Tag Archives: relative clauses

A Question of Alignment VIII: Relativization

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

Kroeger (1991) observes that in Tagalog, only nominative arguments may be relativized. He refers to Keenan and Comrie (1977)’s accessibility hierarchy of NPs, according to which, he reports, “if only a single argument of any clause can be relativized, that argument must be the subject” (Kroeger 1991: 24). That is, the argument in the main clause which is modified by a relative clause must be the nominative argument, and additionally, Tagalog requires that there must not appear an overt nominative argument in the relative clause itself. The verb in the relative clause carries inflection for the role of the relativized argument in the relative clause, which is itself gapped. Thus, (1a) is grammatical, while (1b) is not.

  1. Tagalog (Kroeger 1991:24, from Foley and Van Valin 1984: 141–142):
    1. bata=ng b-in-igy-an ng=lalake ng=isda

      child=LNK PFV-give-DV GEN=man GEN=fish

      ‘the child which was given fish by the man’

    2. *isda=ng nag-bigay ang=lalake sa=bata

      fish=LNK AV-PFV-give NOM=man DAT=child

Ayeri, however, has no such restrictions. Non-topic NPs may be relativized, and relative clauses not uncommonly contain their own agent NP. The relativized NP may even be referred to in the relative clause by a resumptive pronoun or pronominal clitic, since verbs must not go uninflected. Since all NPs are accessible for relativization, it is not a suitable criterion for testing the subjecthood of what we so far identified as the topic NP.

  1. {Ang ilya} inunley ganyam inunaya si gumasayāng edaya.

    ang=il-ya inun-ley gan-yam inunaya-Ø si gum-asa=yāng edaya

    AT=give-3SG.M fish-P.INAN child-DAT fisherman-TOP REL work-HAB=3SG.M.A here

    ‘The fisherman who used to work here, he gave fish to the child.’

In (2), inunaya ‘the fisherman’, is both the topic of the clause and modified by a relative clause. He is referenced anaphorically by the 3SG.M.A suffix -yāng on the verb in the relative clause, since he is the actor in both. However, as the next examples show, these circumstances are not requirements for grammatical statements.

    1. {Ang ilya} inunaya inunley ganyam si {ang pyabasaye} benanya-hen.

      ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø inun-ley gan-yam si ang=pyab-asa=ye.Ø benan-ya=hen

      AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP fish-P.INAN child-DAT REL AT=pass.by-HAB=3SG.F.TOP morning-LOC=every

      ‘The fisherman, he gave fish to the child which passes by every morning.’

    2. {Ang ilya} inunaya ganyam inunley si petigayāng hiro.

      ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø gan-yam inun-ley si petiga=yāng hiro

      AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP child-DAT fish-P.INAN REL catch=3SG.M.A freshly

      ‘The fisherman, he gave fish which he caught freshly to the child.’

In (3a), the recipient NP ganyam ‘to the child’ is not the topic of the clause, but it is modified by a relative clause anyway. The relativized NP is again represented within the relative clause by means of verb morphology. The topic marker on the verb identifies the person suffix on the verb as the clause’s topic. In (3b), it is likewise not the topic NP which is relativized, but the patient NP inunley ‘fish’. This NP, however, is not represented in the relative clause because the verb does not inflect for the role of the patient, which the relativized NP carries in the relative clause as well. There is no morphology to alter the voice of the verb in such a way that the matrix clause’s patient NP becomes the subject of the relative clause.

  1. {Ang ilya} inunaya ganyam inunley si hiro nay lepan.

    ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø gan-yam inun-ley si hiro nay lepan

    AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP child-DAT fish-P.INAN REL fresh and tasty

    ‘The fisherman, he gave fish which is fresh and tasty to the child.’

Relative clauses in Ayeri may even just consist of a predicative adjective, as (4) illustrates. In these cases, there is no case-marked noun or topic contained in the relative clause.

  • Foley, William A. and Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.
  • Keenan, Edward L. and Bernard Comrie. “Noun phrase accessibility and uni­versal grammar.” Linguistic Inquiry 8 (1977): 63–99. Print.
  • 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›.

Unclogging the Sink: Avoiding Center-Embedding with Subordinating Verbs

While working on the chapter on verb morphology in the revised Ayeri grammar I’ve been working on all the way since July, I had to stop the other day and consider how to deal with participles. With regards to Ayeri, these are the infinite subordinated verbs which appear together with verbs that may take another verb – or even a whole phrase headed by such an infinite verb – as a complement:

    1. [gloss]Cunyo makayam perinang.
      Cun-yo maka-yam perin-ang
      begin-3SG.N shine-PTCP sun-A[/gloss]
      ‘The sun began to shine.’
    2. [gloss]Manangyeng pengalyam badanas saha yena.
      Manang=yeng pengal-yam badan-as saha yena
      avoid=3SG.F.A meet-PTCP father-P in.law 3SG.F.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘She avoids to meet her father-in-law.’

Example (1a) shows two intransitive verbs being combined, cun- ‘begin’ (subordinating) and maka- ‘shine’ (complement); example (1b) illustrates an intransitive verb which takes a transitive verb as a complement, manang- ‘avoid’ (subordinating) and pengal- ‘meet’ (complement). We can also observe word order differences in that the agent NP in (1a) follows the initial verb complex while the agent NP is an enclitic pronoun directly following its governing verb in (1b), which is not surprising, since agent pronouns take verbs as clitic hosts. That is, the agent pronoun -yeng ‘she’ (3SG.F.A) bundles together with its governing verb manang- ‘avoid’ rather than cliticizing to the whole verb phrase,[1. If Ayeri has such a thing, which is kind of a problem for me right now. I need to read up on VSO-language syntax before I can make conclusive claims.] i.e. appending -yeng ‘she’ (3SG.F.A) to pengalyam ‘meeting’. As far as describing the morphology of participles goes, we are basically done here, and this is also where I stopped thinking previously.

However, if we actually continue from here and take a morphosyntactic point of view, an interesting question arises: what happens to the constituents’ linearization if we (a) use full NPs instead of cliticized agent pronouns, and (b) not only combine an intransitive verb with a transitive one, but try all possible combinations–intransitive, transitive, ditransitive, and any of these with adverbial adjuncts? I think that for the sake of sketching out my thoughts here, it won’t be necessessary to give examples of all 18 possible combinations, since the more complex cases should all be treated alike anyway.

Assuming that she in (1b) is Maha, who just doesn’t get along with her husband’s father, where does the agent NP go? As noted above, the position of the agent clitic is somewhat special, so I take it that (1a) should be the basic word order. Thus, for (1b), we get:

  1. [gloss]Manangye pengalyam badanas saha yena ang Maha.
    Manang-ye pengal-yam badan-as saha yena ang= Maha
    avoid-3SG.F meet-PTCP father-P in.law 3SG.F.GEN A= Maha[/gloss]
    ‘Maha avoids to meet her father-in-law.’

Besides the fact that the agent winds up at the very end of the clause instead of at its otherwise preferred position after the verb, this still seems to be comprehensible. What happens, however, if we use a transitive subordinating verb? The dictionary, for instance, lists pinya- ‘ask (s.o. to do sth.)’ as a candidate. With regards to the normal constituent order of Ayeri, we can assume that the patient NP will follow the agent one:

  1. [gloss]Ang pinyaya sahayam   Yan sa Pila.
    Ang pinya-ya saha-yam Ø= Yan sa= Pila
    AT ask-3SG.M go-PTCP TOP= Yan P= Pila[/gloss]
    ‘Yan asks Pila to go.’

This also still looks very harmless with regards to parsability. However, things become more complicated if we increase the complexity of the embedded phrase by making the subordinate verb transitive (4a) or even ditransitive (4b):

    1. [gloss]Ang pinyaya konjam inunas   Yan sa Pila.
      Ang pinya-ya kond-yam inun-as Ø= Yan sa= Pila
      AT ask-3SG.M eat-PTCP fish-P TOP= Yan P= Pila[/gloss]
      ‘Yan asks Pila to eat the fish.’
    2. [gloss]Ang pinyaya ilyam koyaley ledanyam yana   Yan sa Pila.
      Ang pinya-ya il-yam koya-ley ledan-yam yana Ø= Yan sa= Pila
      AT ask-3SG.M give-PTCP book-P.INAN friend-DAT 3SG.M.GEN TOP= Yan P= Pila[/gloss]
      ‘Yan asks Pila to give the book to his friend.’

The distance between the subordinating verb and its arguments grows by the increasing number of constituents in the embedded phrase, which in turn becomes increasingly “deep” in terms of underlying syntactic structure or “heavy” with regards to syntactic weight. The parser in both the speaker’s and the listener’s brain thus has to keep track of more and more relations in parallel. In terms of information flow, this does not strike me as beneficial or intuitive either to a speaker constructing the phrase, or to a listener having to decode the utterance. For the same reason, there is already a rule that relative clauses constitute “heavy” elements which pull their referent NP all the way to the back of the clause to keep the upper right field free of clutter. While (4a) is a little awkward since there are two patients to keep track of at the same time and at the time the first patient NP occurs we don’t know yet whether -ya is just for agreement or a cliticized agent-topic pronoun, example (4b) seems even more impenetrable with its three referents in the embedded clause and two in the matrix clause, placed at the end. Putting less important information before important information also goes against information-flow intuition.[1. Hat-tip to Oliver Schallert (blog article in German).] Restructuring seems advisable here, thus, and there are two possibilities:

    1. [gloss]Ang pinyaya _i   Yan sa Pila [ilyam koyaley ledanyam yana]i.
      Ang pinya-ya   Ø= Yan sa= Pila il-yam koya-ley ledan-yam yana
      AT ask-3SG.M   TOP= Yan P= Pila give-PTCP book-P.INAN friend-DAT 3SG.M.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘Yan asks Pila to give the book to his friend.’
    2. [gloss]Ang (dai-)pinyaya   Yan sa Pila [, ang ilye koyaley ledanyam yana]i.
      Ang (da=)pinya-ya Ø= Yan sa= Pila ang il=ye.Ø koya-ley ledan-yam yana
      AT (so=)ask-3SG.M TOP= Yan P= Pila AT give=3SG.F.TOP book-P.INAN friend-DAT 3SG.M.GEN[/gloss]
      ‘Yan asks Pila to give the book to his friend.’

In the past I might have preferred (5a) as a solution, but since the analogy to relative clauses suggests itself and complement clauses are useful, I find that I tend towards the sentence in (5b) currently. To indicate that the sentence structure has been remodeled and information will be following, it might also be useful to add the da- particle to the verb: a more literal translation of (5b) could be ‘Yan asks Pila such that she give the book to his friend.’ Either way, however, the normal VSO word order is restored this way, important information is present early on, and the heavy constituent is banned to the back. Information should now be able to flow easily again.

“And” as a Relative Particle

Another blog post on Middle High German (I know, right?) … This time with something I’d like to point out to other conlangers to consider for inspiration, because I found it kind of interesting/cool/unexpected. While doing research for my MA thesis, I came across a few cases where unde ‘and’ appears to be used as a general kind of relative particle (emphasis and translations mine):

  1. Augsburg, 1277:
    ſogtan Eigen vnde ich hete
    ‘such property as I had’ (CAO I.316.304.27)

  2. Munich, 1283:
    mit allem dem vnd dar zu gihoͤrit
    ‘with all that which belongs to it’ (CAO II.569.005.04–05)

  3. [Nuremberg], 1288:
    ſit den malen vnd ich zv ir cherte
    ‘since the time when I turned to her’ (CAO II.1044.359.04)

  4. Passau, 1290:
    des gvͦtes vnd ich ze chovfen han gegeben minem herren piſcholf Wernharte
    ‘of the estate which I offered my lord bishop Wernhard for sale’ (CAO V.N446.327.41)

  5. [St. Bernhard near Horn, Lower Austria], 1298:
    mit allem dinſt vnd ich iz gehabt han
    ‘with all the levy with which I owned it’ (CAO IV.2896.202.32)

The big Middle High German dictionary by Benecke/Müller/Zarncke cites further evidence from editions of literary texts in the article on unde (see vol. III, p. 185a, def. III, in German). Now I’m wondering what a grammaticalization path for “and” as a relativizer could look like.

Note, however, that these cases do not constitute a majority, which is why they stood out to me as I came accross them in the first place. From what I can tell, more common ways to introduce relative clauses are ‘so’, ‘when’, or just plainly the definite article (or, if you insist, for historical accuracy, the short demonstrative) like in modern German. For example:

  1. Zurich, 1283:
    mit allem dem rechte ſo ich ez vnz har han gehebt
    ‘with all the rights with which I have owned it up to now’ (CAO II.590.017.21)

  2. Werdenberg, 1294:
    als des tagis do er ſinin æigin herrin schlvͦg
    ‘as on the day when he slayed his own lord’ (CAO III.1873.167.41)

  3. Salzburg, 1294:
    durich der Svone willen / dev […] gemachet ward
    ‘by will of the reconciliation which was made […]’ (CAO III.1967.223.17–18)

  • Added a few more examples to show what more common cases look like and to show that there’s variation.
  • A colleague of mine at university that I mentioned this phenomenon to pointed me to the following article (in German): Ferraresi, Gisella, and Helmut Weiß. “‘Al di wîle und ich lebe’: Und nicht nur koordinierend.” Satzverknüpfungen: Zur Interaktion von Form, Bedeutung und Diskursfunktion. Edited by Eva Breindl, Gisella Ferraresi, and Anna Volodina. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011. Print. Linguistische Arbeiten 534. 79–106.
  • “Unde, und, unt.” Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch. Ed. Wilhelm Müller and Friedrich Zarncke. Vol. 3. Leipzig: Hirzel, 1866. 183–186. Wörterbuchnetz. Trier Center for Digital Humanities, 2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. ‹http://woerterbuchnetz.de/BMZ›.
  • Wilhelm, Friedrich et al., eds. Corpus der altdeutschen Originalurkunden bis zum Jahr 1300. 5 vols. Lahr and Berlin: Moritz Schauenburg and Erich Schmidt, 1932–2004. <CORPUS>. Corpus der altdeutschen Originalurkunden bis zum Jahr 1300. Trier U, 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. ‹http://tcdh01.uni-trier.de/cgi-bin/iCorpus/CorpusIndex.tcl›.

Imperial Messages VI – “… ang bidisaya arilinya itingley …”

This is the second half of the fifth posting in a series on the process of translating the short story “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft” by the Praguer writer Franz Kafka (*1883, †1924). The individual installments will go through the text mostly sentence by sentence, quoting from the German text as well as a translation of it into English. Following these quotations, I will discuss and comment on newly coined words and thoughts I had on grammar while doing the translation.

The text

This is a rather long sentence (though not the longest of the piece yet!), so I’ve split this passage into two parts. This is the second.

[…]; findet er Widerstand, zeigt er auf die Brust, wo das Zeichen der Sonne ist; er kommt auch leicht vorwärts, wie kein anderer. (Kafka 1994, 281:14–16)

[…]; every time he meets resistance he points to his breast, which bears the sign of the sun; and he moves forward easily, like no other. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – ang bidisaya arilinya itingley, ang mapaya ninaya hevenya yana sijya telbānley perin – saylingyāng kovaro naynay, ku-ranyāng palung.

Interlinear glossing

[gloss][…] – ang bidisa-ya arilinya iting-ley, ang mapa-ya ninaya heven-ya yana si-ya-ya telbān-ley perin – sayling-yāng kovaro naynay, ku=ranya-ang palung.
[…] – AF obstruct-3SM someone way-P.INAN, AF point_at-3SM messenger chest-LOC 3SM.GEN REL-LOC-LOC sign-P.INAN sun – progress-3SM.A easy also, like=nobody-A different.[/gloss]
‘[…] if someone stood in his way, the messenger pointed at his chest on which the sun-sign was; he also got on easily, like nobody else.’

Notes on translation

“To meet resistance” is such a nice idiom, I almost wanted to steal it. Let’s not do that! The German text has finden ‘to find’ here (Kafka 1994, 281:14) instead of the more current treffen auf ‘to meet upon’. After some thinking I decided to use a phrase: Ang bidisaya arilinya itingley ‘If someone blocks the way’. This is also a nice parallel to the merengye bidis ‘obstructing walls’, which were mentioned earlier: just like the walls are torn down to clear the view and spread the word, the messenger overcomes resistance from individuals in the crowd to get the Message out to its recipient. A new word is sayling- ‘to progress’, which is from sayling ‘further’.

As far as morphophonology is concerned, the relative pronoun complex sijya ‘in/at/on which.LOC’ is interesting in so far as it is a contraction of *siyayaREL-LOC-LOC’ that I introduced here: the plural marker -ye combined with a case marker that begins with a vowel or -y, like e.g. -angAGT’, -asPAT’, -yamDAT’, already contracts to just -j-, as I described in an earlier blog posting of March 2011. The decision to do this with -yaya as well, but only if both parts are grammatical suffixes, is thus rather consequential. Since this feature does not occur in previous texts, let’s assume it’s an acceptable variant.

Of syntactic interest is the rather literary conditional construction without conjunctions in this passage, which is similar to the equally literary variant of conditional phrases used in the German text, although with a twist: unlike German, which inverts the order of subject and verb in this case (“findet er” instead of “er findet”, cf. Kafka 1994, 281:14), Ayeri does not change the word order, so the fact that it is a conditional clause must be inferred from context.

  • Kafka, Franz. “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft.” Drucke zu Lebzeiten. By Franz Kafka. Eds. Wolf Kittler et al. Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer, 1994. 280–82. Print.
  • ———. “A Message from the Emperor.” Trans. by Mark Harman. NYRblog. The New York Review of Books, 1 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2012. ‹http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jul/01/message-emperor-new-translation›