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Transparency in language Kees Hengeveld Sterre Leufkens.

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Presentation on theme: "Transparency in language Kees Hengeveld Sterre Leufkens."— Presentation transcript:

1 Transparency in language Kees Hengeveld Sterre Leufkens

2 Introduction Scarcity of transparent languages versus learnability of transparent languages Is there any systematicity in the degrees if transparency that languages display? Which types of features are more likely to be transparent? Can languages be ranked systematically in terms of their degree of transparency and, hence, learnability? 2

3 Contents 1. Transparency 2. Transparency and FDG 3. Transparent and non-transparent features 4. The sample 5. The data 6. Results 7. Conclusions 3

4 1. Transparency

5 Transparency Turkish el-ler-im-de hand- PL-1.SG.POSS-LOC ‘in my hands’ Mastered before the age of two

6 Transparency Dutch debal DEF.COMM ball (COMM) hetpaard DEF.NEUT horse (NEUT) Not completely mastered at the age of seven

7 Transparency: overgeneralization Dutch ikkoop-te

8 Transparency ≠ simplicity Turkish Koş-uş-tur-ul-a-ma-dı-y-sa-lar. run- RECIPR-CAUS-PASS-ABIL-NEG-PST.VIS-y-COND-PL ‘If they haven’t been made available for our service.’ Dutch verbal system with tense, number, person

9 2. Transparency and FDG

10 Interactions between levels 10 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

11 Relations between Levels 11 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

12 Relations between Levels 12 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

13 Relations between Levels 13 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

14 Relations within Levels 14 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

15 Relations within Levels 15 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

16 Relations between and within Levels 16 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

17 3. (Non-)transparent features

18 Interpersonal - Representational 18 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

19 Apposition One Interpersonal unit maps onto more than one representational unit Peter, my brother, is ill. 19

20 Interpersonal/Representational - Morphosyntactic 20 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

21 Grammatical relations Pragmatic/semantic alignment system Acehnese Lȏnteungöh=lȏn=jak. 1M=1.A=go ‘I am going.’ Gopnyangalak=geuhthat. 3.POLhappy=3.POL.Uvery ‘He is very happy.’ 21

22 Discontinuity Pragmatic/semantic units map onto a single morphosyntactic unit English The guy who is going to fix my lock has arrived. The guy has arrived who is going to fix my lock. 22

23 Stem alternation Wambon en-ande-na- eat(basic stem)eat(PAST/FUT/IMP.PL stem)eat(IMP.SG stem) Spanish cab-erquepo*cabo fit-INFI.fitI.fit 23

24 Interpersonal/Representational/ Morphosyntactic - Phonological 24 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

25 Phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing do not run parallel Acehnese [Ureueng='nyan][ka=geu=jak='woe][ba'roe] person=DEMINCH=3=go=returnyesterday ‘That person returned yesterday.’ Dutch [Ik][wou][dat [hij][kwam]]. ['kʋɑu]['dɑti]['kʋɑm] Iwant.PSTCOMPhecome.PST ‘I wish he would come.’ 25

26 Phonological weight influences morphosyntactic placement Spanish Lo=ví. 3.SG.ACC=see.PRF.PST.IND.3.SG ‘I saw him.’ Víatuvecino. see.PRF.PST.IND.3.SGOBJ2.SG.POSSneighbour ‘I saw you neighbour.’ 26

27 Within the Morphosyntactic Level 27 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

28 Expletive elements Tagalog Marami-ngpera. lot-LNKmoney ‘There is a lot of money.’ “A lot of money” 28

29 Grammatical gender Spanish casa ‘house’ is arbitrarily assigned to the class of feminine nouns árbol ‘tree’ is arbitrarily assigned to the class of masculine nouns 29

30 Agreement Spanish la-øcasa-øviej-a-ø DEF.F-SGhouse(F)-SGold-F-SG ‘the old house’ elárbol-øviej-o-ø DEF.M.SGtree(M)-SGold-M-SG ‘the old tree’ 30

31 Within the phonological level 31 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

32 Phonological adaptations Quechua nasal assimilation: tayta-n=paq ‘father-3.POSS=PURP’ ‘for his father’ -> taytampaq Spanish diphtongization: dormir ‘sleep’ duerme ‘sleeps’ Dutch degemination: pakkans ‘chance to be caught’ -> pakans Turkish vowel harmony: gel-miș‘come-RES’ gör-müș ‘see-RES’ 32

33 4. The sample

34 34 Language familySample Language(s) Afro-AsiaticSheko AltaicTurkish AustralianBininj Gun-Wok Austro-AsiaticKharia AustronesianSamoan Chukotko-KamchatkanChukchi CreoleSri Lanka Malay DravidianTamil Eskimo-AleutWest Greenlandic Indo-EuropeanDutch JaponicJapanese KartvelianGeorgian KhoisanSandawe Niger-CongoFongbe North CaucasianKhwarshi OtomangueanSochiapam Chinantec QuechuanHuanuco Quechua Sino-TibetanBantawa Trans-New GuineaTeiwa YukaghirKolyma Yukaghir

35 5. The data

36 36 Language Property Bantawa.Chukchi, Sandawe, Sheko Bininj Gun-Wok Dutch Fongbe, Japanese, Samoan, Teiwa Khwarshi, Sochiapan Chinantec Georgian, West Greenlandic Quechua, Yukaghir Tamil, Turkish Kharia Sri Lanka Malay Apposition Discontinuous constituents Grammatical agreement (clausal) Grammatical agreement (phrasal) Grammatical gender Grammatical relations Stem alternation Nominal expletives Phonological adaptations Phon. weight influences order The data (unsorted)

37 6. Results

38 38 Language Property Dutch Khwarshi, Sochiapan Chinantec Georgian, West Greenlandic Quechua, Yukaghir, Tamil, Turkish Kharia Bantawa, Chukchi, Sandawe, Sheko Bininj Gun-Wok Fongbe, Japanese, Samoan, Teiwa Sri Lanka Malay Nominal expletives Grammatical gender Grammatical agreement (clausal) Grammatical agreement (phrasal) Discontinuous constituents Phon. weight influences order Stem alternation Grammatical relations Apposition Phonological adaptations The data (sorted)

39 The transparency hierarchy Apposition/Phonological adaptations ⊂ Grammatical relations ⊂ Morphologically based stem alternation ⊂ Phonological weight influences morphosyntactic placement ⊂ Discontinuous constituents ⊂ Grammatical agreement (phrasal) ⊂ Grammatical agreement (clausal) ⊂ Grammatical gender/Nominal expletives 39

40 40 Language Property Dutch Khwarshi, Sochiapan Chinantec Georgian, West Greenlandic Quechua, Yukaghir, Tamil, Turkish Kharia Bantawa, Chukchi, Sandawe, Sheko Bininj Gun-Wok Fongbe, Japanese, Samoan, Teiwa Sri Lanka Malay Nominal expletives Grammatical gender Grammatical agreement (clausal) Grammatical agreement (phrasal) Discontinuous constituents Phon. weight influences order Stem alternation Grammatical relations Apposition Phonological adaptations The data (sorted)

41 Counterexample: Bininj Gun-Wok discontinuity Ngakngakbogenga-rrabu-gurrme grey-crowned.babblertwo3-egg-lay.NPST ‘Grey-crowned babblers lay two eggs.’ 41

42 Counterexample: Sri Lanka Malay displacement Se=ppe oorangthuuva pada anà-biilang 1.SG=POSSman oldPLPST-say kithangpadaMalaysia=dering 1.PLPLMalaysia=ABL anà-dhaathangkatha. PST-comeQUOT ‘My elders said that we had come from Malaysia.’ 42

43 Tranparent and non-transparent features Transparency hierarchyInterface or Level AppositionIL – RL Phonological adaptationsPL Grammatical relationsIL/RL – ML Morphologically based stem alternationIL/RL – ML Phon. weight influences orderIL/RL/ML – PL Discontinuous constituentsIL/RL – ML Grammatical agreement (phrasal)ML Grammatical agreement (clausal)ML Grammatical genderML Nominal expletivesML

44 Highly non-transparent features 44 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

45 Weakly non-transparent features 45 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

46 Transparent and non-transparent languages Transparency hierarchyLanguages Apposition Phonological adaptationsSri Lanka Malay Grammatical relationsSamoan, Teiwa, Fongbe, Japanese Stem alternation Bantawa, Bininj Gun-Wok, Chukchi, Sandawe, Sheko Phon. weight influences orderKharia Discontinuous constituentsQuechua, Yukaghir, Tamil, Turkish Grammatical agreement (phrasal)Georgian, West Greenlandic Grammatical agreement (clausal)Khwarshi, Sochiapan Chinantec Grammatical gender Nominal expletivesDutch

47 7. Conclusions

48 Conclusions The notion of transparency is a useful parameter in systematically characterizing languages as to the overall design of their grammars. The transparency hierarchy captures the differences between languages as to their degrees of transparency. 48

49 Conclusions Purely morphosyntactically motivated non- transparent features are the ones that languages are most resistent to. Given that transparent structures are easier to learn, the transparency hierarchy also predicts that there are differences in the degrees of learnability of languages. 49

50 this presentation is accessible at


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