Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Detail #341: A Relativization Strategy

Indo-European languages seem to have a liking for using relative pronouns. Some languages prefer relativizing particles, resumptive pronouns or participle-like constructions. Let's consider, instead, an approach where a certain verb serves as relativizer. We will look at some of the possible complications as well.

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume we're dealing with an SVO language, where pro-drop is permitted. Much like English, certain contexts require verb-initial statements, but these contexts are more common than in English, including, for instance, almost every modality except indicative in main clauses.

The relative verbs are a small set of verbs, maybe two or three at most. What dimension they are distinguished along is not all that necessary, but we could go through a few possible ones:
active vs. passive vs. oblique
active animate vs. all other possibilities
({imperfective, perfective}*{active,passive}) + {circumstantial}
In this language, there is person congruence, and this inserts one place for introducing some quirks. Let's consider the second paradigm given above: active animate vs. all other possibilities.
a being a-anim.3sg infinitive [obj ...] ....
a being which is infinitiving [object ...]  ...

a being allotherpossibilities.1sg infinitive
a being that I am infinitiving

a being allotherpossibilities.1sg there(verbal!)
a being I am located at
a thing allotherpossibilities.3sg infinitive [...] ...
a thing which is infinitiving

a thing allotherpossibilities.1sg infinitive [...] ....
a thing that I am infinitiving

a thing allotherpossibilities.3sg infinitive a noun [...] ...
a thing that is infiniting a noun

a thing allotherpossibilities.3sg a noun infinitive_?
a thing that a noun is infiniting

_? signifies some other infinitive form, maybe a participle?
If there is no noun that the verb can refer back to, and the verb is inflected for first or second person, this basically means "I, who ..." or "you, who ...". Analogous third person constructions favour having an explicit pronoun - but it can be either exo- or endoheaded: "he a-anim.3sg infinitive" OR "a-anim.3sg he infinitive": he who infinites.

Using the infinitive feels slightly predictable, but so would using special relative moods for each verb.

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