Tag Archives: adjectives

A Question of Alignment IX: Control of Secondary Predicates

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

Secondary predicates in Tagalog are interesting insofar as depictive adjectives which occur after the verb always modify the nominative argument:

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 29–30):

Kroeger (1991: 30) explains that (1c) is anomalous, since the subject is indicated as ang isda ‘the fish’, however, lasing ‘drunk’ is not a property usually associated with fish—it would fit better with ‘Maria’. However, this interpretation would be ungrammatical since ‘Maria’ is not the subject of the clause.

Secondary predicates in Ayeri also follow the finite verb, and they refer to the agent. If what was identified as the topic would be the subject like in Tagalog, thus, the reference of the adjective should change in the way shown in (1). However, as we will see below, this is not the case.

In (2a), the topic NP, Migray, happens to be the same NP that is modified by the secondary predicate, gino ‘drunk’: Migray is drunk. However, (2b) generates the same reading even though this time, sangal ‘the room’ is marked as the topic of the clause. A reading in which the room is drunk cannot be forced by morphological means, although it needs to be pointed out that predicative adjectives relating to the object inhabit the same postverbal position. Considering structure alone, the sentence in (2b) is ambiguous, though context certainly favors the reading provided in the translation of (2b), since ‘drunk’ is not typically a property of rooms.

Different than in (2), the adjective in (3), sati ‘cold’, refers to the object of the clause, kangaley ‘milk’, even though kangaley is not the topic of the clause. By structure alone, Niyas could also be the one who is cold, rather than the milk, however, this would be unlikely considering context and extralinguistic experience. Equally unlikely is the possible interpretation of the milk becoming cold by Niyas’ drinking it.

Different than in Tagalog, thus, it is not morphology but the meaning of the verb which determines whether the postverbal predicative adjective refers to the agent or the patient.[1. Unfortunately, Kroeger (1991) does not provide any examples of object predicatives in Tagalog, and neither does Schachter and Otanes (1972) readily contain information on these.] However, since in Ayeri, the predicative adjective following the verb can refer to either the agent or the patient depending on context, this test does not have a very clear outcome. At least we could establish here that alternations in the morphological marking of the privileged NP—tentatively, the topic—has no impact on the relation between adjective and noun. The marking on the verb is thus not used for manipulating grammatical relations in this context, unlike in Tagalog.

Reduplication issues

Ayeri uses reduplication for a number of things, because reduplication is a nice feature. Says the Grammar on this topic (§ 3.2.3):

It is used for hortatives, to indicate that something is done again, and it is used to form diminutives of nouns.

There are two patterns listed for verbs, one with complete reduplication of the imperative verb form for hortative statements, and one with partial reduplication as a way to express that an action takes place again, i.e. some kind of frequentative – like this:

nara- ‘speak’ naru-naru ‘let’s speak’ na-naru ‘let’s speak again’
narayeng ‘she speaks’ na-narayeng ‘she speaks again’

Nouns use complete reduplication to derive diminutive forms, for example veney-veney ‘doggie’ < veney ‘dog’. Sometimes, this is also lexicalized, though:

agu ‘chicken’ agu-agu ‘chick’
gan ‘child’ gan-gan ‘grandchild’
kusang ‘double’ kusang-kusang ‘model’
veh- ‘build, construct’ veha-veha ‘tinkering’

As you can see from the above examples, the outcome of lexicalized reduplication of nouns is not always what one would expect from a strict interpretation: sometimes the result simply adds a more endearing shade of meaning to the original word than strictly signifying a smaller version of the thing.

Last year, however, I also began applying (lexicalized) reduplication to adjectives as a means of derivation:

apan ‘wide’ apan-apan ‘extensive’
ikan ‘complete, whole’ ikan-ikan ‘entire; completely, totally’
pisu ‘tired, exhausted’ pisu-pisu ‘tiresome, exhausting’

This is all fair enough, but when I was translating something very recently, I even found myself using this reduplication of adjectives productively:

[gloss]Nay yanoyam ada-reng voy sano talingaya-as nay kayvomaya-j-as kayvan-ya nā, ang paron-ay gamar-yam – kebay~kebay – sidegan-ley kopo=ikan.
and because that-A.INAN NEG both mechanic-P and passenger-PL-P company-LOC 1SG.GEN, AT prepare-1SG.T manage-PTCP – EMPH~alone – repair-P.INAN difficult=very.[/gloss]
‘And because there were neither a mechanic nor passengers in my company, I prepared to manage – all alone – a very difficult repair.’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 13)

What I did here is reduplicating kebay ‘alone’ to kebay-kebay ‘all alone’. The question is then, whether I should regularize this reduplication process, too, as a means to emphasize the large extent of the quality described by the adjective. This is, essentially, an augmentative function.

Now, in languages like German or French, adjectives are noun-like in that they agree with their noun heads in categories of the noun – in German and French this would be number and case. In Ayeri, on the other hand, adjectives aren’t inflected for either the noun’s or the verb’s categories, but they are still nouny in that uninflected nouns may serve as adjectives easily, for example:

anang ‘charm’ anang ‘charming’
dipakan ‘pity’ dipakan ‘pathetic, wretched, pitiable’
gino ‘drink’ gino ‘drunk’
ijan ‘silver; coin’ ijan ‘rich’
karon ‘water; sea’ karon ‘liquid’
mihan ‘wood’ mihan ‘wooden’

This is also relevant regarding case-inflected noun compounds, for example kihas ‘map’ in this passage:

[gloss][​N​]ara-tang, ang mya pasy-ong-ay=eng sungkoran-as kihas[.]
say-3PL.M.A AT be.supposed.to be.interested.in-IRR-1SG.T=rather science-P map[/gloss]
‘[T]hey told me, I should rather be interested in geography[.]’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 12)

The question then is, if adjectives are essentially nouny in Ayeri, should there be a reduplicating derivative method that basically does the opposite of what it does for nouns? It doesn’t necessarily strike me as counter-intuitive given the range of things that reduplication is already used for in Ayeri, but systematically it seems confusing. Also, consider that although nouns are rather consistently case-marked in Ayeri, they appear zero-marked (that is, superficially unmarked) when they carry the topic morpheme. Thus, a topic-marked diminutive noun that also exists as a zero-derived adjective could at least potentially clash with a reduplicated adjective at least in its identical surface form.

  • De Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. Le Petit Prince. Ed. Rudolf Strauch. 11th ed. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1991. 12–13. Print.
  • I replaced *bata-bata ‘grandchild’ with the regularly formed gan-gan in the dictionary already a while ago but didn’t change it here. I did that now. I think my coining *bata-bata was due to mixing up bata ‘short’ with gan ‘child’ for some reason.

Correlative Conjunctions

In the course of my website renovation I added a way to search the dictionary by semantic fields (‘tags’) so as to be able to list words thematically as well. While working on tagging words, I came across yet another bit about Ayeri that’s been annoying me for a longer time: correlative conjunctions, specifically either … or and its negative counterpart neither … nor. According to what is in the dictionary, these are formed as in … in and sing … sing, respectively.

While I don’t think it’s too odd a strategy to introduce both NPs with the same particle, what I now think is kind of stupid is that both in and sing do not occur in any other context and aren’t related to anything else. As particles, they’re not alone in this regard, but as a part of Ayeri’s esthetics, I was trying to keep its system of conjunctions as simple as possible, mostly relying on nay ‘and’, soyang ‘or’ and nārya ‘but, although’. So here are some thoughts on avoiding in and sing, which I haven’t used much in the past anyway.

1. AND

[gloss]Ang vacye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} nay {sa Paul.}
AT like-3SF T.NAME P=NAME and P=NAME.[/gloss]
“Mary likes John and Paul.”
[gloss]Ang vacye sano/kamo {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} nay {sa Paul.}
AT like-3SF both/same T.NAME P=NAME and P=NAME.[/gloss]
“Mary likes both John and Paul.”
= “Mary equally likes John and Paul.”

The explicit emphasis of Mary liking both men can be produced by using sano ‘both’ or kamo ‘equal, same’ as an adverb.

2. OR and XOR

[gloss]Ang vacye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang {sa Paul?}
AT like-3SF T.NAME P=NAME or P=NAME?[/gloss]
“Does Mary like John or Paul (or possibly both)?”

Since Ayeri is not supposed to be a loglang, i.e. a logical language, inclusive and exclusive OR are conflated and must be interpreted by the recipient according to context, just like in English and many (most? all?) other natural languages.

[gloss]Ang vacye sano/kamo {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang {sa Paul.}
AT like-3SF both/same T.NAME P=NAME or P=NAME.[/gloss]
[gloss]Ang vacye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang-soyang {sa Paul.}
AT like-3SF T.NAME P=NAME either~or P=NAME[/gloss]
“Mary likes either John or Paul.”

The same construction as with nay ‘and’ above can be used here, but with soyang ‘or’. Alternatively, the conjunction can be reduplicated to soyang-soyang, compare naynay ‘and also, furthermore’.

3. NAND and NOR

The constructions here are like their positive counterparts above, but with a negated verb:

[gloss]Ang vacoyye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang {sa Paul?}
AT like-NEG-3SF T.NAME P=NAME or P=NAME?[/gloss]
“Doesn’t Mary like John or Paul (or possibly both)?”
[gloss]Ang vacoyye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} nay {sa Paul.}
AT like-NEG-3SF T.NAME P=NAME and P=NAME.[/gloss]
“Mary doesn’t like John and Paul.”
[gloss]Ang vacoyye sano/kamo {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} nay {sa Paul.}
AT like-NEG-3SF both/same T.NAME P=NAME and P=NAME.[/gloss]
[gloss]Ang vacoyye sano/kamo {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang {sa Paul.}
AT like-NEG-3SF both/same T.NAME P-NAME or P-NAME.[/gloss]
[gloss]Ang vacoyye {Ø Mari} {sa Jon} soyang-soyang {sa Paul.}
AT like-NEG-3SF T.NAME P=NAME either~or P=NAME.[/gloss]
“Mary doesn’t like both John and Paul.”
= “Mary doesn’t like either John or Paul.”
= “Mary likes neither John nor Paul.”

The examples so far have only covered objects of transitive verbs, but conjunctions of course may also be used between adjectives, for example, in predicative constructions, which is what we want to deal with in the following paragraphs.

4. AND with predicative adjectives

[gloss]Seygoreng tuvo nay paso.
apple-A.INAN red and sweet.[/gloss]
“The apple is red and sweet.”

This is the same as with the object NPs of transitive clauses. However, when emphasizing that both qualities are to be applied to the subject, the verb kama- ‘to be equal, to be as … as’ is used in place of the adverb kamo (or sano, respectively) above:

[gloss]Kamareng tuvo nay paso.
be.equal-3S.INAN.A red and sweet.[/gloss]
“It is both red and sweet.”

Note that this is slightly different from adjective comparation – although the same verb kama- is used in that circumstance – in that there is no conjunction between NPs in comparation:

[gloss]Eng kamāra seygo paso bilingley.
AT.INAN be.equal-3S.INAN apple.T sweet honey-P.INAN.[/gloss]
“The apple is as sweet as honey.”

[gloss]Eng kamāra seygo paso tuvo.
AT.INAN be.equal-3S.INAN apple.T sweet red.[/gloss]
“The apple is as sweet as (it is) red.”

5. OR and XOR with predicative adjectives

[gloss]Adareng tuvo soyang paso?
that-A.INAN red or sweet?[/gloss]
“Is it red or sweet (or possibly both)?”

Again, the same construction as with regular object NPs is used for simple coordination.

[gloss]Kamareng tuvo soyang paso.
be.equal-3S.INAN red or sweet.[/gloss]
“It is either red or sweet.”

This construction is a little more idiomatic and uses kama- as well, however with soyang ‘or’, not nay ‘and’ in order to express disjunction. The construction with reduplicated soyang does not occur here.

6. NAND and NOR with predicative adjectives

Of course, negation is possible with predicative adjectives as well.

[gloss]Adareng voy tuvo soyang voy paso?
that-A.INAN not red or not sweet?[/gloss]
“Is it not red or not sweet (or possibly neither)?”

The same strategy as with simple predicative adjectives is used here for negation, compare:

[gloss]Seygoreng voy paso.
apple-3S.INAN not sweet.[/gloss]
“The apple isn’t sweet.”

Since there is no verb that the negative suffix -oy can attach to, it is used in its free particle form, voy. For ‘neither … nor’, the following construction can be used in analogy to the positive version above:

[gloss]Kamoyreng tuvo soyang paso.
be.equal-NEG-3S.INAN red or sweet.[/gloss]
“It is neither red nor sweet.”

Thoughts on Object Predicatives

English and other languages have these nasty little things which I learnt are called “object predicatives,” that is, attributive complements to objects of transitive verbs (cf. Biber et al. 50). Since that’s a mouthful of abstract linguistic terminology, here’s an example of what I mean:

He / paints / the door / blue.
S / V / O / PRED

In order to look up which ways there are crosslinguistically to deal with these constructions I looked into my copy of Describing Morphosyntax as well as WALS, but sadly I couldn’t find anything useful quickly when I looked for “object predicative” and “object complement.” Since I intended Ayeri to be generally (and I mean broadly generally) influenced by Austronesian languages, I also had a look into my Indonesian grammar for fun, to see how that would deal with object complements/predicatives:

Indonesian, Sneddon (269; glosses by me):

Perbuatannya menjadikan ibunya sedih.
action-he cause mother-he sad
‘His actions made his mother sad.’

Mereka menganggapnya munafik.
they consider-he hypocrite
‘They consider him a hypocrite.’

We can see here that Indonesian also basically does it the same way as English by simply placing the adjective after the object NP. However, Indonesian, like English (on nouns at least), doesn’t mark case. German – although marking case all over the place – does it this way as well, though:

Seine Taten machten seine Mutter traurig.
he.GEN-PL.NOM deed-PL make-PST-3P he.GEN-F.SG.ACC mother sad
‘His actions made his mother sad.’

Sie halten ihn für einen Heuchler.
they.NOM hold-3P he.ACC for a-M.SG.ACC hypocrite
‘They consider him a hypocrite.’

Now what about my conlang? First, let’s look at an adjective complement of an intransitive verb (i.e. a subject complement):

Surpya ang Akan mino.
seem-3S A Akan happy
‘Akan seems happy.’

Now, to use the door-painting example from the beginning and the same sentence structure as with the previous example:

Le vitayāng kunang leno.[1. If you see vita- in the dictionary, you’ll currently find the example phrase Le məvitayang dano mereng ‘I painted the wall green’, where the color adjective (dano ‘green’) follows the verb. Seems like I’ve thought about this before but didn’t note it anywhere.]
PF paint-he.A door blue.
‘He paints the door blue’

Certainly this is one strategy to express this sentence with the syntax built in analogy to the intransitive example, but we will run into trouble when the complement of the object is not an adjective but a proper NP:

Ang garayan yās depang-???.
AF call-they he.P fool-???
‘They call him a fool.’

Since noun phrases need to be case-marked in Ayeri, what case should depang ‘fool’ have? A second patient? A way to solve this might be to exclude the direct object of the verb from the main clause and to put it instead into its own complement clause (So many complements here, gotta be careful!):[2. I think I remember having read that Slavic languages have a similar strategy?]

Garatang, yāng depangas.
call-they.A, he.A fool-P
‘They call (that) he (is a) fool.’ => ‘They call him a fool.’

Of course, we can then apply the same strategy to a sentence with an object predicative, and even one with a subject predicative, i.e. a predicative adjective modifying an intransitive verb:

Vitayāng, kunangreng leno.
paint-he.A, door-A.INAN blue
‘He paints (that) the door (is) blue.’ => ‘He paints the door blue.’

Surpreng, ang Akan mino.
seem-it.INAN.A, AF Akan happy.
‘It seems (that) Akan (is) happy.’

However, I’m not too fond of dummy-it constructions in Ayeri as presented in the Surpreng, … example, so I’d rather prefer the first rendition of the sentence at the beginning of this article. The point I wanted to make about the Vitayāng, … example is that this way there is no ambiguity whether the blue door is painted or whether there is a door painted blue: Since adjectives follow their heads, kunang leno just on its own means ‘blue door’, which potentially causes confusion. I presume that in spoken language the disambiguation between either case happens by intonation,[3. How does Indonesian distinguish ‘his sad mother’ from ‘made his mother sad’, by the way? Please explain! :)] however, in writing – where intonation is absent – or so as to give clear orders to your craftsmen, you might prefer the complement-clause phrasing.

  • Biber, Douglas, Susan Conrad, and Geoffrey Leech. Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. 8th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2002. 50. Print.
  • Sneddon, James N. Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar. New York: Routledge, 1996. 269. Print. Routledge grammars.

A Likely Translation Challenge

This is a cross-posting from the ZBB, as a note-to-self kind of thing.

Yāng minjisānas nilay.
[gloss]Ø yāng mindoy-isa-an-as nilay.
COP 3SM.AGT choose-CAU-NMLZ-PAT probable[/gloss]
‘He is a/the likely candidate.’
Yāng nilay minjisānas.
[gloss]Ø yāng nilay minjisān-as.
COP 3SM.AGT probably electee-PAT[/gloss]
‘He likely is/will likely be a/the candidate.’

Neat-o. Except I need an easier word for “candidate”…

What do we see here? Well, we see difference in meaning through word order in action:

  1. Modifiers mostly follow their heads, so in the first case, where “likely” modifies the “candidate”, nilay follows accordingly.
  2. The second case is a little trickier, and I’m not quite sure about it. Ayeri has a zero copula which I’ve so far glossed as “Ø/COP” at the beginning of sentences, since this is the place verbs usually appear in. However, in the second example above I have what’s technically an adverb follow the agent NP. There are languages that use personal pronouns as copulas actually, e.g. Hebrew (cf. Payne 117), so could we argue here that yāng fulfills the role of the copula here? This demands further investigation!
  • Payne, Thomas E. Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge: CUP, 1997. Print.
  • Prmysl. “TC: Likely.” Zompist BBoard. 6 Jun. 2011. Mark Rosenfelder, 2002. Web. 6 Jun. 2011.