Languages & Cultures of East Asia

Trad 101, Sections 18-19-20-21   Fall 2000


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Lecture Outline, 11/15/00 - Syntax

Putting words together

1. Word order
This refers to the sequence in which grammatical elements such as Subject, Object and Verb occur in sentences.

a way to classify languages

language classification:
by language family: e.g. Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan,
by linguistic traits: e.g. word order, tone

Languages are classified according to the ďbasicĒ or unmarked order in which these elements occur in the language.

There are six possible orders:
SOV, SVO, VSO, VOS, OVS, OSV

SVO: English, French, Hausa, Thai
VSO: Tagalog, Irish, Classical Arabic
SOV: Turkish, Japanese, Eskimo, Persian
OVS: Apalai (Brazil), Barasano (Colombia)
OSV: Apurina and Xavante (Brazil)
VOS: Huave (Mexico) Cakchiquel (Guatemala)

Most frequent word orders are: SVO, VSO, SOV

The order of other sentence elements in a language is most frequently correlated with the language type.
If a language is VO (VSO, SVO, VOS), then
           V--Adv, Preposition--Noun.

If a language is OV, then Adv--Verb, Noun--postposition.

English: basic order is SVO

OSV: Jones I invited-- not Smith.
VSO: govern thou my song (Milton)
OVS: strange fits of passion have I known (Wordsworth)
SOV: pensive poets painful vigils keep (Pope)

Yoda:
Sick Iíve become.
Strong with the Force you are.
Your father he is.
When nine hundred years you reach, look as good you will not.

2. Noun ellipsis
In English, subject is usually present:

It is raining. (?Is raining.)

John is a good student.
*I heard that __ recently won a scholarship.

However, there are places where the subject need not occur:

Canít go tonight.
Have to do my homework.
Gotcha.
Found you.
Looks cold out today.
Am in the library. Will be back at noon.
Canít fix it, canít buy a new one.

3. Classifiers (measure words)
Words that are used to count things, objects, etc. denoted by nouns.

English: a bottle of wine, a cup of coffee, two piles of books
Not obligatory: two books, three cats, four stories....

4. Topic--comment
Topic: what is being talked about
Comment: what is being said about the topic

The topic often corresponds to the subject of a sentence.

(1) The dog bit the man
(2) The man was bitten by the dog.

The topic of a sentence is also called the old information
The comment is new information
English: the structural subject occurs first in the sentence.

Some languages have grammatical morphemes that explicitly mark the topic of the sentence.
e.g. Japanese -wa,
Korean -nun

(3) As for pets, sheepdogs are the best.

5. Definite and indefinite articles
the vs. a

6. Adjectives vs. verbs
You cannot tell what class a word belongs to simply by looking at it. Everything depends on how the word behaves in a sentence.


Adj: Mary bought a round table.
Verb: Round up the usual suspects.
Adv: We walked round the shop.
N: I scored 10 points in the first round.

How do you tell an adjective from a verb?
a) very:      very happy      *very go
b) a __ N     a happy man   *a go man
c) be__       is happy         *is go
d) comparative    happier
e) do not conjugate
                  He is happy. He will be happy. He was happy.

7. Demonstratives
English: two-way distinction this (near) vs. that (further away)
Japanese: three-way distinction
The Australian language Alyawarra: four-term system:
          this, that (near), that (far) and the one mentioned above

8. Negative questions

(4) Arenít you going to school today?
No, Iím not going.
*Yes, Iím not going.

In Korean:
(5) Arenít you a student from Korea?
No (the question is not correct), I am a student from Korea.

speakerís implication (English) vs. literal meaning (Korean)

9. Plurals
Whether regular or irregular, plurals are always marked in English.

Regular: cats, thoughts,
Irregular: women, fish, sheep

10. Gender and animacy distinction in pronouns
English: he/she/it