LINGUIST List 7.1134

Mon Aug 12 1996

Qs: Obligatory subjects & Case, Racism, Sociolx &Ling Theory

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  1. Gisbert Fanselow, Obligatory subjects + Case questions
  2. "Daisy,Daisy", Racism
  3. Stefan Martin, Sociolinguistics and linguistic theory; NSE syntax

Message 1: Obligatory subjects + Case questions

Date: Thu, 08 Aug 1996 18:04:54 +0200
From: Gisbert Fanselow <>
Subject: Obligatory subjects + Case questions
(1) Are there any OV-languages with an obligatory overt subject

(2) Are there any ergative languages with an obligatory overt subject

(3) Furthermore, "unaccusative" verbs seem to have the OPTION of
assigning accusative Case in Modern Hebrew. Are there any languages in
which accusative Case MUST be assigned by unaccusative verbs, i.e. in
which nominative Case just shows up with transitive & simple
intransitive verbs?

(4) These are the systems of Case stacking I know of:
 Quechua: Overt Combination of Genetive + Accusative in what would
be an ECM-construction in English
 Korean: Case stacking with psych-predicates and in
 Ancient Georgian: a specifier of an NP can pick up the Case of the
category it is embedded in, possibly a recursive process.

What other systems of Case stacking can be found?

Thanks for your replies! I will post a summary.
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Message 2: Racism

Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 14:22:15 BST
From: "Daisy,Daisy" <>
Subject: Racism
Hi Everybody,

The '96 Olympic Games have come to an end, but their related stories
are still being told and discussed. One such tale that has caused
heated discussions amongst the Chinese students abroad is the use of
the term 'Chinaman' by some TV presenters in the UK and the USA. Some
of us think that its use is racist, but some say that we ourselves are
too sensitive.

I would like to hear your opinion on this issue as a linguist (or
whatever): whether the term 'Chinaman' sounds racist to you? and how
can we tell whether a person is been racist or not when he/she uses
such sensitive terms?

Thank you!

(Daisy) Zhongping Zhu
Dept of Language and Linguistic Science
University of York tel: +44 1904 432665
Heslington, York fax: +44 1904 432662
YO1 5DD UK	 web:
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Message 3: Sociolinguistics and linguistic theory; NSE syntax

Date: Fri, 09 Aug 1996 06:27:00 EDT
From: Stefan Martin <>
Subject: Sociolinguistics and linguistic theory; NSE syntax

Dear LINGUIST Readers,

I'm at work on a book which analyzes a number of number of syntactic
structures from various dialects of nonstandard English. My approach
could be called interdisciplinary,in the sense that I'm presenting
theoretical analyses of NSE structures using sociolinguistic field
data, not just speaker intuitions. I would be very grateful for
responses (and suggested references) to any of the following

1. Historically, sociolinguistics (and related disciplines and
subdisciplines such as dialectology, dialect geography, language
variation, and so on) has taken up a very different research program
from theoretical linguistics, this bifurcation attributable to
differences concerning

	a. the proper object of investigation (e-language or
performance for sociolinguistics, i-language or competence for
linguistic theory);

	b. the question of admissible evidence (sociolinguistics
relies "natural" data while linguistic theory uses speaker

	c. the question of adequate evidence -- whether, at this point
in the study of language, we have sufficient basis for formulating
linguistic universals, and if so,what level of generalization is

	d. the question of what we can learn about linguistic
universals from the study of one (or a small group of) languages.

	e. the question of whether the competence/performance
distinction is clear enough to be useful.

Answers to these questions have a large influence on the type of
linguistics one ends up doing. In my introduction, I'm trying to
represent both sides of these issues fairly before presenting the case
for my approach (see above).

Practitioners, what are your views on these questions, and who has
written on these issues in any depth? I should tell you that I've
read Randy Harris' "The Linguistics Wars" and have obtained the
references listed there.

2. My sense is that if one looks at an entire language (let's define
it informally the usual way: any two varieties that are mutually
intellible are dialects of the same language), the least variable
linguistic component is syntax. Taking English as an example, there
is much more variation in acrolectal phonology than in other
components. We might attribute this to the fact that other components
 (morphology, lexicon, syntax) are much more amenable to
standardization. Presciptive rules for these three components can be
formulated (with greater or lesser descriptive adequacy) in print.
Print culture, a token of power, comes to influence and to some extent
standardize the syntax, morphology, and lexicon of acrolectal speech.
Phonology is too variable and changeable to be subject to complete
standardization (though one acrolect can be stigmatized by
another). From my experience and reading, this seems to be true of
basilectal varieties of English (AAE, Appalachian, white working-class
speech of cities of the eastern US, white speech of the upper and
lower South). That is, their syntax is the least variable component.
For example, one finds negative concord in all these dialects, though
there are differences in how this rule operates. Am I correct, in
your opinion, in characterizing syntax as the least variable (or one
of the least variable) components of a given language? Who has
written on this issue per se?

3. In "Negative attraction and negative concord in English grammar,"
(Language 1972:773-818), William Labov presents an attested sentence
from African American English: "It ain't no cat can't get in no coop"
(item 1). The intended reading is "There is no cat, such that the cat
*can* get into any coop." (or No cat can get in) That is, there is
only one negation involved in the meaning of this sentence. Standard
English speakers tend, as Labov suggests, to understand this sentence
as having two independent negations, one per clause, as in "There is
no cat, such that the cat *cannot* get in any coup." (or Any cat can
get in). Assuming that there is a relationship between a negative
element in the root clause and all other concordant negatives (let's
say binding), "ain't," which is in Infl/Agr of the root clause, has
bound negative modal "can't" in the embedded clause. Two questions:

	a. Do any researchers have other attestations of this
structure from AAE or other nonstandard varieties of English which use
negative concord, (e.g. Appalachian)?

	b. Do researchers know of other languages which permit this
structure, i.e., a negative root clause which allows the Infl of an
embedded clause to be overtly marked with a concordant (not
independent) negative?

Please send replies to me at one of the following addresses below. I
will post a summary shortly. Many thanks.

Stefan Martin
Department of English
St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, MD 20686 USA
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