Tag Archives: predicative

A Question of Alignment XII: Conclusion

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


Now that a few tests have been conducted, let us collect the results. As Table 1 shows, Tagalog and Ayeri are not really similar in syntax despite superficial similarities in morphology. According to Kroeger (1991)’s thesis—which essentially seeks to critically review and update Schachter (1976)’s survey by leaning on LFG theory—Tagalog prefers what Kroeger analyzes as the nominative argument for most of the traits usually associated with subjects listed below. That is, in his analysis, the nominative argument is the NP in a clause which is marked on the verb, which corresponds to Schachter (1976)’s ‘topic’, or Schachter (2015)’s ‘trigger’—’trigger’ is also the term often seen in descriptions of constructed languages in this respect. Kroeger (1991) finds in his survey that the nominative argument is largely independent from the actor, so that the logical subject is not necessarily the syntactic subject; what Schachter (1976) calls ‘topic’ also does not behave like a pragmatic topic in terms of statistics.

Essentially, what Tagalog does according to Kroeger (1991)’s analysis, is to generalize voice marking beyond passive voice, so that any argument of the verb can be the subject. However, unlike passives in English, higher-ranking roles (for passives, the agent) appear not to be suppressed or to be demoted to adverbials like it happens in English with the periphrasis of the agent with by in passive clauses. Linguists have been grappling for a long time with this observation, and constraint-based approaches, such as LFG (recently, Bresnan et al. 2016) or HPSG (Pollard and Sag 1994) pursue, may be able to explain things more succinctly than structuralist ones due to greater flexibility. In any case, Kroeger (1991) avoids the terms ‘active’ or ‘passive’ possibly for this reason, and instead uses ‘actor voice’ (AV), ‘objective voice’ (OV), ‘dative/locative voice’ (DV) etc. (14–15).

Ayeri, in contrast to Tagalog, very much prefers the actor argument (called agent here for consistency) for traits usually associated with subjects, independent of whether the agent is also the topic of the clause—in Ayeri it is the topic which is marked on the verb, not the nominative argument. In spite of a few irregularities like patient agreement in agentless clauses and using topicalization as a way to disambiguate the syntactic pivot in ambiguous cases, Ayeri is remarkably consistent with a NOMACC language. The fact that there is a subject in the classic, structural sense is also evidence for the hypothesis that Ayeri is configurational. Since it clearly prefers agent NPs over other NPs, not all arguments of a verb are on equal footing. Tagalog, on the other hand, treats the arguments of verbs in a much more equal manner.

Table 1: Comparison between Tagalog (Kroeger 1991) and Ayeri
CriterionTagalogAyeri
Marked on the verbnominative argument (NOM)topic argument (TOP)
Verb agreementoptional; if present with NOM, independent of being Arequired; typically with A, independent of being TOP
Syntactic pivotdetermined by NOM, independent of being Ausually with A, but determined by TOP in ambiguous cases
Quantifier floatreferring to NOM, independent of being Areferring to A, independent of being TOP
Relativizationonly of NOM, independent of being A(all NPs may be relativized)
Control of secondary predicatesreferring to NOM, independent of being Areferring to A or P depending on semantics, but independent of being TOP
Raisingusually of NOM; A possible but marked for someonly of A, independent of being TOP; no ECM
ControlA deletion target, independent of being NOM (with exceptions)A deletion target, independent of being TOP

It was pointed out before that in Tagalog, the syntactic pivot depends on what is marked as a subject (Kroeger 1991: 30–31). This and other examples from Kroeger (1991) may make it seem like Tagalog is not fixed with regards to the distinction between NOMACC and ERGABS alignment. However, Kroeger (1991) also points out that there is a statistically significant preference to select patient arguments as subjects, and that OV forms of verbs are “morphologically more ‘basic’” (53) than their respective AV counterparts. These observations point towards an interpretation of Tagalog as syntactically ergative, though Kroeger (1991) deems such an interpretation problematic due to non-nominative agents keeping their status as arguments of the verb—which also distinguishes Tagalog from an ergative languages like Dyirbal, where “ergative (or instrumental) marked agents are relatively inert, playing almost no role in the syntax, and have been analyzed as oblique arguments” (54).

In conclusion, is Ayeri a so-called ‘trigger language’? Yes and no. It seems to me that what conlangers call ‘trigger language’ mostly refers to just the distinct morphological characteristic of languages like Tagalog by which a certain NP is marked on the verb with a vague notion that this NP is in some way important in terms of information structure.1 Ayeri incorporates this morphological feature and may thus be counted among ‘trigger languages’ by this very broad definition. However, the real-world Austronesian alignment as a syntactic phenomenon goes much deeper than that and is much more intriguing, as I have tried to show in this series of blog articles, and I did not even cover all of the effects Kroeger (1991) describes in his survey. Ayeri, in syntactically behaving rather consistently like a NOMACC language, (somewhat sadly, in retrospect) misses the point completely if ‘trigger language’ is understood to also entail syntactic characteristics of Philippine languages.

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹http://www.gial.edu/wp-content/uploads/paul_kroeger/PK-thesis-revised-all-chapters-readonly.pdf›.
  • Pollard, Carl and Ivan A. Sag. Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 1994. Print. Studies in Contemporary Linguistics.
  • 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.
  • ———. “Tagalog.” Syntax—Theory and Analysis: An International Handbook. Ed. Tibor Kiss and Artemis Alexiadou. Vol. 3. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2015. 1658–1676. Print. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 42. DOI: 10.1515/9783110363685-007.
  1. I want to encourage everyone to actually do some reading of the professional literature on a given topic instead of only relying on the second-hand knowledge of other people in the conlanging community. It’s hard but you’ll learn from it. With the internet, finding articles and books is as easy as ever. This is one of the reasons why I give citations under the more serious blog articles, and make sure to link literature that is legally available online.

A Question of Alignment XI: Control

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


Control verbs behave basically in the opposite way of raising verbs: the subject of the subordinate verb is also an argument of the verb in the matrix clause—subject or object—and this argument acts as a controller for the subject of the subordinate verb. The main clause predicate thus is thought to assign two thematic roles. In GG it is assumed that the subject of the lower clause is a silent PRO element which is coindexed with the controller (Carnie 2013: 442–445, 451).

    1. Subject control:

      Johni tries [that Johni gets a job]
      = Johni tries [PROi to tPRO get a job]

    2. Object control:

      The officer ordered Maryi [that Maryi turn back]
      = The officer ordered Maryi [PROi to tPRO turn back]

Kroeger (1991) refers to subject control as ‘Equi’ and reports that according to Schachter (1976: 505), it is typically the actor of the subordinate verb that is the target of deletion. At first sight this would be a strong argument in favor of defining the actor NP as the subject, however, he notes that under certain circumstances, “the controllee in a transitive complement clause [is allowed] to be either the Actor (regardless of case marking) or the argument which bears nominative case” (Kroeger 1991: 37). This is the case, for instance, with himukin ‘persuade’ and magpilit ‘insist on’. Subordinate verbs marked for non-volitive mood form an exception as well (36–37, also 96–97). Kroeger (1991) illustrates the main pattern of control in Tagalog with the following set of example sentences in (2).

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 37):

While the nominative argument of the subordinate verb changes between the actor in (2a), the theme in (2b), and the recipient in (2c), it is always the actor which is dropped as the coreferential argument. Why the example sentences in (2) use balak ‘plan, intend’ in its object-voice form is not explained. However, Kroeger (1991) mentions that “alternation in the voice category of the matrix verb and the case marking of the controller does not affect the control relation” (37). In other words: whether the actor in the matrix clause is the subject or not does not matter; for Tagalog’s equivalent of subject-control verbs the control relationship always finds its origin in the actor argument, although there are a few exceptions, as mentioned above. The set in (3) presents an interesting example of (‘obligatory’) control based on the patient/theme argument in Tagalog’s equivalent of object-control verbs.

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 93–94):

Regarding (3ab), Kroeger (1991) explains that “when the complement verb appears in its volitive (unmarked) form, the controllee must be the Actor of the embedded clause” (93). Thus, Maria cannot be the patient subject in (3b), since she is still the controllee. If the verb of the embedded clause is marked for non-volitive mood as in (3c), however, the sentence becomes grammatical: “When the embedded verb is marked for non-volitive mood, the pattern is reversed: the controllee must be the subject, and not the Actor. Actor gaps cannot be controlled in non-volitive complements” (94). The difference between obligatory and non-obligatory control adds a further complication to acceptability, but these details do not need to preoccupy us for the purpose of comparison to Ayeri, which lacks these distinctions.

As previously with raising verbs, it is possible in Ayeri to combine a subordinating verb with a full complement clause (4a), an embedded IP complement (4b), or complete incorporation (4c). In both (4a) and (4b) cases, it is necessarily the actor which is coreferened, as the bottom arrow shows. In (4c), the bottom arrow does not show coreference, but the relation of verb agreement. The arrow on top, as before, shows what the respective verb picks as the clause’s topic for all example sentences.

As with raising verbs, the embedded and incorporated verbs appear in a non-finite form, the participle. For (4b) the reason may be that there is no overt agent in the clause with which to agree, and agreement with the patient does not make sense here because the clause does not express a passive either. In (4c) the reason may be that the main verb already carries person features. If the topic marking on the finite verb is altered as in (5), the meaning of the sentences does not change with regards to grammatical relations and voice, giving us yet more reason to assume that the agent is the grammatical subject, and that topic marking has no influence on these matters. Ayeri thus has actual subject-control verbs in the way English has them.

In object-control constructions, the object of the matrix clause’s verb is an actual argument of it, as shown in (6). This argument becomes the subject of the embedded clause, and there is no change in the meaning of the verb between both versions of sentences. We have seen above that Ayeri does not allow to-object raising, since it is not possible to assign patient case to an external agent because Ayeri’s case marking is not purely based on grammatical functions, but there is still also some semantic motivation. Ayeri does, however, allow object control, so it seems to be possible at least to implicitly convert the matrix clause’s patient or theme to the agent of the embedded clause, while the opposite is apparently not possible. Whether syntactic precedence or some kind of accessibility hierarchy is involved here still needs to be investigated.

    1. John asked [Mary to give Peter the book]
      = John asked Mary
    2. The teacher instructs [the students to calculate parables]
      = The teacher instructs the students
    3. I persuaded [my friend to come along]
      = I persuaded my friend

The example sentences in (7) follow the format of those above. Again, it is generally possible to use a complement clause as in (7a) or (7b), as well as complementing the verb in the matrix clause with a non-finite clause with object control (7c). However, the incorporation strategy is not possible here because this would cause a doubling of case roles (7d). As we will see below, however, this is not an issue for intransitive complement clauses.

Strictly speaking, it does not matter in (7a) and (7b) whether the coreferenced argument is the topic in both clauses or not; it is simply not unlikely that it is. Again, topicalization does not have an effect on grammatical relations—although it was shown above that Tagalog, in the canonical case, deviates from its normal behavior as well with regards to control verbs to the point where this construction has been used as an argument in favor of the actor argument being the subject. As for Ayeri, unlike in coordinated main clauses, topicalization is not a strategy for disambiguation of several possible controllers for the pronominal agent of the complement/embedded clause here. Due to the semantics of the verb in the matrix clause, it is clear that the patient argument is to be understood as the agent of the subordinate verb. Thus, there is no ambiguity in anaphoric reference in the complement clause.

  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Print. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹http://www.gial.edu/wp-content/uploads/paul_kroeger/PK-thesis-revised-all-chapters-readonly.pdf›.
  • 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 X: Raising

  • Example (6) in this article is likely wrong, structurally. I’ll update it when I’ve figured some more things out.
  • It’s internally more consistent to maybe analyze it as a VP complement getting its verb extracted and adjoined as a complement to the main verb. There is no “incorporation” of the subordinate object into the matrix clause as such. [Figure 1] [Figure 2]

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


Raising verbs involve the sharing of the subject of an embedded clause with the structural subject or object position of its matrix clause; the complement clause’s subject appears as a gap in English. The raised subject is not semantically an argument of the matrix clause’s verb. The matrix clause’s subject may also be a dummy ‘it’ or ‘there’ in English.

    1. It seemed that Johni knows the answer.
    2. Johni seemed _i to know the answer.
    3. *Johni seemed it.

    1. I expected that Lindai sings the national anthem.
    2. I expected Linda _i to sing the national anthem.
    3. !I expected Linda.

Kroeger (1991: 27–28) states that, as expected, raising is restricted to nominative arguments in Tagalog. Non-nominative actors may be raised into the matrix clause as well, however, but at least for some speakers there needs to be a resumptive pronoun—basically, an overt pronominal ‘trace’ in terms of GG—in the complement clause, as shown in (4). Example (3) shows a case of raising of the nominative argument of the complement clause to the patient of a transitive verb; the nominative argument of the complement clause subsequently is realized as a gap coindexed with the patient of the matrix clause, that is, the raised argument. In English, one would speak of to-object raising, though here the patient of gusto, sila, is in its nominative form, so syntactically, ng Nanay ‘mother’, the actor, is the object in this clause. In (4a), the verb of the complement clause, lutuin ‘cooks’, marks its patient argument as the subject. Yet, the non-subject agent, Charlie, is raised to occupy the patient role in the matrix clause. The position of the non-subject agent in the complement clause is subsequently realized as a resumptive pronoun, niya, coindexed with the raised NP. Example (4b) shows that it would be ungrammatical to have a gap in its stead.

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 26):

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 28):
    1. *gusto ko si Charliei na lutuin _i ang suman

Kroeger (1991) presumably switches to labeling the raised NP as ABS in (4) because it is the patient-subject of gusto ‘want’ (note the actor ko occurs in genitive case); the patient of the embedded clause, suman ‘rice cake’, is also marked as a subject with the verb indicating this by object-voice marking. This is basically consistent with how an ABSERG language would mark subjects. Unfortunately, Kroeger (1991) only gives examples of ‘to-patient’ raising, but not of ‘to-actor’ raising (Carnie 2013: 430). As we will see below, Ayeri has no problem with the former (as to-subject raising), however, it cannot do the latter (as to-object raising), probably for semantic reasons. First of all, let us look at to-subject raising, however.

    1. *

      Surpye {ang Pada.}

      surp-ye ang=Pada

      seem-3SG.F A=Pada

      ‘Pada seems.’

In (5), Pada is both the topic and the subject of koron- ‘know’, but not of surp- ‘seem’, as (5d) shows. However, Pada can be made the subject of the matrix clause, as shown in (5b). Raising results in an intransitive matrix clause, which means that topicalizing the only argument of the verb is blocked, as illustrated by the ungrammaticality of (5c). The verb in (5b) also becomes non-finite, like in English. Unlike in Tagalog, it cannot carry any marking for grammatical relations. Furthermore, it is possible in Ayeri to form a complex predicate like surp- koronyam in (6), literally ‘seems knowing’, with all of the arguments of the embedded clause becoming arguments of the matrix clause, that is, the matrix verb is interpreted as a transitive clause and may carry topic marking for any of its syntactic (rather than semantic) arguments.

If the topic is actually the subject, it should be possible in Ayeri to raise non-actor topics into the matrix clause easily. Of course, this is possible in Tagalog. In (7a), thus, Manuel is the one arrested, so he is the patient of the subordinate clause which acts as the subject of the matrix clause. The fact that Manuel is a patient-subject of the subordinate verb, hulihin ‘be caught’, is reflected in its being marked for objective voice. The English translation is consequently given with the subordinate clause phrased in the passive voice. Similarly, in (7b), the subordinate verb, sinuhulan ‘be bribed’, is marked for directional voice. According to this, ang pangulo ‘the president’ is a non-actor subject of the subordinate verb here as well. It also is in the matrix clause, since the matrix verb, napagbintangan ‘be accused of’, is marked for directional voice.

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 26):

As we have seen above, the marking of the privileged NP on the verb in Ayeri has no effect on grammatical relations; making a transitive verb agree with an NP other than the agent NP was also judged questionable. Thus, we would expect Ayeri to not allow for the same flexibility as Tagalog. The next two sets of example sentences, (8) and (9), thus feature non-actor topics in the complement clause in the (a) examples which we attempt to raise into the subject position of the matrix clause in the (b) examples.

Comparing (8) and (9) with (7a) and (7b), it becomes apparent that Ayeri is very dissimilar to Tagalog with regards to the promotion of a non-actor NP to the subject of the matrix clause in that it is not possible to produce a grammatical result this way. Besides yet more evidence for the disconnect between the marking on the verb and subject assignment and also evidence in favor of an interpretation of the actor NP as the subject, it is possibly the fact that the subordinate verb appears in a non-finite form when raising occurs that prevents some of the flexibility of Tagalog observed above. Even if Ayeri were to work like Tagalog large and by, since finiteness in Ayeri also includes topic marking, it would not be possible for the non-finite verb to mark the assignment of grammatical roles to its complements, overt or covert.

The examples (3) and (4) from Tagalog quoted initially both feature to-object raising: the subject of the complement clause becomes an object of the matrix clause’s verb. This phenomenon is also known as exceptional case marking (ECM) or accusative and infinitive (AcI) and entails that the matrix verb assigns accusative/objective case to the raised subject (Carnie 2013: 439–442). The raised subject is not semantically an object of the matrix verb, however, but an external agent:

    1. Mother wants them to study tonightMother wants them
    2. Mary expects him to tidy the roomMary expects him
    3. John hears people sing in the streetJohn hears people

Ayeri avoids this kind of construction. The reason for this is probably that even though it treats agent and patient as semantic metaroles rather permissively, case marking is nonetheless based on semantic roles rather than purely based on syntactic function. Due to the uniqueness condition, a verb in Ayeri cannot have two agent arguments, yet the raised object is an agent, albeit an external one. It is still salient enough as an agent to preclude assigning it patient case, though.

    1. Galamye {ang Sipra,} {ang sibunja} Ijān sangalas.

      galam-ye ang=Sipra ang=sibund-ya Ø=Ijān sangal-as

      expect-3SG.F A=Sipra AT=tidy-3SG.M TOP=Ijān room-P

      ‘Sipra expects that Ijān tidy up the room.’

    2. *

      {Ang galamye} Sipra {ang/sa Ijān} sibunjam sangalas.

      ang=galam-ye Ø=Sipra ang=/sa=Ijān sibund-yam sangal-as

      AT=expect-3SG.F TOP=Sipra A=/P=Ijān tidy-PTCP room-P

      Intended: ‘Sipra expects Ijān to tidy up the room.’

    3. *

      {Ang galamye} sibunjam Sipra {sa Ijān} sangalas.

      ang=galam-ye sibund-yam Ø=Sipra sa=Ijān sangal-as

      AT=expect-3SG.F tidy-PTCP TOP=Sipra P=Ijān room-P

      Intended: ‘Sipra expects Ijān to tidy up the room.’

The example sentences in (11) show that to-object raising is not possible with verbs of wanting—here using galam- ‘expect’ by way of example. That is, the subject of the complement clause in (11a), Ijān, cannot take the object position of the matrix clause in (11b), nor is it possible to form a complex predicate with the arguments of the subordinate verb, sibund- ‘tidy’, becoming arguments of the matrix clause’s verb, galam- ‘expect’, in the way of (6) in (11c).

Other verbs which allow to-object raising in English include verbs of wanting like need or want, or verbs of perception like see or hear. English also permits this construction for verbs of cognition like believe, consider, know, and think, and for verbs expressing a causative relationship like make or let. Verbs like make or let do not have direct counterparts in Ayeri, as Ayeri uses a morphosyntactic strategy rather than a lexical one to express causative relationships. However, as (12) shows, Ayeri does not allow to-object raising with verbs of perception and verbs of cognition either.

    1. *

      {Ang tangya} Yan keynamas malyyam kirinya.

      ang=tang-ya Ø=Yan keynam-as maly-yam kirin-ya

      A=hear-3SG.M TOP=Yan people-P sing-PTCP street-LOC

      ‘Yan hears people sing in the street.’

    2. *

      Paronyeng {sa Avan} tesayam.

      paron=yeng sa=Avan tesa-yam

      believe=3SG.F.A P=Avan lie-PTCP

      ‘She believes Avan to lie.’

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 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.

  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.

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

Text in English

The text to be translated in this Translation Challenge is the initial passage of Tolstoy’s 1878 novel Anna Karenina.1 The Ayeri translation here follows the English one by Constance Garnett (1901), which can be found on Project Gutenberg.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household, were painfully conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given warning. (Tolstoy 2013)

Ayeri translation

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

Kamayon pandahajang-hen mino; minarya miraneri sitang-ton pandahāng-hen minarya.

Enyareng atauya kāryo nangaya pandahana Oblonski. Silvisaye sarisa envanang, ang manga miraya ayon yena cān-cānas layeri Kahani, seri ganvayās pandahaya ton, nay ang narisaye ayonyam yena, ang ming saylingoyye mitanyam nangaya kamo kayvo yāy. Eng manga yomāran eda-mineye luga bahisya kay, nay tong vakas ten pulengeri, sitang-tong-namoy ayonang nay envanang, nārya nasimayajang-hen pandahana nay nangānena ton naynay. Ang mayayo nyān-hen nangaya, ming tenubisoyrey, mitantong kadanya. Ang engyon vihyam miromānjas keynam si sa lancon kadanya apineri kondangaya, nasimayajas pandahana nay nangānena Oblonski. Ang saroyye envan sangalas yena, ang manga yomoyya ayon rangya ton luga bahisya kay. Sa senyon ganye nangaya-hen; ang ranye ganvaya Angli kayvo lomāyaya visam nay ang tahanye ledoyam, yam mya balangyeng pinyan yanoley gumo hiro ye; ang saraya ersaya bahisya sarisa pidimya tarika sirutayyānena; ang narisaton lomāya risang nay lantaya vapatanas ton.

More information

I also made a PDF containing interlinear glosses and commentary for this translation.2,3

  • Plank, Frans, Thomas Mayer, Tatsiana Mayorava and Elena Filimonova, eds. The Universals Archive. 1998–2009. U Konstanz, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://typo.uni-konstanz.de/archive/intro›.
  • 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.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Eds. David Brannan, David Widger and Andrew Sly. Trans. by Constance Garnett. Project Gutenberg. 11 Oct. 2014. Project Gutenberg, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1399›.
  1. Hat tip to Steven Lytle for suggesting it.
  2. Also, please let me add that XƎTEX is pretty darn awesome.
  3. Updated with some corrections on Dec 11, 2014. See the diff on Github for changes.

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

Ang
AT
vacye
like-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
nay
and
sa Paul.
P=NAME.

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

“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

Ang
AT
vacye
like-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
​sa Jon​
P=NAME
soyang
or
​sa Paul​?
P=NAME?

“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.

Ang
AT
vacye
like-3SF
sano/kamo
both/same
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
soyang
or
sa Paul.
P=NAME.

Ang
AT
vacye
like-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
soyang-soyang
either~or
sa Paul.
P=NAME

“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:

Ang
AT
vacoyye
like-NEG-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
​sa Jon​
P=NAME
soyang
or
​sa Paul​?
P=NAME?

“Doesn’t Mary like John or Paul (or possibly both)?”
Ang
AT
vacoyye
like-NEG-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
nay
and
sa Paul.
P=NAME.

“Mary doesn’t like John and Paul.”
Ang
AT
vacoyye
like-NEG-3SF
sano/kamo
both/same
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
nay
and
sa Paul.
P=NAME.

Ang
AT
vacoyye
like-NEG-3SF
sano/kamo
both/same
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P-NAME
soyang
or
sa Paul.
P-NAME.

Ang
AT
vacoyye
like-NEG-3SF
Ø Mari
T.NAME
sa Jon
P=NAME
soyang-soyang
either~or
sa Paul.
P=NAME.

“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

Seygoreng
apple-A.INAN
tuvo
red
nay
and
paso.
sweet.

“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:

Kamareng
be.equal-3S.INAN.A
tuvo
red
nay
and
paso.
sweet.

“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:

Eng
AT.INAN
kamāra
be.equal-3S.INAN
seygo
apple.T
paso
sweet
bilingley.
honey-P.INAN.

“The apple is as sweet as honey.”

Eng
AT.INAN
kamāra
be.equal-3S.INAN
seygo
apple.T
paso
sweet
tuvo.
red.

“The apple is as sweet as (it is) red.”

5. OR and XOR with predicative adjectives

Adareng
that-A.INAN
tuvo
red
soyang
or
paso?
sweet?

“Is it red or sweet (or possibly both)?”

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

Kamareng
be.equal-3S.INAN
tuvo
red
soyang
or
paso.
sweet.

“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.

Adareng
that-A.INAN
voy
not
tuvo
red
soyang
or
voy
not
paso?
sweet?

“Is it not red or not sweet (or possibly neither)?”

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

Seygoreng
apple-3S.INAN
voy
not
paso.
sweet.

“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:

Kamoyreng
be.equal-NEG-3S.INAN
tuvo
red
soyang
or
paso.
sweet.

“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
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

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 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.
  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.
  2. I think I remember having read that Slavic languages have a similar strategy?
  3. How does Indonesian distinguish ‘his sad mother’ from ‘made his mother sad’, by the way? Please explain! 🙂