LINGUIST List 2.644

Thu 10 Oct 1991

Misc: Responses

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , possessive -s in English
  2. Barbara Johnstone, I says
  3. AHARRIS - Alan Harris, to Liz Shriberg re filled pauses
  4. Scott Delancey, Re: 2.635 Queries
  5. "Bruce E. Nevin", rwojcik: range-specifying NPs
  6. , Re: 2.614 Queries
  7. Derk Ederveen, Re: 2.613 - esperanto
  8. Lynne Murphy, esperanto net

Message 1: possessive -s in English

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 91 16:16:52 EST
From: <>
Subject: possessive -s in English
NOTE TO THE EDITORS: I have been away and my account has been set to nomail
for the last week or two. If this issue has already been addressed, please
suppress my redundant posting below. Thank you!--Elise
On Sept 20 Lachlan Mackenzie wrote "There is of course a strong case for
regarding *'s* in general as an enclitic postposition, historically
derived from *his*..."
The possessive -s in English is historically derived from the singular
genitive -(e)s in the very large class of Old English a-stem nouns, masc.
and nt. This ending was extended to other classes and genders of nouns
in the late ME period. The OE ending was not itself a cliticization of the
word "his". A useful reference is _Historical Outlines of English Sounds
and Inflections_ by S. Moore and revised by A. H. Marckwardt, George Wahr
Publishing Company, Ann Arbor, 1969, especially pages 22, 83-87, and 142-
Some confusion about the historical facts has doubtless been occasioned by
the synchronic reanalysis of this -s as being from "his", starting as early
as the Middle English period, so that masculine possessives were in fact
written out as "God his people". Presumably this reanalysis was facilitated
by the fact that the possessive still was -es on words ending with consonants,
and the unstressed form of "his" (like " 'im") lacked the h-; so the form
"Goddes" (with unvoiced fricative until late in ME) would in fact sound
exactly the same as "God 'is" (ditto about the fricative, and with reduced
vowel in each case). However, synchronic reanalysis is a different animal
from historical development.
I do not mean to suggest that masc. possessives were always written out
with "his", by the way; insert "sometimes" after "in fact" in line 3 of
the paragraph above for a less misleading statement.
--Elise Morse-Gagne
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Message 2: I says

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 91 11:38:07 CDT
From: Barbara Johnstone <>
Subject: I says
I've found "I says" to be a fairly common form in narratives by
Midwesterners who would in other contexts use "I say." These
are Northern/North Midland speakers. If the only occurrences of
this form are in the historical present (as I think for these speakers
they are) then it makes some sense to say that the form is used for
past time -- though it's not, of course, a past tense form according
to English morphology, and I don't think its users would say it was.
For these speakers, I think the use of "I say" in narrative would
have a habitual reading ("I'm always saying") which "I says" does not.
The issue of tense choice with quotatives is more complex than it
ought to be, and no one has it figured out yet. Schiffrin ("Tense
variation in narrative," Language 57 (1981), 45-62) Wolfson (CHP:
The conversational historical present in American English narrative,
Foris, 1982) and Johnstone ("'He says ... so I said': Verb tense
alternation and narrative depictions of authority in American English,"
 Linguistics 25 (1987), 33-52) all touch on the issue.
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Message 3: to Liz Shriberg re filled pauses

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1991 07:04:16 EDT
From: AHARRIS - Alan Harris <vcspc005VAX.CSUN.EDU>
Subject: to Liz Shriberg re filled pauses
in Israeli Hebrew, you get a rounded "e" as in 'bet' (Eng.) with a slight
post aspiration as a filler; at the word level, you get the kind of "well" or
"then" as you get in English--[uv-xen] glossed as "therefore" elsewhere but
often just a filler.
in Turkish, you get a repeated [mmm] with a kind of a schwa and aspiration at
the end (maybe DFan Slobin knows or remembers others); at the word level, you
often get [shey] glossed as "thing" elsehwere (yes, it is derived from the
classical Arabic, to anticipate a question), but used very often as a filler.
hope this helps. AHARRISVAX.CSUN.EDU
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Message 4: Re: 2.635 Queries

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1991 08:59 PDT
Subject: Re: 2.635 Queries
The only interesting fact that I know about filled pauses is that in
some languages the filler is a lexical form rather than a strange
noise. I'm thinking in particular of Japanese and Mandarin, where
it is the distal demonstrative (Japanese _ano_, Mandarin _jeige_).
Scott DeLancey
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Message 5: rwojcik: range-specifying NPs

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 91 10:45:33 EDT
From: "Bruce E. Nevin" <>
Subject: rwojcik: range-specifying NPs
Still playing catch-up catch as catch can, so this is ancient email.
In 2.265 (Sunday, 2 June 1991) Rick Wojcik wrote (the previous
Thursday) regarding "Pseudo-oblique objects":
>My thanks to those who have sent me comments on the syntax of range-specifying
>NPs such as "between 45 minutes to an hour". The grammatical problem that
>these things pose is that they resemble PPs but behave like NPs.
>Semantically, the prepositions name beginning and end points on a scale,
>rather than a relation between an NP and a verb or situation. Right now, I am
>inclined to think of them as headless post-modifying PPs. So (1) behaves as
>if it had the syntax of (2):
> (1) Between 45 minutes and an hour elapsed.
> (2) A time between 45 minutes and an hour elapsed.
. . .
>The headless postmodifier idea might also help to illuminate the nature of
>double-preposition constructions:
> (5) Set the timer to between 45 minutes and an hour.
> (6) Remove debris from around the pipe.
>I.e. " a time between 45 minutes and an hour" and "...from the space
>around the pipe". Any comments on this line of thought would be appreciated.
>				 -Rick Wojcik (
This is exactly the analysis found in Z. S. Harris, _A Grammar of
English on Mathematical Principles_ (GEMP). I commented earlier on the
role of elision in Harris's theory (re the unbearable elision of being,
or was that unbeable elision). See e.g. under "Nouns derived from
operators modifying zero-order arguments" in GEMP for related
	Bruce Nevin
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Message 6: Re: 2.614 Queries

Date: Tue, 8 Oct 91 20:46:19 -0700
From: <>
Subject: Re: 2.614 Queries
At the risk of being one of a multitude of people answering the
question "What's a trema?", let me try anyway. At first I
thought any good English dictionary would define the
term, but I was wrong; so I checked my German Duden and of
course, there it was confirming what I already knew.
In essence, it's the diacritic one otherwise calls "umlaut":
those two little raised dots over certain letters (vowels).
I assume that "trema" is sometimes preferred over "umlaut"
because the latter also designates the historical vowel
fronting process itself and in order to have a neutral
term that doesn't necessarily refer to that same
historical development, as would befit a neutral diacritic.
The trema can be used for other purposes than to designate
front rounded vowels, hence the need for a more general term.
C,a suffit, n'est-ce pas?
tom shannon, uc berkeley german department
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Message 7: Re: 2.613 - esperanto

Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1991 09:40 +0200
From: Derk Ederveen <>
Subject: Re: 2.613 - esperanto
> Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 15:51 EDT
> From:
> Subject: query regarding esperanto
> Can anyone on this network tell me if there is an electronic discussion
> group devoted to Esperanto? I ask this on behalf of a colleague who
> has been studying it for the last several years. Does linguist-l
> perhaps have a sub-group of Esperanto devotees? As I'm not a member
> of linguist-l, I'd appreciate it if you would contact me directly if
> you have any knowledge of such a group. Thanks in advance.
> Mark Amodio, Department of English, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
There are three possibilities:
1. send a subscription request to
This is an unmoderated Internet mailing list (
discussing esperanto-related topics. Discussions in Esperanto and English.
2. send a mail to listservtrearn.bitnet, with subject AND body
of the message containing 'SUB ESPER-L Your Name'.
This is a bitnet/earn-based unmoderated mailing list (ESPER-LTREARN).
3. read the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.esperanto.
At present, mail is forwarded between the lists as follows:
ESPER-LTREARN <--- <---> soc.culture.esperanto
So, contributions to or soc.culture.esperanto appear
at all three lists. Mail to ESPER-L is not forwarded, in order to avoid
endless loops.
Finally, I would like to mention the file server at, reachable
by anonymous ftp, and the Language Server (send mail containing 'help' to
Derk Ederveen <> +31-70-3323202 PTT Research/Nijmegen Univ.
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Message 8: esperanto net

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 16:29:24 CDT
From: Lynne Murphy <>
Subject: esperanto net
i don't know of a specifically esperanto electronic discussion group, but
there is a constructed languages e-mail discussion group. lately, esperanto
has been much discussed, though this is not always the case. Many of the
subscribers are language constructors, and therefore spend much time
on explaining the intricacies or simplicities of their own languages.
lynne murphy
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