LINGUIST List 6.233

Fri 17 Feb 1995

Qs: Gender concord, If/whether, Synaesthesia, SA English

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , query: gender concord
  2. B R Maylor, If and whether
  3. Faculty, Synaesthesia
  4. Wissing, DP, SA Engl. abnorm. +round vowels

Message 1: query: gender concord

Date: Wed, 15 Feb 1995 17:09:10 query: gender concord
From: <jharrisMIT.EDU>
Subject: query: gender concord

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Note the gender concord in these Spanish examples:

(1) a. aquellas vacas y toros importados
 those-f cows-f + bulls-m imported-m
 'those imported [cows and bulls]'

 b. aquellos toros y vacas importados
 'those imported [bulls and cows]'

 c. aquellas vacas y ovejas importadas
 those-f ewes-f imported-f
 'those imported [cows and sheep]'

(2) a. mucha ceramica y cristal italianos
 much-f ceramic-f + glass-m Italian-m
 'a lot of Italian [pottery and glass]'

 b. mucho cristal y ceramica italianos
 'a lot of Italian [glass and pottery]'

In (1) and (2) the gender of the prenominal modifiers is
determined by the adjacent noun while that of the postnominal
modifiers is determined by the entire conjunct--feminine if all
conjoined elements are feminine, masculine (actually unmarked/
default gender) otherwise--though both may or must be interpreted
as having scope over the entire conjunct. In (2) italianos (with
obligatory scope over the whole conjunct) is plural though
neither noun is.
 What syntactic structures/principles are involved in these
differences in concord between pre- and post-nominal modifiers?
Facts of comparable interest about gender (and number) must exist
in many IE languages. I would be most grateful for references to
sophisticated analyses of gender concord -- analyses that go
beyond programmatic theoretical statements and elementary text-
book examples to grapple with a rich, coherent body of data and
show how it actually works in an explicit descriptive/theoretical
framework. (I am immediately and especially interested in the
Romance languages, but would happily receive bibliography on
others as well.)
 Please reply directly to me; I will post something to the
list (only) if the response warrants it.
Thanks, James Harris
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Message 2: If and whether

Date: Wed, 15 Feb 1995 16:32:15 If and whether
From: B R Maylor <>
Subject: If and whether

As is well known, the Romance languages have a single word 'si' for both
'if' and 'whether', whereas German has 'wenn' and 'ob', and Russian has
'jesli' for 'if' but has no specific word for 'whether' and uses direct
question word-order in indirect questions.
 The distinction in English between 'if' and 'whether' is not as
simple as at first sight, viz:
 I don't know if/whether Bill can visit us
 I don't know *if/whether to invite Bill
 I don't know *if/whether or not Bill can visit us

I would be most interested if any readers can provide data in the area of
conditionals and indirect questions in other languages, especially in the

less accessible languages, particularly if this shows up interesting
etc. Anyone submitting data might like to use the following as a starting
 If Bill came to Durham he could visit us
 If/when Bill comes to Durham he can visit us
 I don't know if/whether Bill can visit us
 I don't know *if/whether to invite Bill
 What if Bill comes to Durham?
 I don't know if/whether Bill can visit us or not
 I don't Know *if/whether or not Bill can visit us
 I wonder if/whether Bill will visit us
 I pondered *if/whether Bill will visit us
 The question *if/whether Bill will visit us......

 I await your responses with baited breath
 Roger Maylor
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Message 3: Synaesthesia

Date: Tue, 14 Feb 95 18:50:28 ESSynaesthesia
From: Faculty <>
Subject: Synaesthesia

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I am looking to contact people who know about synaesthesia or who are
themselves synaesthetes. (Synaesthesia is the joining of the senses, like
colored hearing.) Nabokov was a synaesthete as were Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

I would appreciate hearing from knowledgable members of Linguist.
Carol J. Steen
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Message 4: SA Engl. abnorm. +round vowels

Date: Thu, 16 Feb 95 17:06
From: Wissing, DP <>
Subject: SA Engl. abnorm. +round vowels

Content-Length: 1804

I am observing increasingly the presence of (abnormal) rounded front
vowels in South African English, which, according to my knowledge of (at
least) British English, is unusual. The context seems to be a stressed
syllable followed by an r (e.g. yEAr, or yEArs cErtain), sometimes even
in unstressed positions (e.g. pleasure). I am not quite sure what the
origin of this (seemingly recent) development in South Africa. Abnormal
front vowels are quite normal in Afrikaans (a language very similar to
Dutch), and this phenomenon would have been understandable, with regards
to some cases, at least, if it was confined to the English of Afrikaans
speaking persons. But this pronunciation does not sem to be infrequent
in the case of L1 English speakers.
Is it possible that this is an Americanism? Sometimes I can just imagine
myself to have heard it on TV, but I'm not sure.
Help, especially from our American collegues would be appreciated.

Daan Wissing
University of Potchefstroom
Rep. of South Africa.
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