LINGUIST List 15.203

Tue Jan 20 2004

Disc: Re: Gil & Borodistky, Indonesian Linguistics

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Martin Haspelmath, Re: Disc: Gil & Borodistky, Indonesian Linguistics

Message 1: Re: Disc: Gil & Borodistky, Indonesian Linguistics

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004 09:54:55 +0100
From: Martin Haspelmath <>
Subject: Re: Disc: Gil & Borodistky, Indonesian Linguistics

Whitney Anne Postman (LINGUIST 15.163) comments on David Gil's 
claim that Riau Indonesian lacks a noun-verb distinction: "It seems 
impossible to get around the interpretation of 'makan' ('eat') as a 
predicative (hence verbal) item, and 'ayam' ('chicken') as a referential 
(hence nominal) item". However, in various works, Gil shows that this is 
possible, and he argues forcefully that it is necessary. (See below for 
a short list of relevant papers.)

Postman instead recommends Mark Baker's "inspired" (2003) book "Lexical 
Categories: Verbs, Nouns and Adjectives'' (which, incidentally, does not 
refer to Gil's work). I agree that this is an impressive work, but it 
suffers from the problem that it simply assumes a large amount of the 
Chomsykan machinery of "Universal Grammar" as given. There are many 
readers who will follow Baker (and Chomsky) in these assumptions, but 
those who are more skeptical will find David Gil's arguments very 

Martin Haspelmath,
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Leipzig


Gil, David. 1994. "The structure of Riau Indonesian." Nordic Journal of 
Linguistics 17: 179-200.

Gil, David, 2000. Syntactic categories, cross-linguistic variation and 
universal grammar. In: Vogel, Petra M. & Bernard Comrie [eds.], 
Approaches to the typology of word classes, pp. 173 - 216. Berlin: 
Mouton de Gruyter.

Gil, David, 2001a. Escaping Eurocentrism: fieldwork as a process of 
unlearning. In: Newman, Paul & Martha Ratliff [eds.], Linguistic 
fieldwork, pp. 102 - 32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gil, David, 2001b. Creoles, complexity, and Riau Indonesian. Linguistic 
Typology 5, 325 - 70.

Gil, David. 2003. "Word order without syntactic categories: How Riau 
Indonesian does it."
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