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Article

Alignment and Word Order in the Romance Languages  

Francesco Rovai

The term “alignment” refers to the formal realization of the argument structure of the clause, that is, the ways in which the core arguments of the predicate are encoded by means of three main morphosyntactic devices: nominal case marking (morphological case, adpositions), verb marking systems (verbal agreement, pronominal affixes, auxiliaries, voice distinctions, etc.), and word order. The relative importance of these mechanisms of argument coding may considerably vary from language to language. In the Romance family, a major role is played by finite verb agreement and, to a lesser extent, auxiliary selection, participial agreement, voice distinctions, and word order, depending on the language/variety. Most typically, both transitive and intransitive subjects share the same formal coding (they control finite verb agreement and precede the verb in the basic word order) and are distinguished from direct objects (which do not control finite verb agreement and follow the verb in the basic word order). This arrangement of the argument structure is traditionally known as “nominative/accusative” alignment and can be easily identified as the main alignment of the Romance languages. Note that, with very few exceptions, nominal case marking is instead “neutral,” since no overt morphological distinction is made between subject and object arguments after the loss of the Latin case system. However, although the Romance languages can legitimately be associated with an accusative alignment, it must be borne in mind that, whatever the property selected, natural languages speak against an all-encompassing, holistic typology. A language “belongs” to an alignment type only insofar as it displays a significantly above-average frequency of clause structures with that kind of argument coding, but this does not exclude the existence of several grammatical domains that partake of different alignments. In the Romance family, minor patterns are attested that are not consistent with an accusative alignment. In part, they depend on robust crosslinguistic tendencies in the distribution of the different alignment types when they coexist in the same language. In part, they reflect phenomena of morphosyntactic realignment that can be traced back to the transition from Latin to Romance, when, alongside the dominant accusative alignment of the classical language, Late Latin developed an active alignment in some domains of the grammar—a development that has its roots in Classical and Early Latin. Today, the Romance languages preserve traces of this intermediate stage, but in large part, the signs of it have been replaced with novel accusative structures. In particular, at the level of the sentence, there emerges an accusative-aligned word order, with the preverbal position realizing the default “subject” position and the postverbal position instantiating the default “object” position.

Article

Construction-Based Research in China  

Xu Yang and Randy J. Lapolla

Research on construction-based grammar in China began in the late 1990s. Since its initial stages of introduction and preliminary exploration, it has entered a stage of productive and innovative development. In the past two decades, Chinese construction grammarians have achieved a number of valuable research results. In terms of theoretical applications, they have described and explained various types of constructions, such as schematic, partly variable, and fully substantive constructions. They have also applied the constructionist approach to the teaching of Chinese as a second language, proposing some new grammar systems or teaching modes such as the construction-chunk approach (构式-语块教学法), the lexicon-construction interaction model (词汇-构式互动体系), and trinitarian grammar (三一语法). In terms of theoretical innovation, Chinese construction grammarians have put forward theories or hypotheses such as the unification of grammar and rhetoric through constructions, the concept of lexical coercion, and interactive construction grammar (互动构式语法). However, some problems have also emerged in the field of construction grammar approaches. These include a narrow understanding of the concept of construction, a limited range of research topics, and a narrow range of disciplinary perspectives and methods. To ensure the long-term development of construction-based research in China, scholars should be encouraged to make the following changes: First, they should adopt a usage-based approach using natural data, and they should keep up with advances in the study of construction networks. Second, they should broaden the scope of construction-based research and integrate it with language typology and historical linguistics. Finally, they should integrate cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research findings and methods. In this way, construction-based research in China can continue to flourish and make significant contributions to the study of grammar and language.

Article

Binding in Germanic  

Eric Reuland and Martin Everaert

All languages have expressions, typically pronominals and anaphors, that may or must depend for their interpretation on another expression, their antecedent. When such a dependency is subject to structural conditions, it reflects binding. Although there is considerable variation in binding patterns cross-linguistically, in fact, variation is along a limited set of parameters. The Germanic languages exemplify some of the main factors involved. In Germanic, third-person pronominals generally do not allow binding by a co-argument. However, in Frisian and Afrikaans, they do, being embedded in a richer structure than meets the eye. In Continental West Germanic and Scandinavian, anaphors come in two types: simplex anaphors (SE-anaphors)—deficient for number and gender—and complex anaphors (SELF-anaphors). These typically consist of a pronominal or SE-anaphor combined with an element like Dutch zelf ‘self’ or one of its cognates. In all the Germanic languages SELF-anaphors are bound in their local domain—approximately the domain of their nearest subject—except in a few identifiable positions, where they are interpreted logophorically. That is, they accept a non-local antecedent, provided this element holds the perspective of the sentence. The distribution of SE-anaphors involves three different conditions. First, they can be bound by a co-argument only if the verb belongs to a restricted class, which allows syntactic detransitivization. Second, in general, SE-anaphors allow non-local binding. But the conditions differ among subgroups. In Dutch and German, they can only be bound non-locally when contained in a causative or perception verb complement or a small clause. In Mainland Scandinavian, non-local binding is, in principle, available to all infinitival clauses (subject to some dialectal variation). For instance, in some varieties of Norwegian, referentiality of intervening subjects restricts binding; in other varieties, the restricting factor is not “finiteness” but “being specified for tense.” Third, in Icelandic long-distance antecedents beyond the infinitival domain are licensed by a subjunctive, together with the requirement that the antecedent holds the perspective. Faroese largely patterns like Icelandic, although lacking a subjunctive. However, the class of verbs that allow this pattern coincides with the class of verbs in Icelandic that have a subjunctive complement. Non-local binding of SE-anaphors is sensitive to the requirement that the antecedent be animate, but the languages show differences in the details. Unlike the West Germanic languages, the Scandinavian languages all have a possessive reflexive in third person. In general, their distribution appears to be quite close to that of SE-anaphors, but this is subject to dialectal variation, with various differences in the details.

Article

The Locative Existential Construction in Chinese  

Yang Gu and Jie Guo

The locative inversion constructions are characterized by a noncanonical word order where a locative phrase is inverted preceding the verb and the thematic subject follows the verb. This phenomenon is found quite common crosslinguistically, though whether “inversion” is the right label for the constructions or not remains controversial. Issues regarding the status of the locative phrase, Case assignment, unaccusativity, verb argument structure, agreement, and the mechanism that triggers this noncanonical word order have been the major concerns in various proposals. The closest constructions that exhibit similar word order found in Chinese are locative existential constructions (LECs). However, the assumption of locative inversion in the constructions requires substantial empirical support. The Chinese LECs depict or present the existence of an entity or an eventuality. As in English and other languages where locative inversion prevails, issues related to the grammatical function of the locative phrase, Case assignment, and types of verbs in LECs draw a lot of attention from researchers in Chinese linguistics. In particular, research on the types of verbs in LECs has important bearing on the possible syntactic derivation of locative existential sentences. The discussions in this article show that the verbs allowed in the constructions vary. Some are intrinsically intransitive postural verbs, and many others are lexical-syntactically derived from ditransitive placement verbs such as fang ‘put’, gua ‘hang’, etc. via decausativization. The result of the derivation yields verbs that show alternation with their ditransitive counterparts. These derived verbs are seemingly similar to the unaccusative member of the causative~unaccusative pairs in English, but different in terms of their argument structure and syntactic behavior. The intransitive and the derived verbs found in the LECs are shown to have the same lexical semantic sense of spatial configuration and can be treated on a par with a template of [y Location HAVE z Theme]. The abstract verb HAVE, meaning existentiality but lacking manner of existence, can be lexicalized by verbs, specifying various manner of existentiality. In other words, the argument structure of the verbs in the constructions is , where the location is realized by a locative phrase, which is a noun phrase in Chinese, base generated in [Spec, vP] in accordance with VP-internal Subject Hypothesis, and the theme by another noun phrase denoting an entity. It is the lexical semantics of these verbs that accounts for not only the general properties of Chinese LECs shared with other languages like English but also the language particular properties such as the word order and the aspect marker obligatorily used in Chinese LECs. Given these particular properties, Chinese LECs are shown not to involve locative inversion.

Article

Diatheses in Germanic  

Simon Kasper

An alternation between clauses is treated as a diathetical alternation (a) if one or more semantic roles associated with the main verb exhibit differential grammatical (i.e., morphological or syntactic) encoding, (b) if the overt lexical expressions have same lexical roots, and (c) if the clauses approximately share at least the meaning and truth conditions of the semantically less specific clause alternant. This qualifies as diathesis what has come to be known as the canonical passive, impersonal passive, non-canonical passive, pseudo-passive, anticausative, the dative alternation, and the locative alternation, among others. The focus of this article is on the semantic restrictions governing a clause’s participation in various diathetical alternations across the modern Germanic (standard) languages. Semantic differences between alternating clauses are captured using a sophisticated semantic role account. Grammatical encoding of diathesis is described in a theory-neutral manner using the four-case system of the old Germanic languages as a tertium comparationis and syntactic function notions from descriptive typology. Diatheses are differentiated by the semantic roles that are fore- and backgrounded by means of the syntactic functions they bear. The roles that alternate in grammatical coding are foregrounded in the clause in which they have the higher syntactic function in a syntactic function hierarchy, and they are backgrounded in the clause in which they have the lower syntactic function. In a first set of diatheses, alternations are described in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded and a proto-patient is foregrounded. This set includes a “patient passive” and the “anticausative domain.” In a second set of diatheses, the proto-agent is again backgrounded, but now the proto-recipient is foregrounded. This is illustrated using the “eventive recipient passive.” Completing this pattern, the “locational passive” represents a diathetical pattern in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded once more and the proto-locational role is foregrounded. Other types of diatheses in which the proto-locational is foregrounded and the proto-patient is backgrounded are exemplified by means of the location/possession alternation (dative alternation) and the location/affection alternation (e.g., locative and applicative alternations).

Article

Degree Expressions in Chinese  

Linmin Zhang

Degree expressions in natural language reflect how human cognition performs abstract tasks like taking measurements (i.e., mapping items to degrees on a certain scale) and conducting comparisons between measurements. There is a great variation on how different languages encode notions like degrees and scales and operate comparison, inspiring ongoing theoretical development in degree semantics. This article presents major empirical data on degree expressions in Mandarin Chinese and surveys current research on Chinese-specific phenomena. Compared to well-known English phenomena, Chinese gradable predicates like 高gāo ‘tall, high’ seem rather syntactic-category-fluid, and due to the lack of comparative morphemes, their interpretation can be ambiguous between a comparative use and a positive/measurement interpretation. Typical degree expressions in Chinese, including the positive use, comparatives, equatives, and measurement constructions, demonstrate patterns different from those in English. Moreover, not only adjective-like words such as 高gāo ‘tall, high’, but also property nouns (e.g., 魅力mèi-lì ‘charm’, 钱qián ‘money’) and mental verbs (e.g., 喜欢xǐ-huān ‘like’) have gradable meanings and can be used to form degree expressions. With regard to these empirical phenomena, this article focuses on the following fundamental research questions in the literature: (a) The encoding of comparison: In a language lacking comparative morphemes, how is the distinction established between the positive and the comparative interpretation? (b) Compositional derivation: How are Chinese comparatives distinct from well-studied English clausal comparatives? (c) Ontology of degrees: How do various Chinese degree expressions reveal the underlying ontological assumptions of scales and degrees? Even though many of the research questions are still hotly debated in the existing literature, research on Chinese empirical data already brings profound implications for theoretical development of degree semantics. In particular, this article suggests a new look at variations between languages with versus without overt comparative morphemes (e.g., English -er) and invites more research on the pragmatics involved in cross-linguistic degree expressions.

Article

Morphological and Syntactic Variation and Change in European Spanish  

María José Serrano

Since the 1990s, there have been major developments in the variationist approach to morphological and syntactic variation and change in European Spanish. This research area has garnered increasing interest because of the various morphosyntactic phenomena available for study. A significant amount of work on morphological and syntactic variation and change has been devoted to analyzing the linguistic differences among variants and the social and stylistic communicative settings in which they are used. The main phenomena studied in European Spanish are classified in three main groups: variation of personal pronouns, variation of verbal forms, and variation of syntactic constructions. Morphological and syntactic variants are linguistic choices constructed in a meaningful way that reveal speakers’ perceptions of real-world events and are projected stylistically onto the domain of discourse and interaction. Effective engagement with these choices requires the adoption of a broad, multifaceted notion of meaning to overcome earlier methodological controversies about studying variation at the morphological and syntactic levels because of the meaning that variants convey. In recent years, variation theory has benefited greatly from research in cognitive linguistics, a field whose basic tenet is that grammatical structures reflect the human perception of events. In fact, the most modern theoretical approach to morphosyntactic variation is based on the study of the cognitive meanings underlying variants, which is at the core of the empirical concerns of cognitive sociolinguistics. From a cognitive viewpoint, language is not a separate ability within the realm of human cognition; rather, it is developed along with all other cognitive skills. Studies of morphosyntactic variation address the social contexts in which variation takes place to adequately explain linguistic variation phenomena. The analysis of the communicative and cognitive backgrounds of morphological and syntactic variation challenges the traditional, structural, and behavioral concepts of linguistic variability and change. Thus, the study of these changes reflects the diversity and evolution of ways of thinking.

Article

The Semantics of Chinese Wh-Phrases  

Qianqian Ren and Haihua Pan

In formal semantics, a wh-phrase is traditionally assigned the semantics of an existential quantifier phrase, an abstraction operator, or a set of alternatives. Such semantics per se, however, is not sufficient to account for the behaviors of Chinese wh-phrases. A wh-phrase in Chinese may be used in a variety of contexts and express a variety of meanings. Apart from interrogative meaning, it may also give rise to existential or universal meaning. More specifically, it can be licensed in typical contexts that license negative polarity items like the c-command domain of negation, the antecedent clause of a conditional, and a yes–no question. It can also be licensed in modal contexts, including epistemic modality and deontic modality. Finally, it can produce a universal reading by being quantified by the adverb dōu ‘all’ or forming the so-called bare conditionals/wh-conditionals, which are composed by two clauses containing matched wh-forms without overt connectives. In order to achieve explanatory adequacy, it is necessary to consider whether and how the different functions of wh-phrases can be unified and whether they can be derived from more general principles or mechanisms. To maintain descriptive adequacy, variations in licensing and interpretation possibilities across wh-items and contexts must also be taken into consideration. Another feature of Chinese wh-phrases is that sometimes they seem to extend their scope beyond domains within which they otherwise take scope (e.g., a Chinese wh-phrase may take existential scope within the antecedent of a conditional, though it may also co-vary with another wh-phrase in the consequent of that conditional). In this respect, they behave like indefinites. As some evidence suggests that some cases where they display this feature may in fact involve the interrogative use, it remains to be seen whether the locus of explanation lies in the wh-phrase itself or in the question meaning. There are other big questions to consider: For instance, how do prosody, syntax and semantics interact with one another in licensing and interpreting a Chinese wh-phrase? Do the theoretical devices and mechanisms postulated have psychological reality? There is also much space for empirical research, which hopefully will help settle debates over the grammaticality of certain structures or the availability of certain readings.

Article

Typological Concepts and Descriptive Categories for Chinese Characters  

Jianming Wu

The typological concepts of graphemes, morphemes, and words are key to linguistic analyses for many languages. In the Western linguistic tradition, graphemes are generally defined as the smallest written signs that may stand for a consonant, a vowel, or a syllable in speech. Morphemes are typically regarded as the minimal linguistic forms with a meaning or function. And words are commonly identified as the minimal free form in a sentence. However, these typological concepts are closely related to but are critically different from the three descriptive categories in Chinese, namely, 基础构件jī chǔ gòu jiàn ‘basic components’, 字zì ‘characters’, and 字组zì zǔ ‘character groups’. jī chǔ gòu jiàn ‘basic components’ are the smallest functional units in the formation of Chinese characters. zì ‘characters’ are visually and auditorily distinct units in Chinese. They are connected to the concept of morphemes but mean much more than a morpheme. zì zǔ ‘character groups’ are word-like units, which consist of two or more characters that are joined together, primarily in a disyllabic unit, yet the boundary between syntax and morphology is blurred among character groups.

Article

Language Ideologies  

Susan Gal

Language ideologies are representations about the nature, structure, and use of linguistic forms in a social world. These understandings are never only about language. They are politically positioned, morally and aesthetically loaded evaluations of the situated linguistic practices to which a social group attends. Language ideologies are evident in practices and in embodied dispositions, or may be implicit in textual form and in material infrastructures. Sometimes they are explicit in discourse. Language ideologies are indispensable in social life because they mediate between aspects of language and other sociocultural phenomena such as identities, interactional stances, and hierarchies of cultural value.Speakers must draw on their presumptions about language and speech to interpret talk and thereby engage in everyday interactions, including child socialization, political debate, ritual speech, intellectual exploration, and governance. Language ideologies have considerable sociopolitical and historical consequences as metacommunications that frame the meaning of enregistered signs-in-use. Mediatingsemiotically between linguistic practices and social as well as linguistic structures, ideologies shape the direction of linguistic and social change. Semiotic concepts of indexicality, differentiation, rhematization, fractality, and erasure are essential in analysis. Language ideologies are evident in communities of all kinds. Scholars, too, have ideological presuppositions which orient their research and have political consequences. A study of a social group's language ideologies is indispensable in projects of language documentation, revitalization, poetics, and multilingual sustainability.