By Ahmed Sosal A.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Khartoum May 2012
1.1. Historical and theoretical background• Typologists often divide languages into types according to so called basic word (constituent) order, often understood as the order of subject (S), object (O) and verb (V) in a typical declarative sentence. The vast majority of the languages of the world fall into one of three groups:Hein & Nurse (2000:250)• SOV (Japanese, Tamil, Turkish etc.)• SVO (Fula, Chinese, English etc.)• VSO (Arabic, Tongan, Welsh etc.)
Logically speaking, there should be nothing wrong with the three other possibilities: VOS(Malagasy „Malayo-Polynesian language‟), OVS (Western Nilotic Pari) and OSV. Greenberg (1963) summarizes some of the universal syntactic characteristics (of VO andOV orders) that correlate with certain of the six constituent orders. Some of them are presentedin the following table: Greenberg’s parameter correlation universal 1 Main clauses V-O O-V 3-4 adpositions prepositions Postpositions 22 comparatives Adj-Mkr-Std Std-Mkr-Adj 9 Question particles Sentences-initial Sentence-initial or elsewhere 27 affixes prefixes suffixes Although Greenberg’s work on these universals did not provide a reason for thosecorrelations nor test them statistically, this work enriched the field of typological linguistics untilnow. However, since 1963 much research has stated problems with Greenberg’s typology. Someof them are•The difficulty in identifying the basic constituent order for many languages of the world,•The fact that Greenberg’s typology simply assumed that languages order their nominal elementsaccording to the grammatical relations of subject and object.•Note: These two problems are due to a general Euro-centric bias among linguists.•Greenberg did not even attempt to come up with a significantly large and random sample oflanguages.
Not random: Pronominal or non-configurational languages (Hale 1983) are terms used to refer to the“free” or “flexible” constituent order languages. Discourse based studies of “free” constituentorder languages show that constituent order in such languages is far from random.The Semantico-syntactic roles: In this paper we will replace the traditional two-way distinction between subject and objectwith three-way distinction. This what Dixon (1979) and Comrie (1978) referred to as “semantic-syntactic roles”. A Most agent-like argument of transitive clause Subject S Only argument of an intransitive clause Absolutive P Least agent-like argument of a transitive clauseThis states that we can treat languages constituent orders typology in the lights of theterms A, S, P and V instead of S, O and V.
1.2. Distribution of constituent order types around the world The three common types, APV/SV, AVP/SV and VAP/VS, account for about 85% of theworlds languages. The basic constituent order of 300 African languages reveals that 71% of themwere SVO, 24% are SOV and 5% VSO which constitute the basic word order of Africanlanguages. Hein & Nurse (2000). (see the previous map) 2.1. How to determine the “basic” constituent order of a language This can be achieved through the pragmatically neutral clauses by excluding the followingclauses types (because they exhibits variant constituent order in some languages):•Dependent clauses;•Paragraph initial clauses;•Clauses that introduces participants;•Questions;•Negative clauses;•Clearly contrastive clauses(e.g. answer to question). If in the remaining clauses there are example of transitive verbs with two full NPs and ifthere is consistency of order of those NPs with respect to the verb, the basic constituent order canbe identified. Watters (2000) in African languages: an Introduction, provide us with the characteristics ofbasic word order in any language as follows:•They are main,•Declarative,•Affirmative,•Active sentences containing a transitive verb.
2.2. Examples of “rigid” constituent order languagesi. The AVP/SVO order is common in the following languages (adopted from Hein & Nurse(2000:197)):•Niger-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantu, Swahili……A….. ……V……. …..P…..Halima a-na-pika ugaliHalima 3SG-PRS-cook porridge ‘Halima is cooking porridge’•Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Eastern Nilotic, Bari…..A….. ……V…….. ….P….teleme a kop keneMonkey TNS catch branch‘The monkey catch the branch’ii. The APV/SOV order is the second most common word order in Africa. Found in the Ethio-Semitic, Cushitic and Omotic and other Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan languages consider thefollowing example from Supyire (belong to Niger-Congo family). Hein & Nurse (2000:198).….A……. ….P….. …V…kile u ni pw God 3SG path:DEF SBJ:sweep„my God sweep the path (=blessing)‟
•The VAP/ VSO order is the less common. Found primary among Afroasiatic , Nilo-Saharan andone Koisan language (Hadza). Example from Maasai (belong to Nilo-Saharan). Hein & Nurse(2000:198)…V… …..A….. …P….έd l ltυ΄ŋa΄nί eŋkoliίsee person:NOM gazelle:ACC„the person see a gazelle‟•VAP/VOS order is found in languages such as Malagasy language…..V… …A…. ….P….manasa lamba Rasoawash clothes Rasoa„Rasoa is washing clothes‟ 2.3. Examples of “flexible” constituent order languages Here some principle other than grammatical relations governs the order of nominal clauses.For instance according to Givon (1984) in Biblical Hebrew the order of noun phrases with respectto the verb is determined largely by pragmatic factors. Consider the following instances,•SV, previously unidentified subject….S… …V…Vї-Lot yoshev bї-shaʔar Sadomand-Lot sitting at-gate of:Sadom“and Lot was sitting at the gate of Sadom‟•VA, already identified subject….V… …A…Va-yar’ Lot „and Lot saw (them)‟
•VP, continuing identifiable object……V….. …….P…….…va-yiqah elohim et-ha-adam and-took God ACC-DEF-man„…..and God took the man‟•PV, new object in contrast…………P……………. ….V…mi-kol es ha-gan axol toxelfrom-all tree the-garden eating you:eat„you may eat from all the trees in the garden‟ For some language, one nominal element always occurs in a fixed position while other ismore variable. Such as in the following languages:•Guyami (fixed PV, flexible A);•Panare, Nadёb (fixed VA, flexible P);•Apurina (fixed AV, flexible P). 2.4. Grammatical relations vs. pragmatic factors Mithun (1987) raised the question of whether every language should be described in termsof basic order of constituents determined by grammatical relations. With regard to such questionshe provided us with three languages: Cayuga (Iroquoian of Ontario), Ngandi (Australian of EastArnhem Land) and Coos (of Oregon). In these three languages grammatical relations have nodirect effect on constituent order, instead it is determined by the pragmatic status.
Sensitivity towards pragmatic ordering principles found in the world in locationsAmerica, Australia, and to a lesser extent in Austronesia and South Asia. With reference to theIndo-European family, Slavic languages represents the best example of the pragmaticallysensitive languages. Thus, we have to admit that the pragmatic factors have their influence inconstituent order in languages in one degree or another. However even in languages wherepragmatic clearly determines constituent order, grammatical relations may still have somecorrelation with particular clause position. 2.5. Points to consider in evaluating studies of constituent order variation in any language First, normally linguists who are investigating constituent order of languages they do notunderstand its basic clause types, so they probably come out with a bizarre analysis. Second, grammatically marginal clauses such as, Skins em, Fred does to them mules (VAP).This sentence can be produced and accepted by consultants in preliterate or newly literatesocieties more than they could be by speakers who have more static perception of their language. Finally, Sometimes the syntactic status of many clauses types is in state of changingbehavior. Such as the verb morphology often overlap to an extend that makes it difficult todetermine whether one is dealing with a verbal clause or predicate nominal based on anominalized verb.Auxiliaries are verbs in that they meet the morphosyntactic conditions of verbs. Such as theiroccurrence in the position of the verb and carrying some of the inflectional information e.g. subj.-V agreement. These things normally associated with verbs. However, they are called auxiliariesbecause they do not embody the major conceptual relation, state, or activity expressed by theclause.
Auxiliaries are related to the primary verb in a sentence as they indicate tense or mood andthey can also function as an adverb. They also can serve as• Pacifiers in the verb phrase as in [AUX O V].• The head of larger auxiliary phrase with VP as complement as in [AUX [O V]]. Hein & Nurse(2000:198-199).They are normally derived from full verbs such as,• Stative verbs (be, stand and sit);• Simple verbs of motion (go and come) and• Often complement-taking verbs (say, finish, start, permit, make and force) However, this is not to be generalized because we have as Steele (1981) argues somecomplex particles precede the main verb form and labeled as AUX but there is no root for theseauxiliary elements. This is evident in languages such as Luiseno, a Uto-Aztecan language (SouthCalifornia). Steele (1981:23)noo nu po hunwuti patinI 1SG FUT bear shoot:FUT„I will shoot the baer‟Noo xu n po hunwuti patiI MOD 1SG FUT bear shoot„I should shoot the bear‟ If a verb phrase element dose not take any of the inflectional information associated withverbs, it may still be called “auxiliary” such as the modal auxiliary (e.g. the modal xu above).
Noun phrase discussion includes: determiners, numerals, genitives (possessors), modifiers(i.e., attributive adjectives), relative clauses, noun classifiers and head noun. These topics will bediscussed extensively within the upcoming chapters. Adposition is the cover term for those free morphemes that precede (prepositions (found inBambara language)) or follow (postpositions (found in Fulfulde language) the noun phrase withwhich they combine. Hein & Nurse (2000:247).The set of adpositions in most languages is rathersmall, consisting of perhaps five or six forms. Examples of prepositions in Fulfulde language ofWest Atlantic family,der suduInside.in room‘inside/in the room’gada sudubehind room‘behind the room’daga Kartoumfrom Khartoum‘from Khartoum’Examples of postpositions is from Japanese language.Biku no ‘of/inside/near the fishbasket’Kooky ue ‘above the place’
Problems with the adpositions:i. Adpositions drive historically from nouns or verbs, but in languages such as Akan language it isdifficult to decide whether a given form is am adposition or a dependent verb. Observe w in thefollowing examples from Akan(Ghana) -w Eugene3SG-be:at‘he is in Eugene’o hun no w Eugene1PL see 3PL in‘we saw them in Eugene’ In the previous sentences w really dose belong to different grammatical categories in eachsentence (verb and adposition).ii. In some languages it may be difficult to distinguish adpositional phrases from possessed nounphrases e.g. in Yagua language,Sa-moo-mu3SG-forhead-LOC‘in front of him/her’ or ‘his/her forehead’iii. In other languages there may perhaps be no marker of the locational relation other than thenoun. This cause difficulty of distinguishing the adpositions from the nouns, e.g., in Swahili(Bantu, East Africa):Alikiweka juu ya meza3SG:put:it top of table‘He/she put it on the table’Here juu is a noun root (means “top”) functioning as a preposition in this example.
A comparative is a construction in which two items are compared according to some qualitye.g. in Fulfulde language,mo bori mahe bigger.better you‘he is bigger/better than you’The elements of grammaticalized comparative constructions:•Standard: is the known standard against which the subject of the clause is compared,•Marker: is the signals that clause is a comparative construction and•Quality: is by which the subject is compared with the standard.These elements are represented in the following English (QUAL-MKR-STD language) example,My daddy is bigger (QUAL) than (MKR) your daddy. (STD) The position of the subject of a comparative construction is not as typologically significantas the relative positions of the standard, marker and quality. As same as in English question particles and interrogative words (e.g. who, what, where,etc) exist in African languages but their position is not identical to that of English as explained inthe following languages. Hein & Nurse (2000:205)•In Vata language SVO (or SOV) Kru language the interrogative word occur at the beginning ofthe sentence.•Other SVO languages the sentences –final position or position immediately following the verb isused for interrogative words such as in some Niger-Congo languages. Such as Fulfulde languageo-dil-ii toy ‘where did he went?’he-go-PST where
Here we will show functions that ten to be associated with noun phrases, and presents future details concerning how morphosyntactic operations are expressed in noun phrases.Compounds are two or more lexical roots tend to function as a single word grammatically eventhough they may contain forms otherwise functioning as independent words. Hein & Nurse(2000:167) 1.1. The criteria of compound sequences 1.1.1. Formal criteria, consists of the following formal prosperities:(a) A stress pattern characteristic of a single word, as opposed to the pattern for two words e.g.,lighthouse keeper vs. light housekeeper.(b) Unusual word order, e.g., in housekeeper, normally objects (house) come after the verb inEnglish but here it dose not.(c) Morphophonemic processes characteristics of single words, e.g., the word roommate can bepronounced with a single m, whereas normally if two m‟s come together accidently in a sentenceboth are pronounced, e.g., some mice will be understood as some ice if both m‟s are notpronounced.(d) Morphology specific to compounds, e.g., English the simple spider web as opposed to thephrase spider’s web.
1.1.2. Semantic criteria, the dominant semantic property of compounds is that the meaning of a compound is either more specific (e.g., Whitehouse) or entirely different than the combined meanings of the words that make up the compound (e.g., blackbird is only appropriately used for refer to particular species of bird. Example of semantic criteria in Mandarin Chinese compoundsmao-dun kāi-guānspear-shield open-close„contradictory‟ „switch‟ According to Bloomfield (1933) in Hein & Nurse (2000:168) there are two types ofcompounds:•Endocentric compounds: They usually are systematically head-final or head-initial inlanguages here the compound determines the categorical status.•Exocentric compounds: They generally lack this formal property as well as semanticcompositionality, because their meaning usually ca not be inferred from the meaning of theirparts, and must be learned separately instead.Examples can be seen in Banda-Linda language below;su-kuˉmu „hair on head‟(head-hair)Hair-head The term nominal can be translated “noun-like” so to denominalize something is tomake it less noun-like, or turn it into a verb, adjective or some other grammaticalcategory (similar to verbalization).
Denominalization types•Possessive verb out of a noun (to have N): e.g., the Yupik noun suffix –ngqerr means “to have”(from Reed et al. 1977)Patu ‘lid’ patungqerr ‘to have a lid’Irniar ‘child’ iriangqerr ‘to have childern’•Noun to form a verb (become N): also called inchoative process, e.g., in Panare the suffix –tameans ‘to become’ when it is added to a noun: ỉyan ‘healer’ ỉyantan ‘to become a healer’Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish denominalization from noun-verb compounding and this iscalled noun incorporation.The most common number distinction is between singular and plural. Consider to following:•Singular/ plural distinction (it is obligatory marked for all English nouns that refer to conceptsthat can be counted),•Singular vs. dual vs. plural and•Singular vs. dual vs. trial vs. plural.Languages variations in number marking systems•Many languages only mark number in noun phrases occasionally. Plurality in noun phrasesometimes expressed by special particle, e.g. in Tagalog (Philippines):ang babae ‘the woman’ ang mga babae ‘the women’•Some languages only mark certain classes of nouns, e.g., animate nouns, for number, while othernouns are left unmarked, e.g. in Mandarin Chinese, plural pronouns are marked with the suffix –men referring to people, other nouns can not rather their plurality is expressed via separatequantifiers, e.g.,
tā „he/she‟ tā-men „they‟wŏ „I‟ wŏ-men „we‟•Other languages only indicate plurality of nouns that are highly „topical‟.Different marking systems Mostly, the singular is unmarked while the non-singulars are marked. Some languages markboth singular and plural e.g. Swahili (Bantu) umu-ana „child‟ vs. aba-ana „childern‟. Sometimesthe plural to be unmarked while the singular receives a mark of some kind , e.g. in Desanolanguage ( Columbia),suʔri „clothes‟ suʔri-ro „one item of clothes‟gasi „canoes‟ gasi-ru „canoe‟ Almost all African languages have bound morphemes encoding plurality which are dividedinto count vs. mass nouns. Lack of plural markers some languages such as Igbo apart from thepersonal pronouns , two non-derived Igbo nouns only have suppletive plural forms: ŋŋwa pl.ωmω „child‟ and onye pl. ndi „person‟ in the case of nouns particularly can be expressed only byadding numerals or quantifiers with meaning such as „several‟, „few‟, „many‟, etc. Hein & Nurse(2000:246-247)Some of the unusual marking systems are,•Reduplication, e.g., in Tuwali Ifugao (Philippine language) tagu „person‟, tatagu „people(reduplication of the first syllable)•Consonant alternation, e.g. in Fulfuldegorko „man‟ worbe „men‟debo „woman‟ rewbe „women‟
“Case is a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to theirheads. Traditionally the term refers to inflectional marking, and, typically, case marks therelationship of a noun to a verb at the clause level or of a noun to a preposition, postposition oranother noun at the phrase level.” Blake (2004:1) Consider the following Turkish sentence, Mehmet adam-a elma-lar-ı ver-di Mehmet.NOM man-DAT apple-PL-ACC give-PAST.3SG‘Mehmet gave the apples to the man.’ In this sentence -ı indicates that elmalar is the direct object of the verb vermek ‘to give’. Thesuffix -ı is said to be an accusative (or objective) case marker and the word form elmaları is saidto be in the accusative case.The distinction between adpositions and case affixes: In African languages case morphemeoften has the status of phrasal affixes governed by degree of phonological interaction with theneighboring words. But this is not quite clear distinction. For example in Bambara‘postpositions’ and Kanuri case suffixes shows no significant difference in their morphologicalproperties: both are bound morphemes with the distribution characteristics of phrasal affixes andboth exhibit some degree of phonological interaction with the last word of the noun phrase withwhich they combine. Hein & Nurse (2000:247) Thus it is sometimes difficult to distinguish case marking from adpositions. The twocategories describe extremes of a continuum but the distinction can be shown through thefollowing rule: Rule of thumb. Case marking is the morphosyntactic categorization of noun phrases that is imposed by the structure within which the noun phrase occurs. Adpositions are free of such configurational constrains.
For instance noun phrase in some languages is determined by the grammatical requirementsof the verb (or other case governing element) with which that noun phrase is in somegrammatical relationship. It is important to note that morphological binding dose not distinguishcase marking and adpositions. Case markers can be free or bound, prepositional or postpositional.Cases and adpositions should be labeled according to their prototypical or basic function. 5.1. Articles are operators which directly express something about the identifiability and/or referentiality of a noun phrase, e.g., in English the and a(n).•Definite articles are quite common in African languages and they are either originated indemonstratives or in the third-person possessives. According to Hein & Nurse (2000:243-244), definite Article are ‘phrasal affixes’ attached tothe first or to the last word of the noun phrase such as in Mandinka the definite form of ‘woman’is muso: (<musu-o), but ‘the/a one-eyed woman’ is musu nya: -kiliŋ–o, literally ‘woman eye-one-the’. Whereas in Arabic only definite article really affixed to nouns and with agreement indefiniteness between noun and the adjectival modifiers as inal-baytu l-kabi:ru ‘The big house’The-house the-big•Indefinite articles originated in the numeral ‘one’ and attested in some African languages.Languages with and without definite articles are encountered virtually in all language familiesand in all parts of the African continent.•Referential articles there are some definite articles proper their use to include both definitedemonstration and non-definite referential uses called by Greenberg (1978) ‘stage II of definitearticles’.
i ye kuluŋ-o je „they saw a/the boat‟they PERF boat-DEF see 5.2. Demonstratives (or demonstrative adjectives) such as this, that, these and those. They are common in the world‟s languages. The characteristics of the demonstratives are•Probably found in all languages,•Normally free forms,•Many precede of follow the noun they function with,•Many also be anaphoric on their own, as in what is that? (demonstrative pronouns),•Demonstratives imply „pointing to‟ or „demonstrating‟ the object they refer to, e.g., that house(said while pointing to a house),•Demonstratives often express distance, or orientation with respect to the speaker/hearer. Somelanguages may have three degrees of distance, e.g. languages make distinction between itemsclose to the hearer, items close to the speaker and items distant from both. 5.3. Determiners are used to refer to formatives like the and a(n) but also they usually include quantifiers (some, many, a few, each, every), numerals, possessors as well as demonstratives. So it is so broad class.•Determiners preceding and following the noun (Asbury (2008:36))a. Determiner preceding the noun (English)the houseb. Determiner following the noun (Ewe, Heine et al. 1991:65)xp ´ahouse DEF „the house‟
Languages typically express many semantic relationships with the same formal constructionused to express ownership (possessive constructions). Possessive noun phrase contains twoelements: a possessor (genitive) and a possessed item (possessee), e.g. in Fulfuldedebo lamido ‘the chief’s wife’wife chiefpossessee possessorAlienable vs. in alienable possessions(i) Alienable possessions can be terminated. Example of alienable possessions found in Abun(Papuan language of Indonesia) here alienable possessive phrases consists ofNP[possessor]+bi+NP[possessee], This structure is used for all possessive phrase (except theinalienable possessive phrases (ii)). The possessor noun phrase is commonly realised as apronoun (a), proper name (b), and may also be a longer noun phrase (c). Berry (1995:116)(a) An bi nggon jam nde to.3SG POSS wife know NEG INCOMPL His wife didnt know yet.(b) Andar bi im ma. Andar POSS mother come Andars mother came.(c) Yetu ge dik yo bi nu anane. person CLASS one DET POSS house DEM This is someones house.
(ii) Inalienable possessions can not be terminated. Languages with inalienablepossessions always includes kinship terms and body parts within the class ofinalienability possessed items, e.g., In a Abun inalienable possession, the possessor andthe possessum (or possessee) are simply juxtaposed (NP[possessor]+NP[possessee]) asin (a), This type of possessive construction is used for body parts (such as my arm, hisleg) and more generally for whole-part relationships (such as tree-leaves, deer-meat, house-opening (doorway). Also a persons name is considered as inalienablepossession, as in (b) and (c) below: Berry (1995:114)(a) Wo kwai tik Sepenyel gwes.fish kwai pull Sepenyel legThe Kwai fish pulled Sepenyels leg.(b) An gum do Marta. 3SG name COMP MartaHer name is Marta.(c) Marta gum sye do Yekese. Marta name big COMP YekeseMartss surname is Yekese
A noun class, gender or grammatical gender system is the grammaticalclassification of nouns, pronouns and other referential devices. Gender for a linguist is agrammatical classification, which may be quite independent of any naturalclassification, e.g., female vs. male gender. “According to Wurm (1982:208), "An important structural and typological featureof the WestPapuan Phylum languages is the indication of both subject and object of theverbs by prefixes, with a masculine-feminine gender distinction in the 3sg." This maybe true of most other members of WPP, but for Abun there are no such prefixes on verbsand nor is there a masculine-feminine distinction. Abun stands in stark contrast to otherWPP languages at this point.” Berry (1995:12)Gender vs. noun class systems The distinction between the two terms is by the presence of classifiers, i.e. specialoperators that are used in some or all noun phrases to smallness is diminutive whileoperators that express unusual largeness are augmentatives, e.g., in Fulfuldebing-a „girl‟ (augmentative) bing-el „small girl‟ (diminutive) bing-um „very small girl‟(diminutive)
What became clear now is that very few languages conform 100 per cent to thegeneral expectations provided by Greenberg (1963). “Many conceivable permutations of word and morpheme ordering within the nounphrase are attested cross-linguistically. Adpositions and determiners are foundpreceding and following the noun, and items conventionally analysed as cases are foundas prefixes, suffixes, infixes and various types of stem changes.” Asbury (2008:35) Concerning the comparatives proposition of (QUAL-MKR-STD) is difficult to begeneralized. Because in some languages such as Fulfulde, although there are quality andstandard element but there are no comparative markers (as shown above in theexamples of comparatives). These issues draw the attention to the need of moreinvestigation of the African languages in order to confirm such claims. Finally, no particular importance to main-clause constituent order, as it is simplyone property among many.
Asbury, Anna, (2008), The morphosyntax of case and adpositions, LOT, TheNetherlands Berry, Keith, et al., (1995), A Description of the Abun Language: Phonologyand Basic Morpho-syntax, La Trobe University, Australia Blake, Barry J., (2004), Case, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, UnitedKingdom Heine, Bernd and Nurse, Derek, (2000), African languages: An introduction,Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom Heine, Bernd and Leyew, Zelealem, (2008), Is Africa a linguistic area?, In ALinguistic Geography of Africa, ed. Heine & Nurse, Cambridge University Press,United Kingdom Payne, E. Thomas, (1997), Describing morphosyntax: A guide for fieldlinguists, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom
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