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Article

“Special language domain” (SLD) refers to domains or areas of language use in which linguistic rules may be violated legitimately. The SLD is similar to “free trade zones,” “special administrative regions,” and “special economic zones” in which tariff, executive, and economic regulations may be legitimately violated to an extent. Innovative use in SLD is another major resource for language evolution and language change as well as language contact and language acquisition, since some temporary and innovative forms of usage in SLD may develop beyond the SLD at a later stage to become part of the core system of linguistic rules. Focusing on relevant grammatical phenomena observed in the Chinese language, poetry in various forms, titles and slogans, and Internet language are the three major types of SLD, and their violation of linguistic rules is motivated differently. Furthermore, although core linguistic rules may be violated in SLD, the violations are still subject to certain limits and restrictions. Only some language-particular rules can be violated legitimately in SLD; the principles of Universal Grammar, applicable generally for all human languages, have to be observed even in the SLD. The study of a special language domain provides an ideal and fascinating window for linguists to understand language mechanisms, explain historical change in language, and plausibly predict the future direction of language evolution.

Article

Miguel Casas Gómez and Martin Hummel

Structural semantics is a primarily European structural linguistic approach to the content level of language which basically derives from two historical sources. The main inspiration stems from Ferdinand de Saussure’s Cours de linguistique générale (1916), where the Genevan linguist also formulates the fundamental principles of semantic analysis: the twofold character of the linguistic sign, the inner determination of its content by the—allegedly autonomous—linguistic system, the consequent exclusion of the extralinguistic reality, the notion of opposition inside the system, and the concept of “associative relations” in the domain of semantics. This tradition was later refined by Hjelmslev and Coseriu, who introduced theoretical and methodological strength and rigor, suggesting systematic analyses in terms of semantic features linked by (binary) opposition. The second source of inspiration was the more holistic concept elaborated by Wilhelm von Humboldt, who saw language as a means of structuring the world. In the second half of the 20th century, structural semantics was mainstream semantics (to the extent that semantic analysis was accepted at all). A long series of authors deepened these historical traditions in theoretical and empirical studies, some of them suggesting secondary and/or partial models. Finally, prototype semantics and cognitive semantics strove to downgrade structural semantics by turning back to a more holistic conception of meaning including the speakers’ knowledge of the world, although not without introducing the alternative structural notion of “network.”

Article

Chinese nominal phrases are typologically distinct from their English counterparts in many aspects. Most strikingly, Chinese is featured with a general classifier system, which not only helps to categorize nouns but also has to do with the issue of quantification. Moreover, it has neither noncontroversial plural markers nor (in)definite markers. Its bare nouns are allowed in various argument positions. As a consequence, Chinese is sometimes characterized as a classifier language, as an argumental language, or as an article-less language. One of the questions arising is whether these apparently different but related properties underscore a single issue: that it is the semantics of nouns that is responsible for all these peculiarities of Mandarin nominal phrases. It has been claimed that Chinese nouns are born as kind terms, from which the object-level readings can be derived, being either existential or definite. Nevertheless, the existence of classifiers in Chinese is claimed to be independent of the kind denotation of its bare nouns. Within the general area of noun semantics, a number of other semantic issues have generated much interest. One is concerned with the availability of the mass/count distinction in Mandarin nominal phrases. Another issue has to do with the semantics of classifiers. Are classifiers required by the noun semantics or the numeral semantics, when occurring in the syntactic context of Numeral/Quantifier-Classifier-Noun? Finally, how is the semantic notion of definiteness understood in article-less languages like Mandarin Chinese? Should its denotation be characterized with uniqueness or familiarity?

Article

A number of recent developments in phonological theory, beginning with The Sound Pattern of English, are particularly relevant to the phonology of compounds. They address both the phonological phenomena that apply to compound words and the phonological structures that are required as the domains of these phenomena: segmental and nonsegmental phenomena that operate within each member of a compound separately, as well as at the juncture between the members of compounds and throughout compounds as a whole. In all cases, what is crucial for the operation of the phonological phenomena of compounds is phonological structure, in terms of constituents of the Prosodic Hierarchy, as opposed to morphosyntactic structure. Specifically, only two phonological constituents are required, the Phonological Word, which provides the domain for phenomena that apply to the individual members of compounds and at their junctures, and a larger constituent that groups the members of compounds together. The nature of the latter is somewhat controversial, the main issue being whether or not there is a constituent in the Prosodic Hierarchy between the Phonological Word and the Phonological Phrase. When present, this constituent, the Composite Group (revised from the original Clitic Group), includes the members of compounds, as well as “stray” elements such as clitics and “Level 2” affixes. In its absence, compounds, and often the same “stray” elements, are analyzed as a type of Recursive Phonological Word, although crucially, the combinations of such element do not exhibit the same properties as the basic Phonological Word.

Article

Masayoshi Shibatani

The major achievements in syntactic typology garnered nearly 50 years ago by acclaimed typologists such as Edward Keenan and Bernard Comrie continue to exert enormous influence in the field, deserving periodic appraisals in the light of new discoveries and insights. With an increased understanding of them in recent years, typologically controversial ergative and Philippine-type languages provide a unique opportunity to reassess the issues surrounding the delicately intertwined topics of grammatical relations and relative clauses (RCs), perhaps the two foremost topics in syntactic typology. Keenan’s property-list approach to the grammatical relation subject brings wrong results for ergative and Philippine-type languages, both of which have at their disposal two primary grammatical relations of subject and absolutive in the former and of subject and topic in the latter. Ergative languages are characterized by their deployment of arguments according to both the nominative (S=A≠P) and the ergative (S=P≠A) pattern. Phenomena such as nominal morphology and relativization are typically controlled by the absolutive relation, defined as a union of {S, P} resulting from a P-based generalization. Other phenomena such as the second person imperative deletion and a gap control in compound (coordinate) sentences involve as a pivot the subject relation, defined as an {S, A} grouping resulting from an A-based generalization. Ergative languages, thus, clearly demonstrate that grammatical relations are phenomenon/construction specific. Philippine-type languages reinforce this point by their possession of subjects, as defined above, and a pragmatico-syntactic relation of topic correlated with the referential prominence of a noun phrase (NP) argument. As in ergative languages, certain phenomena, for example, controlling of a gap in the want-type control construction, operate in terms of the subject, while others, for example, relativization, revolve around the topic. With regard to RCs, the points made above bear directly on the claim by Keenan and Comrie that subjects are universally the most relativizable of NP’s, justifying the high end of the Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy. A new nominalization perspective on relative clauses reveals that grammatical relations are actually irrelevant to the relativization process per se, and that the widely embraced typology of RCs, recognizing so-called headless and internally headed RCs and others as construction types, is misguided in that RCs in fact do not exist as independent grammatical structures; they are merely epiphenomenal to the usage patterns of two types of grammatical nominalizations. The so-called subject relativization (e.g., You should marry a man who loves you ) involves a head noun and a subject argument nominalization (e.g., [who [Ø loves you]]) that are joined together forming a larger NP constituent in the manner similar to the way a head noun and an adjectival modifier are brought together in a simple attributive construction (e.g., a rich man) with no regard to grammatical relations. The same argument nominalization can head an NP (e.g., You should marry who loves you ). This is known as a headless RC, while it is in fact no more than an NP use of an argument nominalization, as opposed to the modification use of the same structure in the ordinary restrictive RC seen above. So-called internally headed RCs involve event nominalizations (e.g., Quechua Maria wallpa-ta wayk’u-sqa-n -ta mik”u-sayku [Maria chicken-acc cook-P.nmlzr-3sg-acc eat-prog.1pl], lit. “We are eating Maria cook a chicken,” and English I heard John sing in the kitchen ) that evoke various substantive entities metonymically related to the event, such as event protagonists (as in the Quechua example), results (as in the English example), and abstract entities such as facts and propositions (e.g., I know that John sings in the kitchen ).

Article

Topic and topicalization are key notions to understand processes of syntactic and prosodic readjustments in Romance. More specifically, topicalization refers to the syntactic mechanisms and constructions available in a language to mark an expression as the topic of the sentence. Despite the lack of a uniform definition of topic, often based on the notions of aboutness or givenness, significant advances have been made in Romance linguistics since the 1990s, yielding a better understanding of the topicalization constructions, their properties, and their grammatical correlates. Prosodically, topics are generally described as being contained in independent intonational phrases. The syntactic and pragmatic characteristics of a specific topicalization construction, by contrast, depend both on the form of resumption of the dislocated topic within the clause and on the types of topic (aboutness, given, and contrastive topics). We can thus distinguish between hanging topic (left dislocation) (HTLD) and clitic left-dislocation (ClLD) for sentence-initial topics, and clitic right-dislocation (ClRD) for sentence-final dislocated constituents. These topicalization constructions are available in most Romance languages, although variation may affect the type and the obligatory presence of the resumptive element. Scholars working on topic and topicalization in the Romance languages have also addressed controversial issues such as the relation between topics and subjects, both grammatical (nominative) subjects and ‘oblique’ subjects such as dative experiencers and locative expressions. Moreover, topicalization has been discussed for medieval Romance, in conjunction with its alleged V2 syntactic status. Some topicalization constructions such as subject inversion, especially in the non-null subject Romance languages, and Resumptive Preposing may indeed be viewed as potential residues of medieval V2 property in contemporary Romance.

Article

Marianne Pouplier

One of the most fundamental problems in research on spoken language is to understand how the categorical, systemic knowledge that speakers have in the form of a phonological grammar maps onto the continuous, high-dimensional physical speech act that transmits the linguistic message. The invariant units of phonological analysis have no invariant analogue in the signal—any given phoneme can manifest itself in many possible variants, depending on context, speech rate, utterance position and the like, and the acoustic cues for a given phoneme are spread out over time across multiple linguistic units. Speakers and listeners are highly knowledgeable about the lawfully structured variation in the signal and they skillfully exploit articulatory and acoustic trading relations when speaking and perceiving. For the scientific description of spoken language understanding this association between abstract, discrete categories and continuous speech dynamics remains a formidable challenge. Articulatory Phonology and the associated Task Dynamic model present one particular proposal on how to step up to this challenge using the mathematics of dynamical systems with the central insight being that spoken language is fundamentally based on the production and perception of linguistically defined patterns of motion. In Articulatory Phonology, primitive units of phonological representation are called gestures. Gestures are defined based on linear second order differential equations, giving them inherent spatial and temporal specifications. Gestures control the vocal tract at a macroscopic level, harnessing the many degrees of freedom in the vocal tract into low-dimensional control units. Phonology, in this model, thus directly governs the spatial and temporal orchestration of vocal tract actions.

Article

Isabel Oltra-Massuet

Conjugation classes have been defined as the set of all forms of a verb that spell out all possible morphosyntactic categories of person, number, tense, aspect, mood, and/or other additional categories that the language expresses in verbs. Theme vowels instantiate conjugation classes as purely morphological markers; that is, they determine the verb’s morphophonological surface shape but not its syntactic or semantic properties. They typically split the vocabulary items of the category verb into groups that spellout morphosyntactic and morphosemantic feature specifications with the same inflectional affixes. The bond between verbs and their conjugational marking is idiosyncratic, and cannot be established on semantic, syntactic, or phonological grounds, although there have been serious attempts at finding a systematic correlation. The existence of theme vowels and arbitrary conjugation classes has been taken by lexicalist theories as empirical evidence to argue against syntactic approaches to word formation and are used as one of the main arguments for the autonomy of morphology. They further raise questions on the nature of basic morphological notions such as stems or paradigms and serve as a good empirical ground for theories of allomorphy and syncretism, or to test psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic theories of productivity, full decomposition, and storage. Conjugations and their instantiation via theme vowels may also be a challenge for theories of first language acquisition and the learning of morphological categories devoid of any semantic meaning or syntactic alignment that extend to second language acquisition as well. Thus, analyzing their nature, their representation, and their place in grammar is crucial as the approach to these units can have profound effects on linguistic theory and the architecture of grammar.

Article

Existential and locative constructions form an interesting cluster of copular structures in Romance. They are clearly related, and yet there are theoretical reasons to keep them apart. In-depth analysis of the Romance languages lends empirical support to their differentiation. In semantic terms, existentials express propositions about existence or presence in an implicit contextual domain, whereas locatives express propositions about the location of an entity. In terms of information structure, existentials are typically all new or broad focus constructions. Locatives are normally characterized by focus on the location, although this can also be a presupposed topic. Romance existentials are formed with a copula and a postcopular phrase (the pivot). A wide range of variation is found in copula selection, copula-pivot agreement, expletive subjects, the presence and function of an etymologically locative precopular proform, and, finally, the categorial status of the pivot, which is normally a noun phrase, but can also be an adjective (Calabrian, Sicilian). As for Romance locatives, a distinction must be drawn between, on the one hand, a construction with canonical SV order and S-V agreement and, on the other hand, another construction, with VS order and, in some languages, lack of V-S agreement. This latter structure has been named inverse locative. Both existentials and locatives have a nonverbal predicate: the locative phrase in locatives and the postcopular noun or adjectival phrase in existentials. In locatives the predicate selects a thematic argument (i.e., an argument endowed with a thematic role), which serves as the syntactic subject, exception being made for inverse locatives in some languages. Contrastingly, in existentials, there is no thematic argument. In some languages the copula turns to the pivot for agreement, as this is the only overt noun phrase endowed with person and number features (Italian, Friulian, Romanian, etc.). In other languages this non-canonical agreement is not licensed (French, some Calabrian dialects, Brazilian Portuguese, etc.). In others still (Spanish, Sardinian, European Portuguese, Catalan, Gallo-Italian, etc.), it is only admitted with pivot classes that can be defined in terms of specificity. When the copula does not agree with the pivot, an expletive subject form may figure in precopular position. The cross-linguistic variation in copula-pivot agreement has been claimed to depend on language-specific constraints on subjecthood. Highly specific pivots are only admitted in contextualized existentials, which express a proposition about the presence of an individual or an entity in a given and salient context. These existentials are found in all the Romance languages and would seem to defy the semantico-pragmatic constraints on the pivot that are widely known as Definiteness Effects.

Article

Grammaticalization is traditionally defined as the gradual process whereby a lexical item becomes a grammatical item (primary grammaticalization), which may be followed by further formal and semantic reduction (secondary grammaticalization). It is a composite change that may affect both phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic-pragmatic properties of a morpheme, and it is found in all the world’s languages. On the level of morphology, grammaticalization has been shown to have various effects, ranging from the loss of inflection in primary grammaticalization to the development of bound morphemes or new inflectional classes in secondary grammaticalization. Well-known examples include the development of future auxiliaries from motion verbs (e.g., English to be going to), and the development of the Romance inflection future (e.g., French chanter-ai ‘I sing’, chanter-as ‘you sing’, etc., from a verb meaning ‘to have’). Although lexical-grammatical change is overwhelmingly unidirectional, shifts in the reverse direction, called degrammaticalization, have also been shown to occur. Like grammaticalization, degrammaticalization is a composite change, which is characterized by an increase in phonological and semantic substance as well as in morphosyntactic autonomy. Accordingly, the effects on morphology are different from those in grammaticalization. In primary degrammaticalization new inflections may be acquired (e.g., the Welsh verb nôl ‘to fetch,’ from an adposition meaning ‘after’), and erstwhile bound morphemes may become free morphemes (e.g., English ish). As such effects are also found in other types of changes, degrammaticalization needs to be clearly delineated from those. For example, a shift from a minor to a major category (e.g., English ifs and buts) or the lexicalization of bound affixes (isms), likewise result in new inflections, but these are instantaneous changes, not gradual ones.