LINGUIST List 6.1130

Sun Aug 20 1995

Sum: English as isolating lg

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Hideo Fujii, Summary: English as Isolating lg

Message 1: Summary: English as Isolating lg

Date: Sun, 20 Aug 1995 03:44:07 Summary: English as Isolating lg
From: Hideo Fujii <>
Subject: Summary: English as Isolating lg

In LINGUIST List: Vol-6-1095 (Aug.7, 95), I asked the following
question. I've received 3 responses from readers. I want to say
thank you very much to Alan Juffs, Steve Matthews, and John J McCarthy.
Here is a summary of them.

>>Dear Collegues,
>> Sometimes I've heard that English is becoming more the
>> isolating language from the inflecting one typologically.
>> I would like to know the discussion aboout the phenomena
>> or actual evidences to explain this argument.
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<Comment & References from Alan Juffs (>

You might look at Len Talmy's work; he considers English to be a
satellite framed language. However, there are numerous verbs in English
which also 'squash' a lot of meaning into a root. You might also consider
looking at Levin and Rappaport on unaccusatives and causativity.

Levin, B., & Rappaport Hovav, M. (1995). Unaccusativity: At the
 syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Levin, B., & Rappaport-Hovav, M. (1994). A preliminary analysis of
 causative verbs in English. In L. Gleitman & B. Landau (Eds.),
 The lexicon in acquisition (pp. 35-80). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Talmy, L. (1985). Lexicalization patterns: semantic structure in
 lexical patterns. In T. Shopen (Eds.), Language typology and
 syntactic description (pp. 57-149). Cambridge: Cambridge University

Talmy, L. (1991). Path to realization: a typology of event conflation.
 In Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 17 .

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<References & Comments from Steve Matthews ( >

a useful discussion of the loss of inflectional morphology is
in the first 2 chapters of

 John Hawkins' "A Comparative Typology of English and German".

He describes how English has retained a proper subset of the
morphology that German has (p.12).

Although he doesn't appeal directly to isolating typology,
his points could be taken to illustrate the claim you mention.
There is also some useful discussion of morphological types in

 Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy's "Current Morphology".

- ----------------------------------------------------------------------
<Comments from John J McCarthy ( >

.......The reason why English is said to have changed from a more
inflecting to a more isolating language is primarily the loss of case
marking in nouns (except for pronouns) and the loss of person/number
marking in verbs (except for the 3rd person singular present and the
verb 'be').

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