LINGUIST List 15.1701

Wed Jun 2 2004

Sum: Citation Software; Language System Omissions

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. D. Will Reiman, Responses to query 15.1450 : Citation Software
  2. Fritz Newmeyer, Summary: Things that no languages do

Message 1: Responses to query 15.1450 : Citation Software

Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2004 14:51:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: D. Will Reiman <>
Subject: Responses to query 15.1450 : Citation Software

I received 6 responses to my question (Linguist 15.1450), half of
which were from EndNote users or former users. Also mentioned were
Bibliographix, BibDB, and LaTeX/BibTeX. Some details from the


Tucker: Has used EndNote for 20 some years. He sees little reason to
upgrade past v5.0 (current version available: 7.0). All his colleagues
and most grad students use it, he thinks due to a site license. He
seems satisfied, but never looked into anything else. Student Price
for v7: $109.95

Kimberly: v6 has some bugs, but the patches provided fixed them, and
should not exist in v7. She says she is happy with it. Pro: manages
citations, organizes separate libraries, plugs in citations while
writing papers, downloads citations. Con: the download feature
struggles with Portland SU's proxy server.

Paul: once used v4 for Mac, but was frustrated by its inability to
preserve font info, such as suprasegmentals.


Christopher: ''It is wonderful, flexible, and does everything I


Martin: The interface is 'old fashioned', he says, but stable. It
outputs BibTex files in the background, which can be accessed with
LaTeX/BibTeX. Says he is 'very pleased' with the app.


Stephanie: Pro: basically the same features as Reference Manager or
Endnote, without the price tag; cite-while-you-write; capacity to
write and easily switch citation styles; 13 publication types
built-in, plus the capacity to create 3 more of your own. Immediate,
uncomplicated service/support, plus a comprehensible handbook. She
joined with five other students to buy 6 copies for 60 Euro
each. Available in German & English. Designed for compatibility with
MS Word, MS Office, and LaTeX apps. Con: None mentioned. States she
has not been using long. D. Will: This is the program I currently
use. Additional positives are a useful Basic version anyone can
download for free. The basic version has some limitations in
reference downloading, as well as printing of references, but it's
ability as a database is unhindered. Also, it claims to be more than
just a reference management tool, it can be used from first ideas to
the finished paper to organize the writing process. Its idea outliner
module has some drawbacks, but is a good asset, and could potentially
become a very good asset. I have not yet tried the Pro version, but
the developers say the database format is exactly the same, so one's
work should be totally portable between the two versions.

This is the extent of the information I received from my query, but I
am continuing to research the topic. If anyone would be interested in
a more thorough treatment of the topic, let me know. I hope to have
something more substantial ready by mid-Fall.

Thanks to all who sent information: Tucker Childs of Portland SU;
Stefanie Zilles, U of Bonn; Martin Volk; Kimberly R. Levell, Portland
SU; Christopher Brewster; and Paul Fallon.
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Message 2: Summary: Things that no languages do

Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2004 17:28:57 -0400 (EDT)
From: Fritz Newmeyer <>
Subject: Summary: Things that no languages do

On May 17th I posted the following query (Linguist 15.1587):

''I am interested in collecting examples of phenomena that are not
found in any language in the world (as far as we know), where there is
no OBVIOUS functional explanation for that fact. Here is an example of
the sort of phenomenon that I am looking for: In no language do
grammatical processes pay attention to 'third position' (though of
course 'second position' is often important).I suspect also that there
are many conceivable syntax-phonology and semantics-phonology
interactions that are logically possible and not obviously
dysfunctional, but which never occur. If anybody has examples of this
sort (or, even better, knows if there already exist compilations of
them), I would be very grateful to know about them.''

I would like to thank the following people for their replies:
Christopher Bader, Ilhan Cagri, Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, Marina
Gorlach, Suzette Haden Elgin, Harald Hammarstrom, Jasper Holmes,
Laurence Horn, Angelika Kratzer, Martha McGinnis, Eric Raimy, Uri
Tadmor, Jess Tauber, Luis Vincente, Beate Waffenschmidt, Helmut Weiss,
and Rok Zaucer

I was reminded that Smith & Tsimpli's book ''The Mind of a Savant''
describes their attempt to teach the savant Christopher an impossible
language, Epun, which has some features they believe are not found in
any natural language.

I was also reminded that 'third position' (from the end) can be
relevant in phonology (though not in syntax).

Here are the suggestions in unedited form. (Some of the properties are
not universal, in my opinion, and others have pretty obvious
functional explanations, but I repeat them as they were given to me):

There is no attested 'ternary foot' reduplication pattern.

Reduplication is (apparently) never used to mark case although it is
used commonly for other inflectional categories as aspect, tense,
plurality, etc.

No language favors prosodic palindromes over non-palidromes.

No (known, natural etc) language has developed a place-value system
for its numerals. There is a marginal in spoken Samoan where there are
place-value variants for 11-99 alongside two other more common
expressions (that are the only ones allowed in the written
language). I have not found any others in a 700+ sample. However it
does not hold for sign languages.

Davis and Koenig (2000: 59-60) claim that there are certain thematic
role combinations that do not appear in any language and that there
are no linking rules that refer to thematic roles by their relative
position in the hierarchy (only rules referring to specific thematic
roles). They use both these considerations to support the view that
predicator classes are ontologically more basic than the thematic
grids they support.

As ''Contemporary Linguistics'' (O'Grady) claims, no onset of any
syllable in any world language consists of 'lp'. There must be some
phonological (probably articulatory) reason for that, but I have no
information whether it has been researched.

Another thing surfaced here, on Linguist List, and was about writing
systems: no language uses bottom-to-top direction, while some use
top-to-bottom and many right-to-left or left-to-right.

There is no word for ''not being thirsty anymore'', i.e. the
''liquid'' equivalent of being full. In Germany, there was a campaign
two years ago to invent such a word, but as far as I know the word has
never made its way into common usage.

Tenses - is there in any language such a thing as a future

No languages apparently allow more than four arguments per verb. At
least, Pesetsky (1995) claims there are four in examples like this:
''[Mary] bet [Bill] [$10] [that the Calgary Flames would win the
Stanley Cup].''

No human language repeats every word twice, as in ''The the bird bird
woke woke everybody everybody up up.'' There doesn't seem to be any
obvious functional reason why that doesn't happen, unless ''it would
be so boring'' can be considered a functional reason; it would be
nothing more than an extension of reduplication, which _does_
exist. No human language follows an utterance immediately with its
mirror image, as in ''The bird woke everybody up up everybody woke
bird the.'' No human language contains a phoneme that requires the
lower teeth to be pressed against the upper lip. No human language
contains a phoneme that's made by slapping the cheek with the left
hand. No human language contains four hundred separate phonemes. No
human language has verbs but no nouns, or nouns but no verbs. No human
language lacks a mechanism for negation, or a mechanism for number. No
human language marks relative clauses by adding a single relativizing
morpheme to every word in the clause. No human language uses a
beneficiary case marker as a mechanism for marking number, or a number
marker as a way for indicating beneficiary case. No human language has
a set of morphemes of a particular kind (determiners, for example, or
classifiers) for which the choice of the appropriate morpheme depends
on the day of week when it is spoken. (For some of these items there
are obvious functional reasons that rule them out, but not for all of

I don't think there are any languages that have segmental-phonological
conditions on word order (e.g. objects beginning with obstruents
precede the verb, otherwise they follow the verb).

Languages do not seem to have the capability to ''count''. It's
either none, one or all. So there are languages with no overt
Wh-movement, movement of the highest Wh-element, or movement of all
Wh-elements. This seems to be true of specifier positions, either a
unique one or an unlimited number.

There seems to be no language that has a lexical item for 'not all'.
Languages have a word for 'all' or 'none' but not a single word for
'not all'. There do not seem to be words for complements either, as
in 'all but three'. Logically, there could be a morpheme for this:
'n'. Thus, 'nthree' would mean all but three, 'nfour' would mean 'all
but four'. This could even be productive and could mean everyone
except the children, 'nchildren'. I think this has something to do
with entailments; in natural language, entailments must be downward.

It also seems that a structurally case-marked element cannot move into
a structural case-assigning position, i.e. an accusative DP cannot
move to [Spec, TP] whereas a dative or locative DP can.

I think that a possessor-possessee DP cannot be the external head of a
restrictive relative clause: ''John's car which I washed ...''
vs. ''the car which I washed ....''

Implicational universals: Languages cannot have nasal contrasting
vowels unless they have oral contrasting vowels. Languages cannot have
long contrasting vowels unless they have short contrasting
vowels. Languages cannot have fricatives unless they have
stops. Languages cannot have voiced obstruents unless they have
voiceless obstruents. Languages cannot have affricates unless they
have both stops and fricatives. Languages cannot have inflectional
affixes unless they have derivational affixes. There no languages
where the inflectional affix is closer to the root than the
derivational one. Language cannot have prepositions if they have no
prefixes. Or: no postspositions if no suffixes.

I don't think there's any language that embeds the independent clause
inside the dependent one. And I'm sure no language uses mirror image
(''bookkoob'' for ''book'') as a standard word-form.

We have languages like English, in which both nominal and clausal
objects appear postverbally (V DP CP). We also have languages like
Dutch and German, where nominal objects are preverbal and clausal
objects are postverbal (DP V CP). Third, we have languages like Basque
where both nominal and sentential objects are preverbal (DP CP V,
though there is also an option for a Dutch pattern DP V CP). However,
the fourth expected option, which we might label ''mirror-Dutch'',
does not exist, as far as I know. This language would feature nominal
objects obligatorily in post-verbal position, and sentential objects
obligatorily in preverbal position (CP V DP).

There is a short squib by Mark Baker in an LI issue from a couple of
years ago, where he discusses the interaction of parameters that
regulate V-to-T movement subject raising to SpecTP. So, we have
languages in which both the subject and the verb raise to the TP area,
such as French. We also have languages in which only the subject
raises to TP, while the verb stays in VP, such as English. The third
option are languages, such as Irish, where only the verb raises to the
TP area, and the subject stays inside VP. However, the fourth expected
type, a language in which both verb and subject stay inside VP, is not
attested. This language would have a SVO order in simple tenses, and
an Aux SVO order in compound tenses.

No language so far as I know lacks onomatopoeia of some sort. Also no
language may lack at least a small handful of ideophones, which
relates to the first point since the latter tend to also be
onomatopoeic in languages with small numbers. In languages with large
numbers, the ideophone system tends to branch out into other areas of
sensorimotor reality,

Chapter 2 of Carstairs-McCarthy's book ''The Origins of Complex
Language'' was about things no languages do. Somewhere else in that
book it is mentioned that no language places phrasal modifiers on
whichever side of the head is closer to the verb, as in:(1) children
small many played beach on 'Many small children were playing on the
beach' (2) on beach played many small children 'Many small children
were playing on the beach'.

Fritz Newmeyer
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