LINGUIST List 5.1460

Sat 17 Dec 1994

Disc: Comparative Syntax: Two languages, one grammar?

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  1. Logical Language Group, Comparative syntax: Two languages, one grammar?

Message 1: Comparative syntax: Two languages, one grammar?

Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 14:00:56 Comparative syntax: Two languages, one grammar?
From: Logical Language Group <lojbabaccess.digex.net>
Subject: Comparative syntax: Two languages, one grammar?

I previously posted this text to another mailing list; a participant on that
list, who also reads LINGUIST, urged me to post it here as well, as a
contribution to the "comparative syntax" discussion.

The text below, set off by "#" in the left margin, is drawn from)Man's
Many Voices: Language In Its Cultural Context(, by Robbins Burling
(New York: Holt Rhinehart & Winston, 1970; ISBN 0-03-081001-09).

 # John Gumperz has examined the colloquial dialects of Marathi and Kannada
 # in a village along the Maharastra-Mysore boundary in central India where
 # these two languages come into direct contact. Marathi is an Indo-Aryan
 # language, while Kannada is Dravidian. Historically these two languages
 # go back to utterly different antecedents, but the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian
 # languages have been in contact in India for several thousand years and have
 # long influenced one another. Along the borders their mutual influence has
 # been profound. In the village studied by Gumperz most speakers feel
 # themselves to be bilingual, but the two village dialects share such a
 # large part of their grammar that one can almost doubt whether they should
 # count as separate languages. Consider, for example, the following sentence:
 #
 # Kannada: hog- i wnd kudri turg maR- i aw tnd
 # Tags: verb suff. adj. noun noun verb suff. pron. verb
 # Marathi: ja- un ek ghoRa cori kar- un tew anla
 # English: go having one horse theft take having he brought
 # Idiomatic English: Having gone and having stolen a horse,
 # he brought it back.
 #
 # All of the morphemes of the Kannada sentence are different from those of
 # the Marathi sentence, but they are used according to identical grammatical
 # principles. The sentences have identical constituent structures and their
 # morphemes occur in the same order. The same kind of suffixes are attached
 # to the same kind of bases. These sentences seem by no means to be atypical
 # of village usage. In fact, one can plausibly suggest that these two
 # languages (if indeed they)are( two languages) have the same grammar and
 # differ only in the items filling the surface forms. One can translate from
 # one language to another simply by substituting one set of lexical items for
 # another in the surface structure.
 #
 # Both the Marathi and the Kannada used in this village differ from the more
 # literary or educated styles of the same languages, but both can be shown to
 # be related to the more standard forms according to the usual criteria by
 # which linguists recognize genetic affiliation. Yet the village dialects
 # have undergone such profound mutual grammatical influence as to almost
 # obscure the boundaries between the two languages. Curiously, in this case,
 # it is the lexicon that maintains the separation, and after considering the
 # effect of Marathi and Kannada upon each other, one can hardly maintain that
 # lexicon is always the easiest component of language to borrow or that the
 # true genetic affiliation will necessarily be shown by the underlying grammar

Burling's bibliography refers to the following article (which I have not read):

Gumperz, John J. "Communication in Multilingual Communities". In S. Tyler,
 ed.)Cognitive Anthropology( (New York: Holt Rhinehart & Winston, 1969)

John Cowan sharing account (lojbabaccess.digex.net) for now
 e'osai ko sarji la lojban.
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