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Article

Yiddish  

Lea Schäfer

The Yiddish language is directly linked to the culture and destiny of the Jewish population of Central and Eastern Europe. It originated as the everyday language of the Jewish population in the German-speaking lands around the Middle Ages and underwent a series of developments until the Shoah, which took a particularly large toll on the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish population. Today, Yiddish is spoken as a mother tongue almost exclusively in ultra-Orthodox communities, where it is now exposed to entirely new influences and is, thus, far from being a dead language. After an introductory sketch, information on the geographical distribution and number of speakers as well as key historical developments are briefly summarized. Particularly important are the descriptions of the various sociolinguistic situations and the source situation. This is followed by a description of various (failed) attempts at standardization, as well as the geographical distribution and surveys of the dialects. The following section describes the status of Yiddish in the early 21st century, which overlaps with the sociolinguistic situation of Orthodox Yiddish. Finally, the linguistic features of modern Eastern Yiddish (dialects, standard, and Orthodox) are presented. In this context, linguistic levels and structures in which Yiddish differs from other (standard) Germanic languages are also discussed. Since Yiddish, as a language derived from Middle High German, is particularly close to German varieties, the differences and similarities between the two languages are particularly emphasized.

Article

Ancient Greek Views on Greek and Other Languages  

Toon Van Hal

The Ancient Greeks came into contact with possibilities and problems related to ‘language’ in several respects. The earliest epics contained implicit etymological explanations, and both the pre-Socratic philosophers and the sophists were intrigued by the link between the form of words and the meaning they carried. The adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet was an additional stimulus to start reflecting on language. ‘Letters’ became the smallest unit of inquiry in Greek language thought. Of the other units, the word was seen as the most significant level. Elaborating on the philosophical foundations laid by Plato, Aristotle, and early Stoic thinkers, Alexandrian scholars started shaping a philologically oriented tradition of grammar, which was largely oriented to the study of the eight parts of speech and directed at young students of Greek literature. Within the frame of grammar, less attention was paid to the level of the sentence, which explains why syntactic issues were not intensively explored. At its inception, Greek lexicography was an ancillary tool for understanding Greek literary texts too, directed at an audience of native speakers of Greek. Hence, lexicographical projects limited to including difficult or special words. Only once Romans began to delve into the study of Greek did the composition of general lexicons become more urgent.

Article

Compounding and Linking Elements in Germanic  

Barbara Schlücker

Compounding is a frequent and productive word-formation pattern in all Germanic languages. It is a pattern that links an overtly simple grammatical form to a rich semantic-conceptual structure. Overall, there are rather few restrictions on the formation of compounds, and units of various word classes can serve as constituents in compounds. Both determinative and coordinative compounds exist across Germanic. Nominal compounding is the largest and most productive class in all Germanic languages, in particular noun–noun compounding, followed by adjectival compounding. Verbal compounding, on the other hand, is much more restrained, in particular in West Germanic, whereas it is more common in North Germanic. Linking elements are a typical but not necessary property of Germanic compounds. They occur mainly in noun–noun compounds. The inventory and use of linking elements show differences between the West Germanic languages, on one hand, and the North Germanic languages, on the other hand. Regarding the distribution and use of linking-s, however, there are many similarities between the Germanic languages. Notwithstanding the similarities described here, there are also many differences between the various Germanic compound patterns. These global and specific characteristics are the central subject of the article, taking into account data from German, Luxemburgish, Dutch, West Frisian, English, Afrikaans, and Yiddish (West Germanic) and from Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese (North Germanic).

Article

Discourse Markers in Chinese: Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives  

Fangqiong Zhan

In the process of communication, different expressions in discourse often convey unequal amounts of information: some expressions have rich semantic content, expressing the specific message that the speaker wishes to convey; others seem to be nonsemantic and non-truth-conditional. The latter are not part of the propositional content the message conveys and do not contribute to the meaning of the proposition. These expressions mainly function as a relational operator to connect the propositions in the discourse. In a sequence of discourse segments S1–S2, such expression usually occurs at the initial position of S2 followed by a phonological break (a comma in writing), i and it does not affect the propositional content of the messages conveyed in the segments of the discourse. The discourse-functional expressions in language have long been the focus of attention on the part of scholars, and the term “discourse markers” (DMs) (huayu biaoji, in Chinese) has often been used in previous studies. The concept of DMs originated from “recurrent modifiers,” the common modifiers in spoken language proposed by the British linguist Randolph Quirk in the 1950s. He pointed out that “recurrent modifiers” have an important role in information transmission but have no grammatical effect. In the 1980s, DMs gradually became an independent linguistic topic among Western scholars. In the field of Chinese linguistics, from the 21st century onward, the concept of DMs has been examined in depth, and the application of the related theories to the research of Chinese DMs has been the topic of widespread discussion. However, most Chinese studies on DMs are case-based, and therefore systematic and theorized understandings of Chinese DMs have not yet been reached. This article reviews the research status of DMs in recent Western and Chinese linguistic communities, summarizes the studies on the synchronic semantics-pragmatics and diachronic development of Chinese DMs, and reveals issues worthy of further study in the future.

Article

Nominal Ellipsis in Chinese  

Audrey Yen-hui Li and Ting-chi Wei

Chinese prominently allows its subjects and objects (arguments) or parts of arguments to be omitted (labeled as nominal ellipsis). This partially contributes to the widespread perception that Chinese is a discourse-oriented or topic-prominent language and that discourse/context or pragmatics are responsible for leaving elements unsaid and for interpreting them; what will be understood from context can be omitted. This article emphasizes the fact that, even though context can be a factor, the acceptability of nominal ellipsis and the different interpretive possibilities for null subjects and null objects must follow grammatical constraints. Such restrictions are not predicted or accommodated by approaches that analyze null subjects and null objects in the same way or by a deletion mechanism applying to the Phonological Form (PF-deletion). Available proposals that treat null subjects and null objects differently are evaluated and it will be shown that null subjects and null objects can be distinguished without stipulations. A null subject can be an empty pronoun but not a null object. A null object is a placeholder that is empty in content. Such an empty element is also responsible for the fact that noun phrases restrict their subparts that can be missing. Missing contents are filled via copying of lexical materials at the Logical Form (LF-copying).

Article

Prefixation (Nouns and Adjectives) in Romance Languages  

Claudio Iacobini

Romance nominal and adjectival prefixes are derivational affixes that are added before lexemes without determining a change in the part of speech of the lexeme with which they combine. The combination between prefixes and lexemes is mostly based on a semantic principle. Prefixes express functional-relational meanings, acting as modifiers of the base lexeme. The most important semantic categories expressed through nominal and adjectival prefixation are localization (within which we include spatial and temporal meanings, as well as hierarchy), negation, evaluation (i.e., augmentation and diminution in quantity and/or quality), multiplicity, union, reciprocity, and reflexivity. The prefixed lexeme is generally a hyponym of the base lexeme; when a prefixed lexeme is a noun, it inherits its gender from the noun base. Romance prefixes do not play any role in inflection. Nominal and adjectival prefixes do not differ much both from the formal and the semantic point of view in the early 21st-century standard Romance languages (i.e., those that have become the national official languages and developed a high degree of Ausbau). Such homogeneity is only marginally due to the conservation of features stemming from the legacy of a common Latin origin. It is mainly attributable to a re-Latinization of Romance languages through the scholarly transmission of words belonging to the domains of learned academic vocabulary coming from ancient Greek, as well as Classical, Humanistic, and Neo-Latin. The importance and the far-reaching consequences of this homogenizing re-Latinization are shown, on one hand, by the fact that Romance nominal and adjectival prefixation in standard Romance languages is, in the 21st century, more consistent and developed than it was at previous stages and, on the other hand, by the significant differences existing between standard and nonstandard Romance varieties. Standard Romance languages of the early 21st century are characterized by a quite rich inventory of Romance nominal and adjectival prefixes, whereas in nonstandard varieties native nominal and adjectival prefixes are not numerous and almost unproductive, a situation that roughly corresponds to that of the initial phase of Romance languages as a whole. Nominal and adjectival prefixation is a productive process in standard Romance languages; in the last centuries, both the number of elements and the semantic domains have increased, after a significant decrease undergone in the passage from Latin to Romance languages. Prefixed nouns and adjectives are numerous and frequently used both in current common vocabulary and, even more, in specialized terminologies. The spread of neoclassical compounding in common vocabulary (especially from the second half of the 20th century) has increased the number of right-headed words whose first element has a modifier function. Such a semantic relationship between the constituents of complex words shared by prefixation and some neoclassical compounds has both favored the diffusion of nominal and adjectival prefixation and determined a fuzzy zone between traditional prefixation and the new complex formations coming from technical and scientific terminology. Another blurred area between compounding and prefixation is due to the uncertain boundaries between nominal compounds with prepositions and nominal prefixation.

Article

Chinese Syllable Structure  

Jisheng Zhang

Chinese is generally considered a monosyllabic language in that one Chinese character corresponds to one syllable and vice versa, and most characters can be used as free morphemes, although there is a tendency for words to be disyllabic. On the one hand, the syllable structure of Chinese is simple, as far as permissible sequences of segments are concerned. On the other hand, complexities arise when the status of the prenuclear glide is concerned and with respect to the phonotactic constraints between the segments. The syllabic affiliation of the prenuclear glide in the maximal CGVX Chinese syllable structure has long been a controversial issue. Traditional Chinese phonology divides the syllable into shengmu (C) and yunmu, the latter consisting of medial (G), nucleus (V), and coda (X), which is either a high vowel (i/u) or a nasal (n/ŋ). This is known as the sheng-yun model, which translates to initial-final in English (IF in short). The traditional Chinese IF syllable model differs from the onset-rhyme (OR) syllable structure model in several aspects. In the former, the initial consists only of one consonant, excluding the glide, and the final—that is, everything after the initial consonant—is not the poetic rhyming unit which excludes the prenuclear glide; whereas in the latter, the onset includes a glide and the rhyme–that is, everything after the onset—is the poetic rhyming unit. The Chinese traditional IF syllable model is problematic in itself. First, the final is ternary branching, which is not compatible with the binary principle in contemporary linguistics. Second, the nucleus+coda, as the poetic rhyming unit, is not structured as a constituent. Accordingly, the question arises of whether Chinese syllables can be analyzed in the OR model. Many attempts have been made to analyze the Chinese prenuclear glide in the light of current phonological theories, particularly in the OR model, based on phonetic and phonological data on Chinese. Some such studies have proposed that the prenuclear glide occupies the second position in the onset. Others have proposed that the glide is part of the nucleus. Yet, others regard the glide as a secondary articulation of the onset consonant, while still others think of the glide as an independent branch directly linking to the syllable node. Also, some have proposed an IF model with initial for shengmu and final for yunmu, which binarily branches into G(lide) and R(hyme), consisting of N(ucleus) and C(oda). What is more, some have put forward a universal X-bar model of the syllable to replace the OR model, based on a syntactic X-bar structure. So far, there has been no authoritative finding that has conclusively decided the Chinese syllable structure. Moreover, the syllable is the cross-linguistic domain for phonotactics . The number of syllables in Chinese is very much smaller than that in many other languages mainly because of the complicated phonotactics of the language, which strictly govern the segmental relations within CGVX. In the X-bar syllable structure, the Chinese phonotactic constraints which configure segmental relations in the syllable domain mirror the theta rules which capture the configurational relations between specifier and head and head and complement in syntax. On the whole, analysis of the complexities of the Chinese syllable will shed light on the cross-linguistic representation of syllable structure, making a significant contribution to phonological typology in general.

Article

Evaluative Morphology in the Romance Languages  

Nicola Grandi

The vast majority of evaluative constructions are formed by means of morphological strategies. An evaluative construction must include at least the explicit expression of the standard (by means of a linguistic form that is lexically autonomous and is recognized by the speakers of the language as an actual word) and an evaluative mark. Therefore, in the Italian word gattino ‘kitten, dear little cat,’ the standard is expressed by the lexical morpheme gatt- (which occurs in masculine gatto and feminine gatta), while the evaluative mark is the suffix -ino. A construction can be defined as evaluative if it satisfies two conditions, one relating to semantics and the other to the formal level. The first condition indicates that an evaluative construction indicates a deviation from a standard (or default) value without resorting to any parameter of reference external to the concept itself. The second condition indicates that an evaluative construction must include the explicit expression of this standard and an evaluative mark. Among the world’s languages, evaluative morphology has a quite uneven diffusion: Eurasian languages, and Romance languages in particular, show the highest degree of evaluative morphology diffusion, considering the number of word formation processes involved, the word classes they apply to, and the semantic categories they express. From a historical point of view, evaluative affixes reveal an unstable behavior: they are often subject to a renovation. As a matter of fact, present-day Romance evaluative affixes do not coincide with Latin evaluative affixes: they derive from affixes that in Latin had different functions from ‘evaluation’ or from non-Latin affixes. From a synchronic point of view, Romance evaluative affixes prototypically exemplify all the cross-linguistically more frequent properties of evaluative morphology: categorial neutrality, insensitivity to the word class of the base, prefix-suffix neutrality, and so forth.

Article

Evaluative Adverbs in Chinese  

Dingxu Shi

Chinese lexical items like queshi, zhende, and pianpian represent the speaker’s evaluation of or attitude toward the proposition of the clause in which they appear and form a new proposition together with the at-issue proposition. They are termed evaluative adverbs (EA) even though they do not modify the predicate or the clause in the usual sense. Theoretical and practical considerations for analyzing them as adverbs are discussed with reference to similar cases in other languages, and reasons for treating them as evaluative items are presented with reference to their discourse functions. Examples are given to illustrate their properties and functions, including EA of mirativity, EA of confirmation, and EA of probability. Examples are also selected to show the relationship between EA and expected result, as well as that between EA and refutation. The linear order of EA and other preverbal elements is discussed in detail and evidence is presented that EA is not the same as predicative adjectives. These properties and behaviors are summarized into patterns to serve as the basis for analysis within the framework of cartography of left periphery. EA is assumed to have its own maximal projection Eval(uative)P, which is a layer of Split CP and takes TP as a complement directly or indirectly. The structural relationship of EvalP and other layers of Split CP is discussed as a means to explain the behaviors and interaction of these constituents, including ModEpisP, the maximal projection of epistemic modal; NegP, the maximal projection of negator; and EmphP, the maximal projection of emphatic marker shi.

Article

The Expression of Modality in Classical Chinese: Notions, Taxonomy and Distinctive Features  

Carlotta Sparvoli

Classical Chinese is the written language used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century bce. Located between the Eastern Zhou (770–256) and the foundation of the Qin dynasty (221–207), its textual repertoire comprises the philosophical treaties of the Warring States period (475–221 bce) and, based on syntactic criteria, roughly coincides with the Late Archaic Chinese (LAC). In a diachronic perspective, this is the stage between the rise of a set of possibility and desiderative modals and their systematic use to express a progressively more varied set of modal meanings. Even though many of those expressions still instantiate in modern Chinese, as bùdébù, ‘have to’, which echoes the LAC construction of possibility modal in double negation, the usage of other markers fell in disuse to be replaced by specialized modal, especially for epistemic and deontic modality, starting from Early Medieval Chinese (2nd–6th c. ce). The main bulk of LAC modals is built around three possibility modals, characterized by different syntactic, aspectual, and argumental properties, and expressing three types of enabling conditions for the actualization of the state of affairs. The first, and the most productive, is kĕ, ‘be possible, can’; it is related to the presence or absence of external factors that allow or prevent a given event. The modal néng, ‘be able’ is instead referred to inherent properties of the first participant; finally, dé, ‘come to get, manage’ expresses the potential of actualization of the first participant in the given circumstances. Combined with negation, restrictive focus markers, and specific pragmatic environments, each marker conveys a more varied array of modal meanings, also shifting to the necessity domain. In the latter area, the primary normative source is bound to contingent circumstances (including the power emanated by an authority) rather than moral obligations. Additionally, the only item that occurs consistently in LAC literature as a direct equivalent of deontic ‘should’ (yí宜) is more related to appropriateness than obligation. A further set of modal particles and speaker-oriented adverbs contribute to expressing the degree of factuality of the propositional content, conveying evidential and epistemic contents. Finally, the data show the centrality in LAC of the notion of necessity interpreted in terms of unavoidability, only possibility, and a lack of alternatives.