LINGUIST List 4.413

Sat 29 May 1993

Qs: Instrumental subjects, Intro. to Language, Japanese taggers

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  1. , Query: Instrument-subjects
  2. Vida Samiian, Introduction to Language course
  3. Susann Luperfoy, Query: Japanese Tagset

Message 1: Query: Instrument-subjects

Date: 28 May 1993 09:27:30 -0600Query: Instrument-subjects
From: <>
Subject: Query: Instrument-subjects

Many, though not all, English agentive verbs permit an instrument to
appear as subject if the agent is not expressed:

 He opened the lock with a passkey.
 The passkey opened the lock.

This is, however, quite spotty, and I know of no way to predict which
verbs do and don't allow the construction. _Demolish_ does not:

 She demolished the doghouse with a sledgehammer.
 *The sledgehammer demolished the doghouse.

This example cannot be resolved by claiming that the subject must be
animate, since (at least) natural force subjects are possible.

 The tornado demolished the doghouse.

Further, some languages permit fewer instrument-subjects than English
does. German _oeffnen_ 'open' does not permit them.

 Hans oeffnete die Tuer mit dem Schluessel.
 'John opened the door with the key.'

 *Der Schluessel oeffnete die Tuer.
 'The key opened the door.'

But there is no general prohibition against them in German:
I believe _zerschlagen_ 'smash down' permits an instrument subject.

 Sie zerschlug den Vogelkaefig mit dem Hammer.
 'She smashed the birdcage with the hammer.'

 Der Hammer zerschlug den Vogelkaefig.
 'The hammer smashed the birdcage.'

My question is: are there any accusative languages that do not permit
this substitution at all? And a second question: does anyone know of
any similar restrictions in ergative languages, where the morphological
subject would, of course, be the patient (our direct object) rather than
the agent or instrument? And does anyone know of any interesting
restrictions on such "topics" (really subjects) in Philippine-type

Please e-mail replies. I'll post a summary.

--Leo Connolly
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Message 2: Introduction to Language course

Date: Wed, 26 May 93 12:44:30 PDIntroduction to Language course
From: Vida Samiian <>
Subject: Introduction to Language course

Introduction to Language course in a General Education curriculum

The Department of Linguistics at CSU Fresno offers "Introduction to
Language" as an option in the General Education division which is
entitled "Languages". The purpose of this division is to understand
the nature and role of language by developing skills in speaking,
reading, and writing a language other than English; or to emphasize
the nature of language in general. This division is completed by a
one-semester, three-unit course in a language (including ASL) or in
Intro to Lg.

Our Intro to Lg course is now being questioned in its role fulfilling
this division requirement.

We would like to know if other universities have a similar course
fulfilling a similar General Education requirement (or other GE
requirement). We would also like to find out how many universities
permit their Intro to Language course to "count" as an equivalent to
one term of a language class.

We can post results if there is sufficient interest.

Vida Samiian, Chair
Department of Linguistics
California State University, Fresno
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Message 3: Query: Japanese Tagset

Date: Tue, 25 May 1993 18:35:21 Query: Japanese Tagset
From: Susann Luperfoy <>
Subject: Query: Japanese Tagset

I am working with Japanese data. Although I'm
not using any sort of tagger I would be interested
in learning about the tags that are being used

Susann LuperFoy
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