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SSWL Glossary


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Adposition

Huddleston and Pullum (2002:603) define preposition as follows: "A relatively closed grammatically distinct class of words whose most central members characteristically express spatial roles or serve to mark various syntactic functions and semantic roles."

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Adverbial Subordinator

An adverbial subordinator is a morpheme such as "because", "although", "while" in English that links a subordinate clause to a main clause. In this definition, "clause" is construed broadly to mean finite clause, non-finite clause, and gerund clause. We are distinguishing complementizers from adverbial subordinators. Complementizers are used with complement clauses or subject clauses ("I said that John left."), adverbial subordinators are used with adverbial clauses ("I was sad because John left.")

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Affix

A morpheme that cannot stand on its own: it can precede or follow its dependent, and has a fixed position w.r.t. to the dependent. Sometimes affixes combine with just categories (nouns, verbs..), sometimes they combine with syntactic phrases (phrasal affixes). English plural combines with nouns (boy, boy-s), but English 's combines with phrases ([the queen of England]'s hat.

Only distributional criteria can help determine what type of affix one is dealing with, with languages varying.

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Attributive Adjective

An attributive adjective is an adjective that modifies the noun internal to the noun phrase by qualifying or restricting its reference. We exclude cases where the adjective is a predicate adjective in a relative clause modifying the noun (e.g., "the man who is big"). Typical adjectives include: "young", "old", "new", "small", "big", "round" "red", "good"...

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Bound Form

A form is bound if:

  • It is cannot stand on its own
  • It cannot be coordinated with other forms
  • It cannot bear contrastive stress
  • It forms a tight phonological unit with its host: phonological processes apply between it and its host

Sometimes, orthography is used as a criterion in languages with writing systems and written varieties. In such languages, bound forms are written together with their hosts (this criterion is not a foolproof analytical diagnostic, but some property definitions may ask you to use it).


The negation particle in Slovak ne in (1b) can be described as a bound form because it is prosodically dependent on the word it negates (1b), it cannot occur on its own, and it cannot bear contrastive stress. It is also written together with the word it negates.

 

(1) Slovak (West Slavonic), (Short, 1993: 577)

a.    Mysl-ím                                               

       think-1.sg.pres                                   

      ‘I think’                                                 

 

b. Ne-mysl-ím

neg-think-1.sg.pres

’I do not think’

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Cardinal Numeral

Cardinal numerals are words ("three") or phrases ("thirty two") signifying the number of things referred to.

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Circumfix

“A discontinuous affix that occurs on both sides of the base” (Haspelmath, 2002: 265)


Cricumfixes raise the question if they are composed of a prefix and suffix that must coocur. And if so, if the surface bracketing is [af. base. fix], [[af[base] fix] or [af [base.fix]]. 



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Clitic

A word form that is prosodically dependent on a host, (following
Haspelmath, 2002: 267). In a written form of a language clitics are
most often, but not always, written separately from their hosts.

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Complementizer

A complementizer is a word or morpheme that marks the beginning or end of an embedded complement clause. For the purposes of this definition, we restrict this notion to an embedded clause that is the complement of a verb like say, think, believe. The clause "that John is nice" is an embedded complement clause in the sentence "I said that John is nice."

Note: There are many uses of the term complementizer in syntactic theory. In this definition, complementizer means complement clause subordinator of a restricted set of verbs.

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Degree Word

Degree words are words with meanings like 'very', 'more', or 'a little' that modify the adjective to indicate the degree to which the property denoted by the adjective obtains. Degree words are traditionally referred to as adverbs, though in many languages the degree words do not belong to the same word class as adverbs.

Reference:

Dryer, Matthew S. 2008. Order of Degree Word and Adjective. In Haspelmath et al. (2008), chapter 91. Available online at http://wals.info/feature/91. Accessed on 2009-03-09.

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Demonstrative

A demonstrative is a word modifying the noun that is used to indicate the location of a referent relative to the speaker. For the purpose of this definition, we do not count "reinforcers" in the sense of Bernstein (1997). In French (and other Romance languages), it is often the case that demonstratives appear with reinforcers:

Cette table ci
This.F table CI
"this table"

The presence of the reinforcer ci in this example is ignored for the purposes of the definition for Demonstrative.

Reference:

Bernstein, Judy. 1997. Demonstratives and Reinforcers in Romance and Germanic. Lingua 102, 87-113.

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Determining Word Order

One of the most controversial aspects of word order typology is the set of criteria for characterizing a language as having a particular word order. In this short essay, we clarify exactly how word order is established in our database. The only other on-line database incorporating word order properties is WALS ("World Atlas of Language Structures"). Therefore, we also give a brief comparison of our criteria for determining word order to those used in WALS.

The most basic criterion is that the word order in question must actually occur. For example, we know that English allows the order Adjective Noun, because there are phrases of the form "big ball", "the small tree", etc. Practically speaking, one can get this data from natural speech, a grammar, a book, or eliciting it from a native speaker consultant.

Furthermore, it must be the case that the pattern in question is productive. There are many examples of idiomatic or fixed expressions in English that have a word order that cannot be described as a productive word order:

  1. Believe you me! (Verb Subject Object)
  2. "Believe me!"

  3. I kid you not. (Verb Object Negation)
  4. "I am not kidding you."

In general, we assume that the order X Y is productive if and only if either X admits an unlimited number of instances or Y admits an unlimited number of instances (or both X and Y admit an unlimited number of instances). For example, the order in (1) is not productive, because it is only allowed for the three words "believe", "you" and "me". In other words, it is impossible to replace the verb "believe" by an unlimited number of other verbs.

Given this definition of productive, consider the phrase "tall enough", which instantiates the order Adjective Degree in English. This particular order is only allowed for the degree word "enough". The pattern Degree Adjective, on the other hand, is allowed for a wider range of degree words: "too big", "so big", "that big", "very big", etc. Nevertheless, we consider the pattern Adjective Degree productive, because "tall" can be replaced by an unlimited number of other adjectives: "tall enough", "big enough", "smart enough", etc.

Lastly, in our database, we exclude permutations in word order due to emphasis or focus (contrastive or otherwise). For example, in English the OSV word order in (3) is acceptable, but only in a very specific context;

  1. John, I like (it's Mary who I don't like)

In order to exclude word orders like (3) we require that the word order be acceptable in a "neutral context". A neutral context is one where none of the constituents is emphasized or highlighted more than the others. It can often be solicited by questions such as "What's new?" or "What is going on?"

One important property of our database is that it is possible for a language to be characterized as admitting two seemingly contradictory word orders. In this case, the property X Y will have the value "yes" and the property Y X will also have the value "yes". For example, in our database, there is no such property as "Order of Subject, Object and Verb", rather there are six separate properties, one for each order: Verb Subject Object ("yes" or "no"), Verb Object Subject ("yes" or "no"), Subject Object Verb ("yes" or "no"), etc. So it is possible for a particular language to be characterized as having the value "yes" for both the property Subject Verb Object and the property Verb Subject Object.

Another case where both of the properties X Y and Y X would have the value "yes" is when for some particular instances of X (e.g., "very" in "very big") the order X Y holds, and for other instances of X (e.g., "enough" in "big enough") the pattern Y X holds.

Compare these criteria briefly to those of WALS, whose basic criterion for determining word order is the following: "The expression 'dominant order' is used here, rather than the more common expression 'basic order', to emphasize that priority is given here to the criterion of what is more frequent in language use, as reflected in texts. The reason for assigning priority to this criterion is that for most languages, this is the only criterion for which we have any relevant information."

In the definition of "dominant order" a specific ratio (2/3) has been specified. Furthermore, it is without a doubt true that WALS, whose word order properties are built on this definition, is a useful tool for typologists and comparative syntacticians. But there are a number of reasons why we will not adopt this frequency based definition.

First, according to this definition, it is necessary to have a fairly large corpus of varied texts in order to determine which order is more frequent: X Y or Y X. However, for many endangered languages and less studied languages such large corpora simply do not exist, and we do not feel that they should be excluded from appearing in the database because of this limitation. Even for better studied languages, the number of actual texts can be quite limited (e.g., the New Testament).

Second, our database is planned to be language expert oriented. It will almost always be the case that the language expert is a native speaker linguist, or a linguist who is a fluent speaker of the language in question, or a linguist working in collaboration with native speakers. Because of this aspect of the design of our system, the information available to the language experts will go far beyond what is in traditional grammars, which often emphasize morphological and phonological data over syntactic data. For our database, the language expert, reading the property definitions, should be able to set the value of the property definition (either "yes" or "no") on the basis of the definition and their own extensive knowledge of the language (even if they do not have access to large corpora of texts).

Third, the "dominant order" definition naturally chooses one particular order, since by definition if one order is twice as frequent as another, it will be dominant. For example, it is surely the case that Degree Adjective ("very big") is twice as frequent as Adjective Degree ("big enough") in English, and so English would only be "yes" for Degree Adjective and not for Adjective Degree. Our database, on the other hand, naturally invites the formulation of properties where it is possible that two or more "competing" word orders are allowed for a particular language. To exclude the order Adjective Degree as a possible order of English, given our fine grained approach, would be equivalent to discarding valuable information about the word order patterns of English, which may actually be useful in typological searches.  Note that nothing in our database prevents adding information on relative frequency in the comment fields. 

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Finite-Verb

In a series of verbs in a main clause, the finite verb will be the leftmost verb in a head-initial language and the rightmost verb in a head-final language. In each case, the finite verb is the verb that has the highest structural position of all verbs. It is typically inflected for subject agreement, tense, aspect and/or mood. If there is only one verb in the clause, this will be the finite verb.

 

In the following examples, has, will, could, and wrote are the finite verbs.

 

(1)                    English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

a.                     Mary has been writing poems for a long time.

b.                     Mary will write another poem.

c.                     Mary could easily write another poem.

d.                     Mary wrote a poem.

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Focus (narrow)

Narrow focus, also called contrastive focus, is associated with the specific types of focus interpretations found in the following examples. It is typically encoded by specific intonational contours, and/or by specific syntactic positions:   


 (i) It's a blue square that she drew (narrow focus on the noun phrase [a blue square]: a blue square, not a yellow circle, or some dot,...)

(ii) Question: Did you see a red square or a red triangle? 

Answer: I saw a red [SQUARE] (narrow focus on the noun "square".( I saw a red SQUARE, not a red TRIANGLE).

(iii) Question: Did you see a red square or a black square? 

Answer: I saw a RED square (narrow focus on the adjective blue: I saw a RED square not a BLACK one)


Narrow focus contrasts with broad focus, also called neutral focus, where there is no particular constituent which is focused (or where the main sentential stress indicates the entire sentence is in focus).


(iv) Question; What else can you tell me about your daughter?

Answer: [she likes to draw yellow squAres]








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Free Form

 A free form can be pronounced by itself:

  • It is prosodically, and phonologically independent
  • It can bear contrastive stress
  • It can be coordinated with other forms of the same type

The negation particle in Bulgarian ne as in (1) can be described as a free form because it is prosodically independent from the word it negates (1a), it can bear contrastive stress as in (1b). The writing system reflects this independence.

(1) Bulgarian (Indo-European, South Slavonic)

 

a.    Maria    ne      pe-e

       Maria    neg    sing-3.sg.pres

     ‘Maria does not sing.’

 

b.    Maria    otide    na    kino,        az    ne

       Maria     went    to     cinema,    I      not

      Maria went to the movies but I didn’t.’

 


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Infix

An affix that splits the stem. Infixes are common in Austronesian languages.

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Morpheme

Traditionally characterized as the smallest meaningful part of a linguistic expression that cannot be further segmented. Meaningful here should be understood as contributing to the meaning, or a grammatical formative (like case, or "theme"vowels). Traditionally this includes words and parts of words.

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Neutral Context

A neutral context is one where none of the constituents is emphasized or highlighted more than the others. For sentences, a neutral context is elicited by questions such as "What's new?" or "What is going on?" For nouns phrases,  a neutral context can be elicited in new topics such as "I want to introduce you to an interesting student" or "I just bought this interesting book."

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Object

In an active sentence with an action verb (e.g. "Bill pet the dog") and two noun phrase arguments, the subject is the noun phrase argument referring to the one who performs the action (agent) and the object is the other noun phrase argument.

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Polar question (neutral and information-seeking)

A direct polar question is ‘neutral and information-seeking’ if 

(a)  it can be answered by an expression meaning ‘yes’ or ‘no’,

(b)  it expects an answer, but has little or no expectation of whether the answer will be ‘yes’ or ‘no’,

(c) it does not have narrow focus on a particular constituent.


The following are examples of questions that are not neutral, not information-seeking, and not direct:

                  

            Don’t you speak French?            (why?)   expected answer 'yes'. (b)

            (in disapproval) Are you crazy?                no answer is expected  (b)

             It’s cold in here, isn’t it?                           expected answer  “yes” (b)

            Was it last year that you two met               narrow focus on last year (b)

                 I wonder if this is the right way                          not a direct but an indirect question

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Polar questions (not neutral, not information seeking, and not direct)

The following are examples of questions that are not neutral, not information-seeking, and not direct: why? (see definition neutral information-seeking polar question)

                  

            Don’t you speak French?                   expected answer 'yes'. (b)

            (in disapproval) Are you crazy?                no answer is expected  (b)

             It’s cold in here, isn’t it?                           expected answer  “yes” (b)

            Was it last year that you two met               narrow focus on last year (b)

                 I wonder if this is the right way                          not a direct but an indirect question

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Predicate Adjective

A predicate adjective is an adjective that is introduced by a copular verb, such as "be" (or other similar copular verbs, like "become", etc.), and that is predicated of a subject noun phrase. Typical adjectives include: "young", "old", "new", and "good".

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Predication of Class/Property

A non-verbal predication where the referent of the subject is included in a class or assigned a property as in (1). The definition follows (Hengeveld, 1992).

(1)     English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

a.      Tom is a doctor

b.      Tom is tall

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Predication of Existence

A non-verbal predication where the existence of an object or a group of objects is predicated in a general way as in (1) for English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

There are ghosts in the forbidden forest.

Ghosts exist

There are ghosts

 


 

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Predication of Identity

A non-verbal predication where a referent of the subject is identified with the referent of a definite noun phrase (Tom, the doctor) as in (1) below. The definition follows (Hengeveld, 1992).

 
(1) English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

a.   I am Tom

b.   He is the doctor

 

In English such predications require the use of a copula verb. In other languages they are coded as nominal predications without a copula or any other verbal marking.

(2)
 Russian (Indo-European, East Slavonic)

a.    Эto     Volodja

       This    Volodja

‘This is Volodja.’

 

b.    On    vrach’

       he     doctor
  
‘He is the doctor.’ or ‘He is a doctor.’

 

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Predication of Location

A non-verbal predication where a location is predicated of a definite subject as in (1). The definition follows (Stassen, 1997).

(1)        English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

a.         Tom is at home

b.         The children are outside

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Predication of Possession

Predication of possession is defined here following (Stassen, 2008). A possessed item is predicated of a possessor as in (1).

 

(1) English (Indo-European, West Germanic)

John has a motocycle.

 The domain of predicative possession is further restricted in the following ways

  • Only constructions where the possessed noun phrase has an indefinite reading are taken into account
  • Ownership is defined of objects which can be acquired by or removed from the possessor (also called alienable possession).

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Prefix

A affix that precedes the base (Haspelmath, 2002: 273)

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Productive Word Order

There are many examples of idiomatic or fixed expressions in English that have a word order that cannot be described as a productive word order:

1. Believe you me! (Verb Subject Object)
    "Believe me!"

2. I kid you not. (Verb Object Negation)
    "I am not kidding you."

In general, we assume that the order X Y is productive if and only if either X admits an unlimited number of instances or Y admits an unlimited number of instances (or both X and Y admit an unlimited number of instances). For example, the order in (1) is not productive, because it is only allowed for the three words "believe", "you" and "me". In other words, it is impossible to replace the verb "believe" by an unlimited number of other verbs.

Given this definition of productive, consider the phrase "tall enough", which instantiates the order Adjective Degree in English. This particular order is only allowed for the degree word "enough". The pattern Degree Adjective, on the other hand, is allowed for a wider range of degree words: "too big", "so big", "that big", "very big", etc. Nevertheless, we consider the pattern Adjective Degree productive, because "tall" can be replaced by an unlimited number of other adjectives: "tall enough", "big enough", "smart enough", etc.

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Reduplication

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Standard Negation

Standard Negation is the negation strategy used in simple declarative sentences with an overt verb predicate as in "Mary does not sing". The verbal predicate should not be an existential, (there is someone in the room), nor a copula or non verbal predicate as in  (John (is) a doctor, John (is) the doctor, John (is) tall, John (is) in the house).


 

 

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Subject

In an active (non-passive) sentence with an action verb (e.g. "Bill left.") and one noun phrase argument, the subject is the noun phrase argument.

In an active (non-passive) sentence with an action verb (e.g. "Bill will pet the dog") and two noun phrase arguments, the subject is the noun phrase argument referring to the one who performs the action (agent) and the object is the other noun phrase argument.

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Suffix

A affix that follows the base  (Haspelmath, 2002: 275)

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Tone

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