, which don’t form valid words as bare stems. What would be possible instead is that one conjunct might carry the full pronominal suffix as a “strong” form and the other one might only partially co-index the required features by using the less specific corresponding agreement marker as a “weak” form. Differential marking of this kind, though, is simply not established.

After briefly delving into the realm of syntax, let’s return to morphology for the second group of suffixes which could use some clarification. While Ayeri has quantifiers which are independent words, there are also a number of very common ‘little’ quantifiers and degree adverbs which are customarily spelled as suffixes, for instance, -ikan ‘much, many; very’, -kay ‘few; a little’, -nama ‘almost’, -nyama ‘even’. All of these are adverbial in meaning and while they are comparatively light in their semantics compared to regular content words, I can’t say that they strike me as functional morphemes in particular. In the course of writing this article, an article which has come up in my searches a number of times is Bittner (1995) on quantification in West Greenlandic. According to her terminology, -ikan in Ayeri would be a D-quantifier, which “forms a constituent with, a projection of N” (Bittner 1995: 59), in contrast to A-quantifiers, which form “a constituent with some projection of V” (59). That is, A-quantifiers are adverbs like almost (-nama in Ayeri), mostly, or never, while D-quantifiers are words like most, some, or every. Ayeri makes no distinction between A- and D-quantifiers with regards to their being treated as suffixes, so one can find suffixed quantifiers in both groups. While my main interest here is in the morphosyntax of these quantifiers, Bittner’s is in their semantics, though the article gives evidence notwithstanding of a language in which suffixed quantifiers are attested, for example:

  1. [West Greenlandic]
    1. [gloss]qaatuur-tuaanna-ngajap-p-a-a
      ‘he almost always breaks it’ (adapted from Bittner 1995: 60)
    2. [gloss]qaqutigu-rujussuaq
      ‘very rarely’ (63)
    1. [gloss]ang adruya tadayen-ngas adaley
      ang adru-ya.Ø tadayen-ngas ada-ley
      AT break-3SG.M.TOP always-almost that-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘he almost always breaks it’
    2. [gloss]kora-ikan
      ‘very rarely’

As we can see in (48a), West Greenlandic incorporates the quantifier suffixes into the verb, while Ayeri—not a polysynthetic language—proceeds more freely in (49a) in that tadayen ‘always, every time’ is an adverb and as such a free morpheme which is, however, in turn modified by a suffixed quantifier. Since orthography may be treacherous, let’s first try to establish whether -ngas and -ikan and their like are free morphemes or not. As discussed initially regarding the preverbal particles, it is possible to reorder free morphemes, while clitics, as bound morphemes, can’t move around. Adverbs and adjectives are, if they optionally add additional information to a lexical head, adjuncts, and according to Carnie (2013) it is possible for adjuncts to switch places within the same syntactic domain. Adjuncts can also be coordinated with other adjuncts in the same syntactic domain. Furthermore, it is possible to replace X’ nodes with pro-forms, like one in English.

    1. [gloss]kipisānye-ikan bino kāryo
      kipisān-ye-ikan bino kāryo
      painting-PL-many colorful big[/gloss]
      ‘many big colorful paintings’
    2. kipisānye-ikan kāryo bino
      ‘many big colorful paintings’
    3. ! kipisānye bino-ikan kāryo
      ‘very colorful big paintings’
    4. ! kipisānye bino kāryo-ikan
      ‘very big colorful paintings’
    1. [gloss]kipisānye-ikan bino nay kāryo
      kipisān-ye-ikan bino nay kāryo
      painting-PL-many colorful and big[/gloss]
      ‘many big and colorful paintings’
    2. * kipisānye-ikan nay bino kāryo
      ‘many and colorful big paintings’
    3. ! kipisānye bino-ikan nay kāryo
      ‘big and very colorful paintings’

As (50cd) shows, moving -ikan ‘many, much, very’ into different positions results not necessarily in ungrammatical expressions, but in ones with meanings different from what was intended, since -ikan‘s scope changes from the noun to the adjective it is appended to. On the other hand, comparing (50a) and (b), it is possible for kāryo ‘big’ and bino ‘colorful’ to switch places with no adversary effects. Example (51b) demonstrates that placing a coordinating conjunction between -ikan and bino ‘colorful’ doesn’t work. The coordination in (51c), on the other hand, is not a problem—not because it is possible to coordinate -ikan and kāryo, but because bino-ikan ‘very colorful’ is considered one syntactic unit which is coordinated with kāryo. Thus, in (50b), we have actually been trying to coordinate kipisānye-ikan ‘many paintings’ with bino ‘colorful’, which does not work, since it is not possible to coordinate a lexical head with an adjunct supposed to modify it, since they are of different syntactic categories. In this regard it is worth mentioning that Ayeri’s quantifier suffixes are rather not complements either, since they are not required in order to satisfy their head’s argument structure.

One might argue that in (50) and (51) we tried to compare apples to oranges in that -ikan and bino are of different categories, since -ikan and bino don’t appear to operate on the same levels. So instead, let’s look at possibilities of word order change and coordination between different quantifiers to ensure that we actually stay on the same level. With this there is the problem, however, that it seems strange to modify the same lexical head with multiple different quantifiers, so this test does not really seem feasible to produce grammatical results. Also, with regards to coordination of quantifiers, it is maybe more natural to oppose them with soyang ‘or’ than to coordinate them; the grammatical structure of two categorially identical elements connected by a grammatical conjunction (even if the meaning is disjunctive) remains the same in either case.

    1. * [gloss]keynam-ikan-kay
      ‘few many people’
    2. ? [gloss]keynam-ikan soyang -kay
      keynam-ikan soyang -kay
      people-many or few[/gloss]
      ‘few or many people’

In example (52a) we see that it is indeed not possible to combine multiple quantifiers to jointly modify a head in the way it is possible for multiple adjectives to modify the same head as in (50a), for instance. The example of quantifier disjunction in (52b) is also odd unless we permit a reading where keynam ‘people’ has been suppressed in the second disjunct to avoid repetition, although in the corresponding case of (53b) below, da-kay would be preferable.

    1. ? keynam[-ikan soyang kay]
      ‘[few or many] people’
    2. [keynami-ikan] soyang [_i-kay]
      ‘[few _i] or [many peoplei]’

Both tests, moving -ikan into other positions and coordination, have failed so far, and we have evidence that -ikan forms a syntactic unit with its head, which points to it being a bound morpheme similar to an affix in spite of its adverb-like meaning. As with free words, it is also possible to replace a quantifier’s head with a pro-form, as mentioned above in the comment on (53b), and shown in more detail in (54). With quantifier suffixes there seems to be an overlap between word-like and affix-like properties, which is typical of clitics.

    1. [gloss]Ang vacyan keynam-ikan seygoley.
      ang vac-yan keynam-Ø-ikan seygo-ley.
      AT like-3PL.M people-TOP-many apple-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘Many people like apples.’
    2. [gloss]Ang vacyan danya-ikan seygoley.
      ang vac-yan danya-Ø-ikan seygo-ley.
      AT like-3PL.M apple-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘Many of them like apples.’
    3. [gloss]Ang vacyan da-ikan seygoley.
      ang vac-yan da-ikan-Ø seygo-ley.
      AT like-3PL.M one-many-TOP apple-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘Many (of them) like apples.’

Somewhat untypical of affixes, it seems to be possible to modify suffixed quantifier with adverbs like ekeng ‘too’ and kagan ‘far too’, as (55) shows. This suggests that at least in this context, -ikan may actually be the lexical head of an adverbial phrase, which is at odds with its status as a bound morpheme.

  1. [gloss]Ang vacyan keynam-ikan kagan disuley.
    ang vac-yan keynam-Ø-ikan kagan disu-ley.
    AT like-3PL.M people-TOP-many far.too disu-P.INAN[/gloss]
    ‘Far too many people like bananas.’

I previously tried to insert parenthetical word material in between morphemes, and this test may be especially interesting in face of (55), since here it is not entirely clear whether keynam-ikan kagan ‘too many people’ forms a single unit. Since signs point to the status of quantifier suffixes as clitics, chances are good that it does, in fact, constitute a clitic cluster similar to the preverbal one. Example (56), therefore, lists examples which try to split up the expression at every relevant point. According to this test, it looks indeed as though keynam-ikan kagan forms a syntactic unit, in that -ikan kagan ‘too many’ cannot be split up internally and also cannot be divided from -ikan‘s head, keynam ‘people’.

    1. [gloss]Ang vacyan, narayang, keynam-ikan kagan disuley.
      ang vac-yan nara-yang keynam-Ø-ikan kagan disu-ley
      AT like-3PL.M say-1SG.A people-TOP-many far.too disu-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘Far too many people, I say, like bananas.’
    2. * Ang vacyan keynam, narayang, ikan kagan disuley.
    3. * Ang vacyan keynam-ikan, narayang, kagan disuley.
    4. Ang vacyan keynam-ikan kagan, narayang, disuley.

Another interesting distributional property of suffixed quantifiers in Ayeri is that in spite of their being suffixed, to verbs for instance, they can form arguments of the verb, similar to pronominal suffixes. Thus, with verbs like kond- ‘eat’, -ma ‘enough’ appears suffixed to the verb instead of as a predicative adverb. Incidentally, the examples in (56) also show that a quantifier attaches after pronominal suffixes, which we have already established as being clitics. An inflectional affix would not normally appear in post-clitic position, which is further evidence to the hypothesis that quantifier suffixes in Ayeri are clitics.

    1. [gloss]Kondanang-ma.
      ‘We ate enough.’
    2. [gloss]Ang tangay-ikan vana.
      ang tang-ay.Ø-ikan vana
      AT hear-1SG.TOP-much 2.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘I’ve heard much about you.’

Since Ayeri possesses a zero copula, equative phrases which treat quantifier suffixes as predicative adverbs pose a difficulty in that quantifier suffixes cannot stand alone like predicatives normally would. Thus, in a similar fashion to -ma‘s behavior in (57a), the predicative -ma in (58b) cliticizes to the only available word: the subject, adareng ‘that’.

    1. [gloss]Adareng edaya.
      ada-reng edaya
      that-A.INAN here[/gloss]
      ‘It is here.’
    2. [gloss]Adareng-ma.
      ‘That/It is enough.’

If quantifier suffixes are clitics, they should also have wide scope over conjuncts. Here as well, quantifier suffixes behave typically of clitics, though, in that they can have scope over a conjunct as a whole, although not totally unambiguously so.

    1. [gloss]Ang tahisayan koyās nay kihasley-ikan.
      ang tahisa-yan.Ø koya-as nay kihas-ley-ikan
      AT own-3PL.M.TOP book-P and map-P.INAN-many[/gloss]
      ‘They own many books and maps.’
    2. [gloss]Yeng alingo nay para-ven.
      yeng alingo nay para-ven
      3SG.F.A clever and quick-pretty[/gloss]
      ‘She’s pretty clever and quick.’

Thus, in (59a), while koyās nay kihasley-ikan is translated as ‘many books and maps’ (nouns do not mark plural if modified by a quantifier which indicates plurality), another possible reading is ‘a book and many maps’. Ways to force the latter reading explicitly are, for one, to use koyās men ‘one/a single book’, or alternatively, to reduplicate the coordinator nay ‘and’ to naynay ‘and also’. Context should be sufficient to indicate the correct reading of (59a) under normal circustances, however. The same applies to (59b), where the non-distributive reading can be made explicit by using naynay instead of simple nay. In both (59a) and (b), if the first conjunct is modified by an adjective, the distribution of the quantifier over both conjuncts is also blocked. Thus, in (60a), there is ‘a big book and many maps’, and in (60b) ‘she’ is ‘surprisingly clever and pretty quick’.

    1. [gloss]Ang tahisayan koyās kāryo nay kihasley-ikan.
      ang tahisa-yan.Ø koya-as kāryo nay kihas-ley-ikan
      AT own-3PL.M.TOP book-P big and map-P.INAN-many[/gloss]
      ‘They own a big book and many maps.’
      Not: ‘They own many big books and maps.’
    2. [gloss]Yeng alingo patu nay para-ven.
      yeng alingo patu nay para-ven
      3SG.F.A clever surprisingly and quick-pretty[/gloss]
      ‘She’s surprisingly clever and pretty quick.’
      Not: ‘She is surprisingly pretty clever and quick.’

The false interpretations in (60) can be correctly achieved by ordinarily placing the adjective after the compounds so that the adjective itself has scope over both conjuncts. This is demonstrated in (61) and (62). Again, an unambiguous and individuating interpretation can be achieved by placing the quantifier suffix on each conjunct.

    1. [gloss]Ang tahisayan koyajas nay kihasyeley kāryo.
      ang tahisa-yan.Ø koya-ye-as nay kihas-ye-ley kāryo
      AT own-3PL.M.TOP book-PL-P and map-PL-P.INAN big[/gloss]
      ‘They own big books and maps.’
    2. [gloss]Ang tahisayan koyās nay kihasley-ikan kāryo.
      ang tahisa-yan.Ø koya-as nay kihas-ley-ikan kāryo
      AT own-3PL.M.TOP book-PL-P and map-P.INAN-many big[/gloss]
      ‘They own many big books and maps.’
    1. [gloss]Yeng alingo nay para patu.
      yeng alingo nay para patu
      3SG.F.A clever and quick surprisingly[/gloss]
      ‘She’s surprisingly clever and quick.’
    2. [gloss]Yeng alingo nay para-ven patu.
      yeng alingo nay para-ven patu
      3SG.F.A clever and quick-pretty surprisingly[/gloss]
      ‘She’s surprisingly pretty clever and quick.’

3. Conclusive remarks

I have applied various tests, mostly of morphosyntactic nature, to particles occurring in front of verbs, nouns, and adjectives, as well as to suffixes indicating person features on verbs, and to quantifier suffixes on a variety of parts of speech in order test whether these particles, prefixes, and suffixes behave like clitics in spite of appearing like function words, adverbs, prefixes, or suffixes. By testing morphosyntactic properties of the various morphemes evidence was presented to argue that (1) the preverbal particles form a clitic cluster together with the verb; (2) da- and sitang- on verbs are likely clitics; (3) da- on nouns, adjectives and possessive pronouns are clitics; (4) the preposed case markers of names are likely clitics; (5) deictic prefixes on the noun are likely clitics; (6) pronominal suffixes on verbs are clitics for their special syntax and in spite of the suffixes’ narrow scope, which is at least in part due to phonotactic requirements; and (7), suffixed quantifiers are clitics in spite of their adverbial meaning.

  • Bittner, Maria. “Quantification in Eskimo: A Challenge for Compositional Semantics.” Quantification in Natural Languages. Ed. by Emmon Bach et al. Dordrecht: Springer, 1995. 59–80. Print. Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy 54. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-2817-1_4.
  • Borsley, Robert D., Maggie Tallerman, and David Willis. The Syntax of Welsh. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print.
  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Butt, Miriam and Tracy Holloway King. “Lexical-Functional Grammar.” Syntax—Theory and Analysis: An International Handbook. Vol. 2. Ed. by Tibor Kiss and Artemis Alexiadou. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2015. 839–74. Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 42. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. DOI: 10.1515/9783110363708-002.
  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Print. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Halpern, Aaron. “Clitics.” The Handbook of Morphology. Ed. by Andrew Spencer and Arnold M. Zwicky. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 101–22. Print.
  • Hammarström, Harald et al. “Language: Kwak’wala.” Glottolog. Version 3.0. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017. ‹›.
  • Klavans, Judith L. “The Independence of Syntax and Phonology in Cliticization.” Language 61.1 (1985): 95–120. Web. 20 Jul. 2016. ‹›.
  • Levine, Robert D. “On the Lexical Origin of the Kwakwala passive.” International Journal of Linguistics 46.4 (1980): 240–59. Web. 10 Apr. 2017. ‹›.
  • McCloskey, James and Ken Hale. “On the Syntax of Person-Number Inflection in Modern Irish.” Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1.4 (1984). 487–534. Print. DOI: 10.1007/BF00417057.
  • [Smedt,] Koenraad [de]. “Feature Table.” ParGram/ParSem: An International Collaboration on LFG-Based Grammar and Semantics Development. 2017. U of Bergen, 1 Feb. 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2017. ‹›.
  • Spencer, Andrew and Ana R. Luís. Clitics: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics.
  • Wälchli, Bernhard. Co-compounds and Natural Coordination. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
  • Zwicky, Arnold M. On Clitics. Bloomington: Indiana U Linguistics Club, 1977. Web. 22 Jul. 2016. ‹›.
  • ——— and Geoffrey K. Pullum. “Cliticization vs. Inflection: English N’T.” Language 59.3 (1983): 502–13. Web. 21 Jul. 2016. ‹›.

Just a quick status update on the Grammar: I’m currently trying to come up with example sentences in order to figure out the status of various elements regarding their classification as an affix or a clitic. Not everything I’ve been calling ‘clitic’ so far is one, most probably, since my understanding had been faulty. Especially the declined person markers (-yang, -vāng, -yāng etc.) seem to behave more like affixes, in fact.

Update on the Grammar Writing Process II

A problem I have recently come to see with conlanging is that while a whole number of people may research a natural language at any time, each researcher contributing to scholarly discourse from their area of expertise, your typical conlanger is working on their fictional language all by themselves. I’m no exception with regards to this. This also means, however, that only you are acquainted with your conlang, which also means that while fleshing it out, you have to be a kind of jack-of-all-trades if you want to do it well. On the other hand, a single person does not have talent for or interest in all areas of a field to the same degree, nor can you know everything about a field as variegated as linguistics. In addition to this, acquiring some deeper knowledge and experience just in a part of a field takes time.

While writing my new Ayeri grammar, describing phonology at least roughly, and morphology with a little more attention to detail seemed fair enough.[1. I will still have to rewrite some things with regards to cliticization, though. For instance, I am not quite sure whether manga with verbs is inflection or rather a special clitic; the term ‘bound word’ from Zwicky (1977) I used in the grammar hasn’t stood the test of time. I’m currently reading up on more recent research and positions on clitics in Spencer & Luís (2012), so corrections to the morphology chapter will follow eventually.] Describing a language, however, doesn’t end at elaborating on how to form words. Syntax is just as important, as it describes how to form larger units of meaning, which is certainly no trivial issue either. Since Ayeri’s structure departs from English in some basic ways, it definitely warrants more serious attention.

Most conlangers I know seem to be mainly interested in morphology, and may even go so far as meeting formal syntax theories with suspicion. Moreover, I have never had a proper introduction to syntax myself either, for instance, in class at university. However, since Ayeri is rather different from German or English, I have long had an itch to figure its syntax out in a more structured way, in order to find out and describe in standard terms what I have been doing so far without giving it too much of a second thought. Since I’ve been trying to keep up a certain level of seriousness in the grammar, simply stating that Ayeri is VSO and heads mostly go first, and treating everything within 5 pages won’t do. Dealing with such a complex topic this superficially does not seem satisfying to my own curiosity and ambition. I am hoping that finding out more about Ayeri’s syntax will uncover more remaining blank spots, the filling of which would allow me to add yet more depth.

A colleague of mine had suggested to get acquainted with Lexical-Functional Grammar, actually with regards to my day job as a grad assistant. Describing Ayeri in this framework, however, might be interesting as well, since LFG was developed with flexibility in mind so that configurational, non-configurational, and mixed languages can all be dealt with in a straightforward manner. With its VSO constituent order, Ayeri may fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, though this needs further analysis, which I can’t provide just yet. I have been trying to work through Bresnan et al. (2016), but I realized that trying to study these things on my own is no adequate replacement for correction by teachers, since it’s too easy to accidentally gloss over important details by reading a textbook without discussing its contents. Furthermore, this book presupposes familiarity with common structuralist paradigms, such as Generative Grammar (Carnie 2002/2013 seems to be a popular introduction), Government and Binding, and X-bar theory, which it seems reasonable to acquaint myself with before I continue.

Yet, I am impatient to keep on writing, since I really don’t want to let the grammar drift off into negligence again this time. I had written some 20 pages on syntax earlier this month, however, I realized that much of what I had written is probably wrong, since, for example, I disregarded lexical integrity as a fundamental principle with regards to what I assume to be clitics, simply for the reason of not being aware of this principle for the lack of formal training in a very formal discipline. For the time being, I have deleted what I wrote about the phrase structures of DPs/NPs and AdjP/AdvPs from the PDF in the main development branch on Github (‘master’) to not spread misinformation. Once I know more and have reevaluated some things, development on this part will go on in the ‘trunk’ branch, which I will merge back into ‘master’ once I am confident enough that my analyses are at least not completely off.

Thus, for the time being, the grammar will have to pause at morphology, and hopefully not for another 5 years. Alternatively, I may need to find a way to adequatly describe how to form clauses and sentences without getting too deeply into theories, at least provisionally, if that is possible.

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax. A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Spencer, Andrew and Ana R. Luís. Clitics. An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics.
  • Zwicky, Arnold M. On Clitics. 1977. Arnold M. Zwicky. 21 Apr. 2015. Stanford U. 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Jul. 2016. ‹›.

Subordinating Verbs: A Small Blast from the Past

I was recently thinking about this with regards to writing my New and Improved (tee-em) grammar of Ayeri and my previous post on subordinating verbs. I saw subordinating verbs as posing the problem of putting too much stuff in the constituent that holds the verb. As a solution, I described moving the complement of the main verb into a finite complement clause if it’s more than intransitive. However, when I did some analysis of verbs yesterday to maybe shed some light on the alternation between -isa and -isu in deverbal adjectives, I came across the following example sentence in the entry for pinya ‘ask’, entered October 24, 2008:

  1. [gloss]Sa pinyayāng ye rimayam silvenoley.
    Sa pinya=yāng ye rima-yam silveno-ley
    PT ask=3SG.M.A 3SG.F.TOP close-PTCP window-P.INAN[/gloss]
    ‘Her he asks to close the window.’

Material from 2008 is not quite fresh anymore, but going through my example texts, I also found the following sentence fragment in the 2010/11 Conlang Holiday Card Exchange (interlinear glossing updated to current standards):

  1. [gloss]nārya le tavisayang takan incam dagangyeley
    nārya le tavisa=yang takan-Ø int-yam dangang-ye-ley
    but PT.INAN receive=1S.A chance-TOP buy-PTCP card-PL-P.INAN[/gloss]
    ‘but I got the chance to buy cards’

In both cases, the subordinating verb is transitive: (1) ‘he asks her’, (2) ‘I got the chance’; pinya- ‘ask’ in (1) is a raising an object-control verb (the logical subject of the subordinate verb is the object of the verb in the matrix clause), while int- ‘buy’ in (2) should simply be an infinite clausal complement. However, in both cases we do neither get the complement awkwardly placed in the middle, nor are the sentences rephrased so as to result in a finite complement clause or a nominalized complement to avoid the infinite verb form:

    1. ?? [gloss]Sa pinyayāng rimayam silvenoley ye.
      Sa pinya=yāng rima-yam silveno-ley ye
      PT ask=3SG.M.A close-PTCP window-P.INAN 3SG.F.TOP[/gloss]
      ‘Her he asks to close the window.’
    2. [gloss]Pinyayāng, ang rimaye silvenoley.
      pinya=yāng, ang rima=ye.Ø silveno-ley
      ask=3SG.M.A, AT close=3SG.F.TOP window-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘He asks that she closes the window.’

    1. [gloss]nārya le tavisayang takan intanena dagangyena
      nārya le tavisa=yang takan-Ø intan-ena dangang-ye-na
      but PT.INAN receive=1S.A chance-TOP purchase-GEN card-PL-GEN[/gloss]
      ‘but I got the chance of a purchase of cards’
    2. [gloss]nārya le tavisayang takan, ang incay dagangyeley
      nārya le tavisa=yang takan-Ø, ang int=ay.Ø dangang-ye-ley
      but PT.INAN receive=1S.A chance-TOP, AT buy=1SG.TOP card-PL-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘but I got the chance that I buy cards’

Both constructions, (1) and (2) are not widely attested in my materials, and the new grammar doc as it currently is does not rule out cases like (2), insofar I only need to make up my mind about constructions like in (1): continue allowing them as a variant, declare them ungrammatical, or simply ignore them? In the first case I might be required to keep a VP or a functional equivalent of it, after all, since there would be a post-subject position associated with verbs, then. In any case, raising and control should be interesting topics to come to terms with in my conlang.