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Query Details

Query Subject:   Testing for a Universal (`but', `also')
Author:   Arthur Merin
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Semantics

Query:   Mon, 7 Apr 1997 17:39:56 +0200 (MET DST)
Arthur Merin
Testing for a Universal (`but', `also')


The candidate, engaging a phenomenon parts of which Zellig
Harris noted as a syntactic fact of English, is:

Any language having bona fide translation equivalents
of the coordinating conjunction `but' will have
equivalents of

(1) `Kim walks but {Kim/(s)he[K]} talks' (Pa but Qa)

acceptable in suitable contexts (here, e.g.: we are
looking for a very silent messenger), whereas
equivalents of

(2) *`Kim walks but Sandy walks' (Pa but Pb)

will never be acceptable (assuming default prosody
or a suitable equivalent - see below), while in any
language having, in addition, a bona fide translation
equivalent of `also' or `too', equivalents of

(3) `Kim walks but Sandy {also walks/walks too}'

will always be acceptable again.

Explanatory Note: ''Default prosody'' for English means at the
very least: absence (or nonobligatoriness) of a marked pause
preceding `but'. I.e. the unacceptability judgment for
(2) is claimed to be stable for that single-speaker reading
(both with regard to prosody and interpretation) which is NOT
paraphraseable as

(4) `Kim walks, but then Sandy walks'

where `then' is NON-TEMPORAL, as evidenced by preservation of
its intended interpretation in

(5) `Kim has walked, but then Sandy has walked'.

(The intended and, for atemporal `then', presumably obligatory
reading for the English ex. (4) is one where the second clause
introduces an explanation for the eventuality designated by the

Native or born-again judgments are solicited on bona fide
translation equivalents of (1), (2) and (3); if possible
also on those of (4)/(5) and on the feasibility of a
(4)-style reading for (2)-equivalents. Most helpful would
be transliterations of exx. into Roman characters, if necessary
making use of ASCII diacritic conventions in use among students
of the language concerned, with a word-by-word English or
(e.g., where word order differs) quasi-English translation

A summary of the results of the experiment will be posted,
along with a list of all those contributors who do
not express a preference for not being listed.
For participants or anyone else interested in the explanation
of the putative universal, a dense outline of the argument
(2 pages worth of PostScript or, on special demand,
typographically approximate ASCII) is available by e-mail on
request (repr. from the Abstracts of the 10th Int. Cong. Logic
Methodology & Philosophy of Sci., Florence 1995). A mathematical
background or access thereto is presupposed. An extensive version,
taking account, it is hoped, of the results of the experiment
proposed above, will be available in English soon. Participants
expressing an interest in being notified of its venue of
appearance will be kept informed.

Arthur Merin
Institute for Language and Computation (IMS)
University of Stuttgart
Azenbergstr. 12
70174 Stuttgart
LL Issue: 8.501
Date posted: 11-Apr-1997


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