Linguistics thread

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2018-11-25, 23:02

kevin wrote:Actually, I remembered a post by Saaropean where he suggested that German was in a process of developing a new conjugation from contractions of verbs and pronouns, and I managed to find the thread

Interesting! Together with the recent mention on the ZBB thread about "SAE-ness" where it was mentioned that German supposedly distinguishes inalienable and alienable possession, this is making me kind of interested in trying to actively learn at least a little bit of German... but I'll never be able to commit to it because I'm still struggling with Japanese, haha. Even right now, typing "haha", I thought of how it means "mother" in Japanese. But that sentence wouldn't make any sense if you were my mum, since if you were my mum, I wouldn't need to learn German since it'd be my mother tongue... yeah, I know I'm not funny. Hopefully you don't find my attempt offensive.
dEhiN wrote:How does it seem (more) logical though?

Because of nationalism and prescriptivism, which often go hand in hand and at least the elite will generally stick to the strict rules of the written language at least formally. The masses could very well be more likely to embrace influences from all the languages spoken by the people they come in contact with, but as long as they're only taught the formal standard at school and told to avoid simplification and foreign influence, at least some will take it to heart. The elite will likely remain adamant in upholding the standards for the written language (even if they become obsolete among the common people), especially if there's a long tradition of classic literature.

In a small and relatively isolated community, AFAIK fossilisation is as likely as innovation, but when innovation does happen, the elite opposing it is smaller (and likely less adamant in their opposition in the first place because of the lack of a literary tradition as a justification for upholding the rigid standards), it could happen faster than in a large community and spread over the entire community of speakers instead of leading to the development of divergent dialects/sociolects/whateverlects.

...but I guess maybe the "logic" in that argument cancels itself out, so I guess it's not more logical after all.
dEhiN wrote:I could easily see an industrialized language (i.e., one spoken by those millions of people you mentioned) undergoing the same sort of thing. While redundancy exists in language, people also find ways, at least in speech, to shorten what they have to say. These forms could then become common due to the millions of people in contact with each other, which then transfer to the written language, eventually becoming codified as the standard grammar.

True, but a part of me feels like it'd still be more likely for that kind of stuff to happen in languages without literary traditions with "classics" that codify the "ideal form" of the language, since the language used in those will often be seen as something to emulate even if it's obsolete even in the elite's everyday speech. Maybe the number of speakers and level of industrialisation really is (more or less) irrelevant, though.
dEhiN wrote:In fact, in one sense, it's happening in English through contraction. What used to be a free morpheme - not - has been changing to a bound morpheme (that I suppose would be classified as a clitic??) - n't. While currently both forms exist in the spoken and written standards of the language, it's conceivable that one day the free morpheme will fall completely out of use and only the bound one will remain.

That makes me wonder: do people still say stuff like "that's cool... not!", or is that no longer a thing? Probably not. Like, Wiktionary says it's 90s slang, but it couldn't be only a 90s thing... I mean, it was still a thing at least until I was 14 or something among some of the people I interacted with online and English classes (and breaks after them) at school and whatnot.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2018-11-26, 0:12

Vlürch wrote:That makes me wonder: do people still say stuff like "that's cool... not!", or is that no longer a thing? Probably not. Like, Wiktionary says it's 90s slang, but it couldn't be only a 90s thing... I mean, it was still a thing at least until I was 14 or something among some of the people I interacted with online and English classes (and breaks after them) at school and whatnot.

I take it you were 14 in the 2000s? Anyway, for me that usage of not is a 90s thing. It doesn't mean some people weren't using it in the early 2000s - I don't know - but it's resemblent of 90s slang.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2018-11-26, 22:10

dEhiN wrote:I take it you were 14 in the 2000s?

I'm 24 now, so technically speaking that's true, but I'm pretty sure 2008 was practically the 2010s already. The reason why it could feel natural for Finnish kids in the late 00s is that some American shows from the 90s were constantly on TV, and I guess in some ways Finland in the 00s and even the early 10s was like America in the 90s. That wouldn't explain how I constantly came across it online, though, especially when talking to Anglophones who were roughly my age... maybe 90s sitcoms and talk shows and whatnot also had an impact on kids born in the 90s, not only those who already were kids in the 90s? It's not like I ever consciously watched Friends or Frasier or anything either, but they couldn't be avoided, so maybe it was the same in Anglophone countries?
dEhiN wrote:Anyway, for me that usage of not is a 90s thing. It doesn't mean some people weren't using it in the early 2000s - I don't know - but it's resemblent of 90s slang.

I'll have to start using it as much as possible... not. :P

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-27, 16:08

dEhiN wrote:Anyway, for me that usage of not is a 90s thing.

And not just a 90s thing, but an early 90s thing. IME, it was already wearing out its welcome by the summer of 1991.

Like any very dated slang, you can get by with using it extremely sparingly (and by that I mean maybe once a year) as it will call attention to itself, making the response as much about giving everyone a moment of eyerolling nostalgia as anything else.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2018-11-27, 16:39

I just saw this on LinguistList:
International Spring School on Psycholinguistics, Neurolinguistics and Clinical Linguistics

That's everything I ever wanted :shock:

Gotta find out if my department can sponsor me. The summer school in Bosnia was awesome, but it set me back two months, financially.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Ser » 2018-12-07, 14:26

From the "True false friends" thread:
Dormouse559 wrote:(fr) faire chanter qqn v. phr. - blackmail sb
(en-us) make sb sing v. phr. - make sb confess

These phrases are both the same on a literal level, and since they both appear in the context of crime/illicit activity, it can be a bit confusing for me to come across the French.

I find your use of "v. phr." (verbal phrase) interesting. I have never come across a dictionary that says something about the syntax of idioms, they generally assume the user can figure that out.

What would you call idioms that are whole sentences with a subject and a verb, e.g. Latin aqua haeret [alicui] "water is sticking [to somebody]" (meaning 'somebody is at a loss ~ has no idea what to do')?

What would you call idioms that are whole imperative sentences, e.g. Salvadoran Spanish andá ve si ya puso la gallina "go check whether the hen has laid an egg" (meaning 'mind your own business', an English idiom that is also an example of this...)?

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Dormouse559 » 2018-12-07, 14:45

Ser wrote:I find your use of "v. phr." (verbal phrase) interesting. I have never come across a dictionary that says something about the syntax of idioms, they generally assume the user can figure that out.

Well, I ain't no dictionary.

What would you call idioms that are whole sentences with a subject and a verb, e.g. Latin aqua haeret [alicui] "water is sticking [to somebody]" (meaning 'somebody is at a loss ~ has no idea what to do')?

What would you call idioms that are whole imperative sentences, e.g. Salvadoran Spanish andá ve si ya puso la gallina "go check whether the hen has laid an egg" (meaning 'mind your own business', an English idiom that is also an example of this...)?

I would just call these phrases. I didn't do it in the "True False Friends" thread, but I might put "idiomatic" or "figurative" in parentheses before the definition.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2018-12-08, 11:03

Today in There Was an Attempt to Do Linguistics:
Dr Horst Feldmann of the University of Bath's Department of Economics finds that speakers of pro-drop languages are less likely to have completed secondary or tertiary education, especially women.
https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/li ... ion-rates/
“Through such language rules, these ancestral cultural values and norms can still be effective nowadays – inducing governments and families to invest comparatively little in the education of the young, as education usually increases the independence of the individual from both the state and the extended family and may reduce his or her commitment to these institutions.

“While in many traditionally collectivist societies, collectivist norms are in retreat in contemporary culture, in such societies these ancient norms appear to live on and still adversely affect education today.”


Now, if we are doing empiricism here, I have to offer the counter-example of Cyprus, where a pro-drop language (Greek) is spoken:
Tertiary educational attainment expressed as percentage of those aged 30 to 34, having successfully completed tertiary education in Cyprus stood at 55.8% in 2017, the second highest rate in the EU, (47.2% for men and 63.5% for women), significantly surpassing the EU set target of 46%, according to Eurostat, the statistical service of the EU.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby mōdgethanc » 2018-12-08, 21:46

Why is it always economics?

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby h34 » 2018-12-08, 23:16

How about Japanese, Korean, Finnish...? Japanese has been mentioned as an example for a pro-drop language but was it included in the study?

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2018-12-09, 7:29

mōdgethanc wrote:Why is it always economics?

It helps to have a firm belief in the Occult if you are going to claim that morphosyntax is magic.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2018-12-09, 7:42

h34 wrote:How about Japanese, Korean, Finnish...? Japanese has been mentioned as an example for a pro-drop language but was it included in the study?


Seems so.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/ ... erials.PDF
The main source of linguistic information is the World Atlas of Language Structures Online. This source provides the most authoritative information on a large number of languages. For example, it documents for each language covered all grammatical rules on the expression of pronominal subjects (Dryer 2013). Using this information, we created our variable of interest, ‘pronoun drop language’, a dummy that equals 1 if a respondent normally speaks at home a language that permits its speakers to drop a personal pronoun when used as a subject of a sentence. Languages that do not allow pronoun drop were coded 0. We were able to code a total of 103 languages, 86 of which allow pronoun drop. In our individual‐level sample, which includes data on 114,894 individuals from 75 countries, 73% of participants speak such a language (for a list of countries included in our individual‐level analysis, see Table A1 in the Supporting Information file on the publisher's article web page).
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-12-09, 16:29

md0 wrote:
h34 wrote:How about Japanese, Korean, Finnish...? Japanese has been mentioned as an example for a pro-drop language but was it included in the study?


Seems so.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/ ... erials.PDF

Weirdly, while the study does include Finnish*, it classifies it as "non-pro-drop." (WALS classifies it as "mixed". Subject pronouns can be omitted in first and second person in standard Finnish, but only in certain circumstances in third person.)
It also appears that it doesn't take into account bilingualism, diglossia, minority languages, regional dialects or non-national languages. (Surely in some of these languages, pronouns are obligatory in written but often omitted in speech, for example. And surely some of the individuals in the study speak a pro-drop language at home but live in a country where the majority language is non-pro-drop, or vice-versa. Wouldn't that impact the results as well?)
Plus, it seems like any study involving "pro-drop vs. non-pro-drop" should take into consideration the different types of pro-drop as well (such as whether other aspects of the grammar provide the same information as the dropped pronoun or whether it instead has to be inferred, which are rather different situations). This is shown by the fact that WALS classifies them into six different color-coded categories and struggles even there to classify some the languages into those categories (i.e., the existence of the "mixed" category). Plus, WALS's category of "subject affixes on verb" would not lead you to expect, for example, that in Spanish the word habla can have either a second or third person subject, or that the preterite form hablaba can have a first, second, or third person subject. "Pro-drop" is definitely not a monolithic category to be contrasted with "non-pro-drop".

* Technically, the study only indicates that it includes "Finland," but presumably "the most widely spoken language" alluded to at the bottom of Table A4 would, for Finland, be Finnish. (It's quite weird that the study doesn't actually indicate which languages were included, only which countries.)

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2018-12-09, 17:22

It's rife with methodological issues and confounds (such as stable language contact situations like the English-French contact), but the main problem is that the author takes for granted the whole chain of:
a) pronoun-dropping de-emphasises the individual in discourse
b) de-emphasizing the individual in discourse reinforces a collectivist mindset
c) a collectivist culture leads to policies that discourage higher educational attainment

In the paper, he doesn't account for the variable pragmatic effects of (a). He just assumes that (a) holds and then jumps to (b) as a logical consequence. Then (c) is a sociolinguistic question: there are cultures that are described as collectivist by sociologists (eg East Asian ones, which might not be entirely uncontroversial by itself, but regardless), and who highly value educational attainment and competitive 'meritocracy' (see PRC, Singapore, and Japan at least).

But hey, the man proposes a hypothesis, fair enough. I will insist on Cyprus: majority language is pro-drop (and so is the largest minority language), very high levels of tertiary education attainment.
The empirical fact here goes against the predictions of the hypothesis. How can he save his hypothesis?
a) Greek is not actually pro-drop (cannot even begin to see how one can support this)
b) The effect is weaker for pro-drop languages with inflected verbs (let's see if that makes predictions then... Japan's 59% university education attainment rate might disagree with the weak version of this hypothesis)
c) Non-linguistic factors are actually better predictors for educational attainment (ie the hypothesis doesn't work)

PS. 'We' is also a pronoun :hmm: English confirmed collectivist?
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Naava » 2018-12-10, 0:01

md0 wrote:PS. 'We' is also a pronoun :hmm: English confirmed collectivist?

They've replaced thou with you and now they're using they for he and she - English is 100% collectivist!

md0 wrote:Dr Horst Feldmann of the University of Bath's Department of Economics finds that speakers of pro-drop languages are less likely to have completed secondary or tertiary education, especially women.

Well... if we combine this with this study from Keith Chen:

Chen compared individuals with identical income, education, family structure, and country of birth, but who speak different languages within the same country. Speakers of languages with weak distinctions between the present and the future were 31% more likely to have saved money in any given year, had accumulated 39% more wealth by retirement, were 24% less likely to smoke, were 29% more likely to be physically active, and were 13% less likely to be medically obese compared to speakers of languages that make a strong distinction between the present and the future.


...I guess this means I'm going to get really rich by saving money but won't ever graduate from the uni. :hmm:

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby voron » 2018-12-10, 1:22

Shouldn't there be a correlation between a language being pro-drop, and having distinct verb forms for every person and number?

(I know there are exceptions, but I am asking about correlation, not perfect relationship).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-10, 1:44

My understanding is that the answer is no, because it's very common for speakers of pro-drop languages to rely on discourse cues rather than verb forms in order to determine what the subject is.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2018-12-10, 20:08

mōdgethanc wrote:Why is it always economics?

Because economics is stupid, presumably economists are stupid as well. Stupid people say stupid shit... which I'm probably demonstrating right now. :para:
h34 wrote:How about Japanese, Korean, Finnish...?

Although it's true that Finland is stereotypically an educated country (and statistically was until recently (or still is, depending on the standard)), it's also worth mentioning that young men are currently like the least educated group and the government is further cutting from education all the time. There are some who are literally illiterate, or at least that's been claimed sometimes. On the other hand, women are more likely to go to high school and continue their education beyond that and go on to become doctors and whatnot.

Universal high-quality education should be the top priority, but obviously it's hypocritical for me to say that since I have practically none myself... so I guess I should just shut up. :para:
Linguaphile wrote:Weirdly, while the study does include Finnish*, it classifies it as "non-pro-drop." (WALS classifies it as "mixed". Subject pronouns can be omitted in first and second person in standard Finnish, but only in certain circumstances in third person.)

It's not that weird because in the de facto standard informal language, pronouns are usually considered obligatory. However, there's a lot of variation between individuals on this matter and I'd bet there's regional variation as well. Still, not overusing pronouns in informal spoken Finnish generally sounds odd. In written Finnish, though, that can be reversed (and sometimes even third-person pronouns start getting dropped, except for the first mention), but that's another matter entirely because there's even more individual variation and circumstantial variation, so it could never serve as conclusive proof of Finnish being pro-drop.

I mean, I used to think I dropped pronouns a lot more than I actually do (like a lot of Finns probably do), but when I started paying attention to it after another Finn on another forum doubted my claimed droppings, I noticed that I drop ridiculously few pronouns and even add some where they're completely unnecessary; of course, the choice to drop them always exists, but it'd feel unnatural in most cases in real life. So, if my regular day-to-day speech was the base for analysis on whether Finnish is pro-drop or not, it'd be just as non-pro-drop as the most firmly established non-pro-drop languages on Earth.

So, while the opposite also happens (including in my own speech/writing), it's not the de facto standard and as the de jure standard for formal language is generally only pro-drop for first- and second-person pronouns, and as such Finnish doesn't really count as pro-drop. Of course, everyone still considers Finnish a pro-drop language because it so easily can be. In posh literature, I could at least hypothetically imagine dropping even third-person pronouns like hot potatoes, but hypothetical posh literature isn't the standard to judge whether a language is pro-drop or not by.

In conclusion: it may have enough dropping going on to qualify by the minimum requirements, but it's probably more about the fact that being pro-drop is cool and us wanting to maintain that our language fits the bill. :P
Linguaphile wrote:"Pro-drop" is definitely not a monolithic category to be contrasted with "non-pro-drop".

True, but by the widest definition (that a language can drop certain pronouns in certain contexts), probably nearly every language could be argued to be pro-drop, making it a redundant category... and by the strictest definition, even Japanese could be argued to not be pro-drop, so... yeah, I don't know what my point is except maybe that I agree?

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-12-16, 1:59

Vlürch wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:"Pro-drop" is definitely not a monolithic category to be contrasted with "non-pro-drop".
True, but by the widest definition (that a language can drop certain pronouns in certain contexts), probably nearly every language could be argued to be pro-drop, making it a redundant category... and by the strictest definition, even Japanese could be argued to not be pro-drop, so... yeah, I don't know what my point is except maybe that I agree?

What I meant by that was that saying a language drops pronouns says absolutely nothing about how it does indicate the subject, or even if it does. For example: in my mind the difference between "I speak" (non-pro-drop) and "räägin" (pro-drop; Estonian "I speak") is smaller than the difference between "rääkisin" (pro-drop; Estonian "I spoke") and "hablaba" (pro-drop; Spanish "I spoke") because I speak, räägin, rääkisin and hablo all indicate the subject clearly regardless of context, but hablaba does not.
And all three of those languages have both types of situations (situations in which the pronoun is clearly identified by the verb conjugation and situations in which the verb conjugation leaves it ambiguous.)
And that's not even getting into the languages that indicate the subject in completely different ways, or leave it up to context.
So I don't even see why "pro-drop" is a category of any significance, because in some languages/situations it's simply a way of avoiding redundancy, while in others it actually removes the subject altogether, and those are very different situations.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-16, 17:56

Vlürch wrote:That makes me wonder: do people still say stuff like "that's cool... not!", or is that no longer a thing?

Well, Borat did that. :lol:


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