LINGUIST List 9.591

Tue Apr 21 1998

Qs: Philology, Aspect, Passives, Mass Nouns

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. Francis Barry, Jr., Linguistics and Philology
  2. Nobue Mori, Aspect
  3. George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin, Oil was spilled (agents/patients) continued....
  4. Wen-Chao Li, Mass Nouns

Message 1: Linguistics and Philology

Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 15:12:31 -0500
From: Francis Barry, Jr. <>
Subject: Linguistics and Philology

I have been told in the past that there is a difference between the
approach to comparative language studies in Europe (where, as I
understand it, it's called "philology") and the approach in the U.S.
(where the discipline is known as "linguistics"). Apparently this is
not just a matter of terminology, and the disciplines really do take
divergent paths. Can anyone elucidate for me what these differences
are and how they would be reflected in courses of study leading to a
 There was some discussion years ago that I found in the archives, but
it was not specific enough to help those of us
linguists?/philologists? who are mere amateurs.
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Message 2: Aspect

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 00:58:01 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nobue Mori <>
Subject: Aspect

Does anybody know a language in which:

(1) aspectual-markers (e.g., accomplishment, activity, achievement,
state) are overtly "stacked" on top of the other:

For example: (an imaginary language):

[what's within ( ) is the would-be meaning of the sentence in this
language. what's within ** is the verb]:

 verb stem : [LIVE]:

 state: John *[LIVE]-morphme1* (= John is alive)
 achievement: John *[LIVE]-morphme1- morphme2* at 12: 05.
 (= John came to be alive at 12: 05 )

 activity: John *[LIVE]-morphme1-morphme2-morphme3* a long life for
110 years (= John did the act of living for 110 years , where John is
not construed as Experiencer, but construed as Agent)

accomplishment: John *[LIVE]-morphme1-morphme2-morphme3-morphme4*
Mary in 30 minutes
(= John caused Mary to come to be alive in 30 minutes ), where [ ] is
the verb stem; "morphme1" expresses "state"; morpheme2, "achievement";
 morphme3, "activity", and ; morphme4, "accomplishment".

and/or, (2) adverbs agree overtly with (some of) these morphemes, as

For example: [in the example (1) above] :

 achievement: John *[LIVE]-morphme1- morphme2- AGREEMENTi *
 (= John come to be alive happily , where the adverb "happily"
is predicated of "come to be alive", not of "be alive")

Another example: [in the example (1) above]:

accomplishment: John *[LIVE]-morphme1-morphme2-AGREEMENTi-morphme3-
morphme4* Mary happily-AGREEMENTi in 30 minutes

(= John caused Mary to happily come to be alive in 30
minutes , where the adverb "happily" describes
"how Mary came to be alive when John caused Mary to come to be alive",
not "how John caused Mary to come to be alive")

I would GREATLY appreciate any information on this topic, or
correspondence from those who are interested in this topic, and gladly
post the summary of all the information I receive.

Thank you.


Nobue Mori
c/o Linguistics Department
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20740
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Message 3: Oil was spilled (agents/patients) continued....

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 07:51:52 -0500
From: George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin <>
Subject: Oil was spilled (agents/patients) continued....

I've had many useful responses to my query about the
possibility/impossibility of sentences such as "Oil was spilled" and
"It was spilled" in human languages. My ultimate goal has been to find
a language that does *not* allow such constructions in any form,
including the various "Oil-spilling happened" constructions -- that
is, a language in which lexicalization of the agent is obligatory if
the patient is lexicalized. It would be pleasant to be able to say
that no such language exists (and that might be the quickest and most
efficient way to flush out the counterexample or counterexamples) but
I would prefer to wait a little longer. If anyone knows of a language
the grammar of which forbids "deniability" to agent nominals -- even
if only in the sense that the agent slot must be filled by some sort
of pronominal element -- please notify me directly. As soon as I feel
certain that no more responses are coming in, I'll post a summary.

Suzette Haden Elgin
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Message 4: Mass Nouns

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 19:18:28 -0500 (CDT)
From: Wen-Chao Li <>
Subject: Mass Nouns

Dear all,

I am posting this message on behalf of a friend who is not on the list
- please reply directly to her address, which is given below.

- ----

I am looking for studies of mass nouns in (British & American)
English, especially the use of mass nouns as collective nouns in
colloquial English. Also, any information pertaining to lists of
English mass/non-count nouns both in print and on the web would be
greatly appreciated. Please would you e-mail me at:

Thank you.

Julie M. M.
University of Minnesota 
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