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Linguistic questions

 
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Kiri



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:31 pm    Post subject: Linguistic questions Reply with quote

In Latvian forums we tend to be a lot more strict about making lots and lots of threads, and it seems to me a bit pointless to make a ton of threads, each of which has only two or three replies.
That is why, I would like this thread to serve as a place to ask short, simple questions about linguistic stuff. (By "simple" I mean something that doesn't require a grand discussion. Something that you know will take a maximum of ten responses.) I'm sure I'm not the only one who once in a while has a question like that and no one else to ask it.

So, here I go.

Latvian is a language that has a case system – we have six cases (NOM, GEN, DAT, ACC, LOC and VOC). They are somewhat linked to the constituents of a clause (the subject is usually in NOM, the direct object in ACC, and so on).
My question: is it possible to mark constituents of a clause instead of marking the cases? Do any conlangs or natlangs do this?
Or have I completely misunderstood something and I'm trying to mash pudding with sausages?
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LingoDingo
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cases In Aalmok are heavily linked to their clausal function. The prepositions only rarely draw them out of their positions.

I will say this, it's highly unlikely you'll ever find a language whose cases solely represent the part of the clause a phrase takes. If you did, there'd have to be a huge number of cases to make it possible.
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eldin raigmore
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:48 pm    Post subject: "Metaphors We Live By" by Lakoff and Johnson Reply with quote

I have been reading George Lakoff's and Mark Johnson's "Metaphors We Live By" with increasing disappointment.
I might not be able to finish it; I'm reminded of the times I tried to read Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" and couldn't go for more than two paragraphs without having to take a break for a couple of days.

My first clue that something is wrong could have been, but wasn't, the title, which is a big hint (perceptible to me only in retrospect) that it's a book-length advocation of the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Or, maybe, of a "strengthened weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis".

But my actual first clue was the part of chapter 20 beginning on page 136 headed "Regularities of Linguistic Form". This is a rationale for why questions should end with rising intonation and statements should end with falling intonation. They say it's based on the metaphor "UP IS UNKNOWN, DOWN IS KNOWN".
The trouble is, it's completely arbitrary, as far as anyone knows, that the more-often-per-second frequencies with the shorter wavelengths should be considered "high" and the less-often-per-second frequencies with the longer wavelengths should be considered "low". In the earliest ancient Greek writing about pitch those metaphors were reversed; longer wavelengths (lesser frequencies) were "high" and shorter wavelengths (greater frequencies) were "low". And there's no reason the metaphor has to be vertical. It could be color. Sometimes the shorter-wavelength more-frequent pitches are "blue" and the longer-wavelength less-frequent pitches are "red".
So it's ridiculous to use this coincidence between two metaphors to explain that, "in most non-tonal languages", queries tend to end with increasing frequency and decreasing wavelength, while statements end with decreasing frequency and increasing wavelength.

At first I just thought this was a flaw in what the authors probably considered an unimportant side-issue. I thought they probably had these things fact-checked by a graduate-student intern, who must have slipped up. That's a mistake big-shot authors often make in first editions; especially authors who are reputed among other academics in their specialty to be somewhat combative. They don't seem to realize that their target audience is the moderately-educated lay-person, who will be put off from thinking about the hard-to-understand main points of the author, by noticing the errors that they can easily detect even with the understanding they now have. Those mistakes are usually (or, at least, frequently) corrected in second (sometimes third) editions.

But the more I read the more disenchanted I became.

The authors spend the last seven or eight chapters of their thirty-chapter book preaching relativism. They marshal "facts" they claim are objectively true to support the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth. They absolutely believe that relativism is absolutely true and that anything different from relativism is absolutely wrong. They spend a quarter of their book explaining their opinion that there aren't any facts,, only opinions. After and while carefully saying that, in effect, they just don't care about "truth", they have a chapter explaining why we should all care about "truth".

So now I think that I couldn't possibly write to them any criticism they would recognize as valid, that would ask for more or better or better-handled evidence, or better fact-checking of the plausibility of their explanations. Why check fact when there aren't any such things as facts?

I've met and conversed with and corresponded with many a relativist who believed in relativism because they were raised that way, or because it was their fad or fashion, or just because their experience had led them to believe that way. None of them would have been as opposed to the idea of objectivity as these guys.

These authors' virulent opposition to objectivity is so unreasoning that it demands a psychiatric explanation. What, were they molested by scientists as children? Is that why they're so anti-scientific?

From a conlanging point-of-view this work is probably still pretty valuable. Even ideas that turn out to be inconsistent with reality can be useful in fiction.

From the point-of-view of linguistics-as-a-science, this is useful in the same way some creationist or intelligent-design Chick tract would be to a biologist, or some "climate change is a hoax" tract would be to a climatologist or ecologist. Namely, it would warn the scientist that there are people out there opposed to their conclusions, to their methods, and to their entire science, who can't possibly be swayed by any scientific evidence.

This book is very alarming; and the fact that these authors have such high academic positions is as disturbing as the fact that "I am not a scientist" has been the keynote of so many successful political campaigns this year.
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Last edited by eldin raigmore on Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:07 pm; edited 3 times in total
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LingoDingo
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:08 pm    Post subject: Grammatical case and Thematic Roles Reply with quote

eldin raigmore wrote:
I have been reading George Lakoff's and Mark Johnson's "Metaphors We Live By" with increasing disappointment...


Ah yes... the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I remember when I first encountered it and almost believed it. While I must say that I think conceptual metaphors are really cool, and I pleased to see it, I have to agree that any connection between them and prosody is pretty much nonsense. I honestly can't see any reason why all of the distinct cognitive patterns with respect to things like relative time or completedness that are linked to languge by the Sapir-Whorf hyptothesis couldn't just be attributed to cultural relativism. In any case, I agree with everything you said there.

However, I'm a little confused why you made this post here. Could you explain?

Kiri wrote:
Is it possible to mark constituents of a clause instead of marking the cases? Do any conlangs or natlangs do this?


Wow. It's certainly been a long time since I made that reply to this question. I'd only been studying linguistics for, like, 3-4 months by the time I'd posted that. Kind of embarrasing to be honest Embarassed

Well...... Looking at this anew, thanks to eldin's post, it looks to me that the "constituents of a clause" that you are referring to are most likely "thematic relations". In which case, here's the answer. ANY natlang that makes use of passive, causative, applicative, anticausative or impersonal voices as being distinct from active voice, will NEVER have all argument cases directly correspond to a thematic role, simply because these voices, especially the passive, are specifically designed to front or add specific thematic roles into the subject position. This does not mean that all argument cases will not directly correspond to a thematic role, but the primary cases, at the very least, will not.

My conlang, AR, does have a static correspondence between thematic roles and grammatical cases though, and I definitely wouldn't say you shouldn't. But if there are any grammatical cases that you want to have static thematice role correspondence, then you should avoid having which ever voice would front that role into the subject position. E.g. if you wan't an ergative case that directly corresponds to the agent role, then avoid having a passive voice.

AR has no other voices, but instead has significantly more argument cases: causal, ergative, instrumental, absolutive, dative and benefactive (and those are only the argument cases, AR has 22 cases in total)
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eldin raigmore
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Grammatical case and Thematic Roles Reply with quote

First off, +1 to LingoDingo's last reply to Kiri's question.

LingoDingo wrote:
However, I'm a little confused why you made this post here. Could you explain?


Well, I thought it was a linguistics question, though I knew it wasn't a little one.
So I thought I shouldn't put it on its own thread.

Looking back, it's kind of hard to tell that I intended it as a question.

I guess the questions is:
Is linguistics a science?
Is this book science?
And if linguistics is science but this book isn't, what the hell is this book? Linguistic quackery, maybe?
And is anyone else as disturbed as I am to find anti-science people so far advanced in academia? Especially in the discipline we all love (though we're all amateurs and wannabes)?


I don't know who can split threads; I thought it was Strange Magic and Serali and maybe Halyehev, if any of them are still active here. if you think this thread ought to be split, maybe you can figure out who to ask. I haven't figured it out yet.

_____________________________________________________________

[/diversion]

OK, now, back to the topic of the thread.
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LingoDingo
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

eldin raigmore wrote:
Well, I thought it was a linguistics question, though I knew it wasn't a little one.
So I thought I shouldn't put it on its own thread.

Looking back, it's kind of hard to tell that I intended it as a question.


Ah, I see! my confusion stemmed from two points:
Firstly, I misunderstood when Kiri said, "I would like this thread to serve as a place to ask short, simple questions about linguistic stuff.", thinking he was saying that we would post such questions in "Random Chat", rather than this thread (which is a little bit foolish on my part).
And, secondly, I couldn't tell if your post was a response or not.

My bad!
Anyways...

eldin raigmore wrote:
Is linguistics a science?


Looking at the definition of "science", and noting that linguistics regularly employ and discuss observably and/or testably verifiable principles and methods, such as the comparative method or phonetic formants, as well as that these are determined using the scientific method, and finally that the scientific community fully accepts linguistics as a discipline, it is clear that linguistics meets every one of these definitions of science, and is, therefore, demonstrably scientific.

eldin raigmore wrote:
Is this book science?


Any book that claims that "facts" do not exist, is claiming that nothing can be objectively verified, which is wholly contrary to the very escence of the scientific method, whose purpose is to objectively verify hypotheses, such that they can become fact, law or theory.

Therefore, no. This book is not science in any way. And for it to be written by an academic who asserts within it that it is, is utterly dishonorable.

eldin raigmore wrote:
And if linguistics is science but this book isn't, what the hell is this book? Linguistic quackery, maybe?


It is firmly "pseudoscience"

eldin raigmore wrote:
And is anyone else as disturbed as I am to find anti-science people so far advanced in academia?


I wouldnt' say I was disturbed by it. Scientists are still people, and are still susceptible to beleif in pseudoscince, just like everyone else. I'm pretty sure most scientists falsely believe something contrary to objective verifiability, though mainly when it comes to information from disciplines they have little or no specialty in, and don't even realize is false. I sure I probably have some pseudoscientific beliefs myself, despite all my desire to avoid them.

Mostly I find it disappointing, since pseudoscince is only supposed to prevail is sittuations where the person doesn't know much of anything on the subject they're misrepresenting. Yet, here are prefessional linguists misrepresenting their own field. I'd feel disturbance if it were being used as basic teaching in schools. (Who knows, maybe it is)

My REAL disturbance comes from the utter nonsense going on in the US whatchamacallit for scientific advisement. And the endless pushing for climate pseudoscince legislation in congress. Oh my lord is that infuriating. I tell ya, I'm fixin' to leave this hellhole the second I can afford to! Well, that's not really the only reason for that though. How'm I s'posed t' git t' all them differ'nt tongues, if I stay's here all m' life?
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eldin raigmore
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2014 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, LingoDingo.
Now I know someone else agrees with me (maybe in a better-organized fashion).
I expected Steven Pinker -- a guy who certainly applies the scientific method to cognitive linguistics -- might agree; so I wrote him an e-mail about it. I doubt he's had time to read it yet, even if he ever does read it, much less reply, even if he ever does reply.
In order to avoid just "shouting into an echo chamber", I also wrote to my Introductory Linguistics professor of ten to twelve years ago. I don't have any idea what she thinks but I was pretty sure she'd reply politely. She also hasn't had time to read it, much less respond to it. I haven't gotten an automatic "not in the office" response, so I hope with some confidence that I don't have to wait until she gets back from somewhere.
I'm trying to think; what other linguists have replied to me more than once? Maybe I should ask all of them.

_____________________________________________________________

I really feel like I should ask a little Linguistics question. Unfortunately I'm drawing a blank at the moment.
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eldin raigmore
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2014 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got a reply from Steven Pinker ! Smile Cool Exclamation

Pinker, Steven wrote:

To me Today at 10:34 AM
Thanks, Tom – I’ll try, but can’t promise. As you many know I discussed Lakoff in an entire chapter of my book The Stuff of Thought.

Best,
Steve Pinker

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 1:24 pm    Post subject: "Balto-Slavic" disputed by Baltic linguists? Reply with quote

I happen to know a Lithuanian woman named Vaiva; we meet regularly on business having nothing to do with Linguistics.
Well, Tuesday, we found out at the end of a meeting that each other are interested in Linguistics.

In the course of our conversation I mentioned the term "Balto-Slavic". She says that Baltic linguisticians don't use that classification.

Is that true?
(I kind of assume it is, but I ask anyway as a preliminary to my next questions.)
What evidence is there for grouping Baltic and Slavic languages into Balto-Slavic?
Why is it disputed by Baltic linguisticians?
Which Baltic linguisticians dispute it?
Which linguisticians in other countries or other language-communities support such a classification?
What do Slavic linguisticians have to say about it?

Is this the right thread for such a question?
(I'm sure it's the right BBoard; we have Latvian and Lithuanian members.)

Looking forward to an answer!
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

eldin raigmore wrote:
I happen to know a Lithuanian woman named Vaiva ... She says that Baltic linguisticians don't use that classification.


After a few hours of preliminary internet browing on the issue, I have drawn some non-specific conclusions that do not answer the question as to whether there is a genetic relationship between the Baltic and Slavic languages.

Otherwise, this is a very interesting topic, I think. I had honestly never thought about the validity of Proto-Balto-Slavic up to this point (granted, I've never looked into it very much either).

eldin raigmore wrote:
Is that true?


All of the sites I've looked at have noted opposition to the validity of a genetic relationship between Baltic and Slavic languages. But this opposition was never specific to peoples of baltic origin. Thus, I would conclude that it is not only baltic people who oppose it.

Though I don't really know any names in linguistics (I generally fail to pay attention to who makes the things I look at), Antoine Meillet, who is supposedly a well-known French linguist who studied Indo-European languages and proposed Meillet's Law in Slavic languages, believed that Baltic and Slavic languages developped seperately, but parallel to one another, for example.

eldin raigmore wrote:
Why is it disputed...?


The earliest attestation of any Baltic language that I've come across is the Basel Epigram written in 1369 CE. This, along with the small number number of Baltic languages and texts from them, and the fact that Latvian and Lithuanian suppossedly didn't split until the 9th century CE and the fact that the only other significantly attested Baltic language is Old Prussian, and the fact that Slavic languages are not attested before the 9th century CE either, apparently makes determining the genetic relationships of the Baltic languages very difficult.

eldin raigmore wrote:
What do Slavic linguisticians have to say about it?


I didn't look specifically at which linguists support which side, but I don't seem to recall coming across any slavs who opposed a genetic relationship between the Baltic and Slavic languages. Though, I may have missed them or they may have not been mentioned.
_____________________

Otherwise, I can't really say one way or the other about it myself.

This article seems to bring up most of the opposing arguments for the genetic relationship. It is, however, layed out an a pretty severly derisive manner against those who would support it (that doesn't speak to the validity of it, just that it may be very difficult to read). It does also mention some supporting arguments, but only through bared teeth.
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eldin raigmore
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 1:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks.
I also asked the question on the CBB and Atman (the CBB's resident I-Eist) answered.
He(? I don't knoow, maybe Atman is a "she") gave a lot of evidence in favor of the idea that the Baltic language group and the Slavic language group are more closely related to each other than either is to any other Indo-European subgroup of roughly similarish size and/or age.
He thinks the opposition is mostly political, among Balts who, for historical reasons, find being related to Slavs in any way for any reason, distasteful.

Interesting that Meillet, a non-Balt non-Slav, also was against it.

Anyway you might want to check out the list of reasons atman gives.
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Cordelier



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2014 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm surprised this website is still there. It's a good thing, but at the same time, the lack of activity on there feels nostalgically sad... I know, I'm guilty of returning once in a while (with month-long absences), so I am one to talk... Confused
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cordelier wrote:
I'm surprised this website is still there. It's a good thing, but at the same time, the lack of activity on there feels nostalgically sad... I know, I'm guilty of returning once in a while (with month-long absences), so I am one to talk... Confused

Well …
Good to see you again. How was your Thanks-Giving Day?

(This is the right forum ("Random Chat") but the wrong thread ("Linguistics Questions") for me to say what I just said. Oh well…)
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Thanksgiving Break was good. Nothing too exciting. No family visit, so it was as simple as it could get. How about yours? Oh, crap! Wrong thread!!! >-<
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