LINGUIST List 4.47

Fri 29 Jan 1993

FYI: Breton Subject/object, Machine Translation

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  1. Jacques Guy, Subject/object ambiguity in Breton
  2. , Machine Translation

Message 1: Subject/object ambiguity in Breton

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 93 09:53:11 ESSubject/object ambiguity in Breton
From: Jacques Guy <j.guytrl.oz.au>
Subject: Subject/object ambiguity in Breton


This came up as a follow-up to a totally different topic on sci.lang,
where I happened to mention that I seemed to remember that sometimes
Breton did not distinguish grammatically between subject and object,
somewhat like Lisu does, or rather, does not. It is not a matter of
cases when the grammatical distinction between subject and object
becomes neutralized, as in Latin (e.g. dic mi te me amare). This
fact is little known, and I reproduce here my post on sci.lang:

My reference is Pierre Tre'pos' "Grammaire bretonne" (Imprimerie Simon,
Rennes, undated, probably ca 1975)

Page 187, Tre'pos discusses verbal particles. Of "a", paragraph
422, he writes:

Elle a la valeur du _pronom relatif_ A: qui, que et ne s'emploie
que lorsque le _sujet_ ou le _comple'ment d'objet_ direct
_pre'ce`de_ le verbe: [his emphasis]

 tad-koz a bren eur pakad butun beb sul (eur pakad
 butun a bren tad-koz beb sul), grand-p`ere ache`te un
 paquet de tabac chaque dimanche.

In English, literally:

[Verbal particle A] is equivalent to the relative pronoun: who,
whom, which, and is used only when the _subject_ or the _direct
object_ complement _precedes_ the verb:

 tad-koz a bren eur pakad butun beb sul (eur pakad
 butun a bren tad-koz beb sul), granddad buys a packet
 of tobacco every Sunday.

Interlinear translation:

 tad - koz a bren eur pakad butun
 father old buys a packet tobacco

 beb sul
 every Sunday

In the alternative construction, in parentheses, subject and
direct object have switched positions. Disambiguation is
purely by meaning.

Tre'pos points out, in the part on syntax, that the passive
is extremely frequent in Breton. There is no ambiguity in passive
sentences, the agent being marked by the preposition "gand". E.g.
(p.243, paragraph 575):

 drailhet eo bet e vraoig gand ar paotr bihan
 broken is been his toy (agent) the boy little
 The little boy has broken his toy
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Message 2: Machine Translation

Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 16:33:26 PSMachine Translation
From: <COMRIEVM.USC.EDU>
Subject: Machine Translation

The following item should be added to the basic bibliography I
circulated some weeks ago, with thanks to Gyonggu Shin:

Nijholt, Anton. 1989. Computers and Languages: Theories and Practice.
Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Bernard Comrie, Univ. of Southern California
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