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Michael Glazunov



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PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2010 3:39 pm
Post subject: Part of speech definition
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Dear friends,

I'd like to ask you about your understanding of what part of speech is and what aspects do you consider to be more relevant for distinguishing of one part of speech from another (e.g., syntactic distribution, semantics, etc.)

What is you opinion about the universal character of the notion "part of speech". I mean do you think that a "noun" in English is the same notion as "noun" in Chinese or any other language or there might be some differencies?


I understand that question is quite general and controversial but my interest here is to start a discussion with people who have elaborated their own vision on that topic based on the linguistic experience and background literature in order to find the most appropriate definition.
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Dennis
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PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2010 4:23 pm
Post subject: Re: Part of speech definition
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Michael Glazunov wrote: What is you opinion about the universal character of the notion "part of speech". I mean do you think that a "noun" in English is the same notion as "noun" in Chinese or any other language or there might be some differencies?

I think that the parts of speech have basically the same meaning in Chinese as in English, because the parts of speech is an English concept that was borrowed as is into Chinese. Still, languages share the same basic functions of words, and so there is commonality of parts of speech. In Chinese, the noun is the most important part of speech, as all adjectives and verbs arose as abstractions of nouns, whereas in other languages this is not necessarily so. In English, for example, many nouns arose as concretions of verbs. Nouns and verbs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and all other parts os speech arose as abstractions or concretions of words at these ends of the spectrum.
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Michael Glazunov



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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 3:15 am
Post subject: Re: Part of speech definition
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Dennis wrote: Nouns and verbs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and all other parts os speech arose as abstractions or concretions of words at these ends of the spectrum.


Yes, I absolutely agree. It seems that there is a lot of differencies in the set of parts of speech that different languages have. It is possible to distinguish "noun" and "verb" almost in all languages but as for the rest - it is not the case, e.g., adjectives, etc. So it means that a lot of parts of speech are not universal at all and miss in different languages. The only thing we can say for sure is that there are two classes: nouns and verbs.
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Corybobory
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 5:54 am
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I think the foundational distinction in parts of speech is in their syntactical distribution. This is how we distinguish a noun from a verb from a conjunction etc. But there are also semantic levels as well that distinguishes them further, ex. pronouns vs common nouns vs proper nouns are semantically categorised.

The syntactical distribution is the more basic distinguishing feature, however. No one would call a verb a noun if it was semantically similar to the common semantics of a noun, when it has the syntactical distribution of a verb:

1) Young children often ape older children.

2) Hammer the nail into the board, please.

As for the universality of these constituents, I would say yes, constituency is universal in languages for sure, but I'm less sure about the similarity of these constituents across all languages because of language variability. Heine and Kuteva (2008) write:

"A review of the grammatical descriptions available on the languages of the world yields a bewildering diversity of grammatical taxonomies, and reducing the taxa figuring in these descriptions to an uncontroversial and crosslinguistically stable set of categories is near to impossible."

In Wakashan languages, for instance, virtually all word roots can noun-like, verb-like, or adjective-like. (Tallerman 2010)


[quote=Dennis]In English, for example, many nouns arose as concretions of verbs. Nouns and verbs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and all other parts os speech arose as abstractions or concretions of words at these ends of the spectrum.[/quote]

Can you elaborate on this, using examples of nouns in English that arose as concretions of verbs? And what are nouns and verbs at different ends of the spectrum of, ie what is this spectrum measuring that nouns and verbs are the opposite of?
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Dennis
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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 9:23 am
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Corybobory wrote: Can you elaborate on this, using examples of nouns in English that arose as concretions of verbs? And what are nouns and verbs at different ends of the spectrum of, ie what is this spectrum measuring that nouns and verbs are the opposite of?

I don't have access to my notes on the road, so I cannot provide examples for weeks. The spectrum depends on orientation to space or time. Nouns represent awareness of space and verbs represent awareness of time. Nouns can give rise to verbs via abstraction, and verbs can give rise to nouns via concretion.
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Corybobory
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 3:17 am
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Is there anything on the internet you can look to for reference? I'm just a bit skeptical of this division of nouns and verbs. For one, it is a semantic distinction- how can this hold for languages like I mentioned that virtually any root word can be a noun, verb or adjective? This has nothing to do with their orientation in space or time. There are plenty of nouns that have to do with time, and plenty of verbs that have to do with space. As well, space and time are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Do you mean that on this spectrum all other categories fit in along it somewhere?
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Dennis
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 12:48 pm
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Corybobory wrote: I'm just a bit skeptical of this division of nouns and verbs. For one, it is a semantic distinction- how can this hold for languages like I mentioned that virtually any root word can be a noun, verb or adjective?

I see no inconsistency here, since I do not think it possible that a word root that can be used as a noun or verb came into use in both ways simultaneously. Do you?

Quote: This has nothing to do with their orientation in space or time. There are plenty of nouns that have to do with time, and plenty of verbs that have to do with space.

I am not sure what you are thinking, but I suspect that examples you would provide only reflect these relationships superficially.

Quote: As well, space and time are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Do you mean that on this spectrum all other categories fit in along it somewhere?

Science is modelled on the grammar of language. The English language is not unique, and neither is the science developed by speakers of I-E languages. The goal of modern physics is to understand relationships of time and space. I claim that this is ultimately the only goal of language. The grammar of language represents awareness of relationships in time and space. Differences among language grammars reflect differences in such awareness.

Early on, nouns were all about space, and only about space. Now, we have much more abstract nouns, so that there is a greater temporal quality about some nouns. In the same way, verbs are all about time. If we take a proper noun, such as Cory, the object that this noun represents need not change at all during a conversation, as nouns are about space, and an awareness of time does not change anything. Verbs are all about time. Therefore, talking itself cannot exist outside of the context of time, as at a given instant in time there can be no talking.
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Pedroski
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 7:22 pm
Post subject: Space and time
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I agree with Dennis here: language describes in space and time. How could it be otherwise? In my opinion, all words are first and foremost nouns, or names, for concepts. No concept, no name.

画.........这...幅.....画....的.......画家,..............已经.......死...了
hua ....zhe ..fu.. hua.. de ....huajia ,............yi ding... si.... le
draw.. this .CL picture.Ptcle... painter..........already dead Ptcle.

Here you have 'hua' = draw, picture and in 'huajia' painter
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Corybobory
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 11:22 am
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Dennis wrote: I see no inconsistency here, since I do not think it possible that a word root that can be used as a noun or verb came into use in both ways simultaneously. Do you?


There is an inconsistency; see the below example from Nuuchahnulth (Testelets and Lander 2006):

1) qu:{as-ma {i.h-{i ‘The one who is big is a man’ (or: the big one “mans”)
man-3SG big-DET

2) {i.h-ma qu:{as-{i ‘The man is big.’
big-3SG man-DET

In the first example, the word ‘man’ is a verb. In the second, it is a noun. There is no difference in semantics, only its syntactic role. This is inconsistent with your statement that nouns and verbs are distinct in their expression of time and space. Please show with examples how you believe nouns express space while verbs express time, and explain how examples 1) and 2) fit into this paradigm.

Dennis wrote: Science is modelled on the grammar of language.


This is a pretty grand statement… what observations have you made that make you believe this to be the case? Or did you mean it the other way around?

Dennis wrote: The goal of modern physics is to understand relationships of time and space. I claim that this is ultimately the only goal of language.


Language does not have a goal, it is not sentient; do you perhaps mean those who study it? If so, this is obviously not the case, as many scientists study language with dozens of other goals in mind. That is a subjective statement, so maybe better to say: “I think the only goal of language research should be to understand the relationships of time and space” which to me sounds vague and underdefined, and a view to which most linguists probably disagree.

Dennis wrote: Early on, nouns were all about space, and only about space.


How do you know this?

Dennis wrote: Now, we have much more abstract nouns, so that there is a greater temporal quality about some nouns. In the same way, verbs are all about time.


Again, what to you suggests this to be the case?

To address Pedroski’s comment as well:

Pedroski wrote: I agree with Dennis here: language describes in space and time. How could it be otherwise?


I think there must be a misunderstanding here, because I agree with this statement yet disagree with Dennis Wink Dennis is saying that syntactic categories are defined by their semantic relationships with time and space; I am saying they are defined by their syntactic distribution, and I have shown an example above why. Of course language describes time and space, but not all nouns describe space and all verbs describe time and vice versa. Noun and verb are not semantic distinctions, they are distributional ones.

Pedroski wrote: In my opinion, all words are first and foremost nouns, or names, for concepts. No concept, no name.

画.........这...幅.....画....的.......画家,..............已经.......死...了
hua ....zhe ..fu.. hua.. de ....huajia ,............yi ding... si.... le
draw.. this .CL picture.Ptcle... painter..........already dead Ptcle.

Here you have 'hua' = draw, picture and in 'huajia' painter


Here you are equating a noun with a name- this is a basic definition we are given in high school when we first learn to parse sentences. We learn that a noun is a ‘person, place, thing’.

But think about what is taught in syntax classes, and this is definitely not the definition used. We learn about constituents and constituent tests- remember these? And we learn how to find out if something is a noun: by slotting it into test sentences. This is a distributional test, and we learn to let go of the ‘noun’ definition given to basic grammar students.

So now that we have separated noun from name, we can go back to your example; I am more inclined to agree with your statement that all words are concepts- as long as you have a loose definition of concept.

For example, what is 的 actually naming? What is this a concept for? We could say it is the concept of the genitive, but it is not a ‘name’.

So in conclusion:

I argue that the most relevant aspect to distinguish of a part of speech is its syntactic distribution, and not its semantics. We have seen how a word with the same semantics can be a noun or a verb; what changes is its role in the sentence.
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Dennis
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 12:34 pm
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Corybobory wrote: There is an inconsistency; see the below example from Nuuchahnulth (Testelets and Lander 2006):
... There is no difference in semantics, only its syntactic role. This is inconsistent with your statement that nouns and verbs are distinct in their expression of time and space.

Your statement is only true if you ignore the notion of abstraction and concretion that I also mentioned.

Quote:
Dennis wrote: Science is modelled on the grammar of language.


This is a pretty grand statement… what observations have you made that make you believe this to be the case?

What I mean is that Euclidean geometry has the structure that it has due to the fact that it was developed by people who spoke a langauge with an I-E grammar. Geometry could never possibly have developed by people whose native language was Chinese, for example. The structure of modern western physics also mirrors the structure of I-E grammar.


Quote:
Dennis wrote: The goal of modern physics is to understand relationships of time and space. I claim that this is ultimately the only goal of language.


Language does not have a goal, it is not sentient; do you perhaps mean those who study it? If so, this is obviously not the case, as many scientists study language with dozens of other goals in mind. That is a subjective statement, so maybe better to say: “I think the only goal of language research should be to understand the relationships of time and space” which to me sounds vague and underdefined, and a view to which most linguists probably disagree.

Perhaps I should have said that this is the only purpose of language. Language evolves as a mechanism to enable speakers to represent, manipulate, and communicate their awareness of relatinships in time and space.

Quote:
Dennis wrote: Early on, nouns were all about space, and only about space.


How do you know this?

I study the evolution of language. Language had to start somewhere, and evolution always starts with space.
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Dennis
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 12:35 pm
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Corybobory wrote: There is an inconsistency; see the below example from Nuuchahnulth (Testelets and Lander 2006):
... There is no difference in semantics, only its syntactic role. This is inconsistent with your statement that nouns and verbs are distinct in their expression of time and space.

Your statement is only true if you ignore the notion of abstraction and concretion that I also mentioned.

Quote:
Dennis wrote: Science is modelled on the grammar of language.


This is a pretty grand statement… what observations have you made that make you believe this to be the case?

What I mean is that Euclidean geometry has the structure that it has due to the fact that it was developed by people who spoke a langauge with an I-E grammar. Geometry could never possibly have developed by people whose native language was Chinese, for example. The structure of modern western physics also mirrors the structure of I-E grammar.


Quote:
Dennis wrote: The goal of modern physics is to understand relationships of time and space. I claim that this is ultimately the only goal of language.


Language does not have a goal, it is not sentient; do you perhaps mean those who study it? If so, this is obviously not the case, as many scientists study language with dozens of other goals in mind. That is a subjective statement, so maybe better to say: “I think the only goal of language research should be to understand the relationships of time and space” which to me sounds vague and underdefined, and a view to which most linguists probably disagree.

Perhaps I should have said that this is the only purpose of language. Language evolves as a mechanism to enable speakers to represent, manipulate, and communicate their awareness of relatinships in time and space.

Quote:
Dennis wrote: Early on, nouns were all about space, and only about space.


How do you know this?

I study the evolution of language. Language had to start somewhere, and evolution always starts with space.
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Pedroski
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 7:34 pm
Post subject: noun
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You make some very good points Cory.
However, 'we' have not separated noun from name. You have drawn a distinction which I don't see. Latin: nomen = name. All symbols are names for something. Semantics is the study of the meaning invested in our symbols. (Wassat mean?)

Please be careful when you use 'semantics', I'm never quite sure what people mean. If you mean 'meaning', say that instead.

Syntactic categories: you mean parts of speech?

We see from your example, that there is a basic idea 'man' 'qu'
(Strangely, Chinese for 'human body' is qu, pronounced 'chu')

1) qu:{as-ma {i.h-{i ‘The one who is big is a man’ (or: the big one “mans”)
man-3SG big-DET

2) {i.h-ma qu:{as-{i ‘The man is big.’
big-3SG man-DET

Don't like your, or their, interpretation of 1)

qu:{as-ma {i.h-{i ‘The one who is big is a man’ (or: the big one “mans”)
man-3SG big-DET
man he big the Why interpret 'mans'?
man man big the. As I mentioned in another thread, an anthropologist, whose name eludes me, maintains, that there is a lot of redundancy in language. This ensures that the concept is safely transmitted. 'man he' 'man man'.

的=de when you see it, tells us 'of' and is exactly what you say, it names the concept of belonging, links the adjective/adjectival phrase to the noun.

The concept of concept is a concept. The ideas that flash through your mind are perhaps loosely defined, until you are called upon to narrow the definition. But somewhere in there is a subjective definition of the concepts you employ.

So in conclusion: if word order were the most relevant aspect to distinguish a part of speech, languages would all have the same word order, and word order would be invariant.

Ps This one is bothering me at the mo. Any comments?

1)Warum rennen, wenn gehen auch geht.
....Why.....run........when go(walk) also goes.
Why run when you can walk?
A man whose opinion I greatly respect tells me he would definitely write this so, not


2) Warum Rennen, wenn Gehen auch geht.

In German, a noun is always written with a capital letter. What in 1) is the distinction between noun and verb?
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