Sunday, December 21, 2008

Compatibility of se, khong, co

Here's an entry to the VGP site that I've been working on recently. Any help or advice anyone might be able to give would be gratefully received:

Compatibility of sẽ/đã and có

Some consultants report an incompatibility of the tense-markers sẽ/đã with the assertion marker có. A commentator on Duffield (2007), for instance, found example (19b) below unacceptable, and attributed this ungrammaticality to the fact "in general, sẽ and đã are incompatible with có." Another consultant also noted his dispreference for sentences containing both elements simultaneously.

(19) a. Hôm qua anh ấy đã không có đến nhà chị.
yesterday PRN DEM ANT ASR go house PRN
‘He didn’t go to your house yesterday.’

b. Hôm qua anh ấy đã có đến nhà chị không?
yesterday PRN DEM ANT ASR go house PRN khong
‘Did he go to your house yesterday?’
‘*He didn’t go to your house yesterday?’

While not disputing these consultants' intuitions, it may be that the source of the unacceptability lies elsewhere. Of course, I have a personal stake in this: if it is the case that these two elements compete for the same syntactic position, this threatens to undermine the general analysis presented in Duffield (2007), which claims that sẽ and đã are tense elements inserted under T, whereas có is located in a separate functional head, ASR. See Fig 1.

Yet, even leaving aside any theoretical agenda, there are reasons to doubt that these two types of element are in complementary distribution. First, an internet search on the strings {"tôi sẽ có" + V/ "tôi đã có" + V} reveals numerous examples of sentences in which sẽ or đã immediately precedes có + V. The following are representative:

1a. Sư rất vui vì tôi đã có gặp Sư trong lần về thăm nhà năm trước, 2002. [, accessed 16/12/08]
Sư very happy because I ant asr meet Su in time return visit home year last, 2002
'Su is very happy because I visited when I returned home for a visit last year, in 2002.'

b. Tôi đã có gặp anh Phòng một lần từ thời còn ở Tiên Phước. [; accessed 16/12/08]
I ant asr meet prn Phong one time from time still be-in Tien Phuoc
'I met Phòng once when I was still in Tiên Phước.'

c. Tôi đã có đi vòng quanh thế giới nhiều lần. []
I ant asr go around world much time
'I have been around the world many times.'

2a. Tuy nhiên nếu ai nhìn ra tiềm năng của đầu tư trong lĩnh vực này thì sẽ có biết phải làm gì! [, accessed 21/12/08]

b.Hôm nay là một ngày mới, ta sẽ có biết bao nhiêu cơ hội để làm được những điều tốt đẹp!”. [, accessed 21/12/08]

c. Nhưng sẽ có biết bao nhiêu người trên Thế Giới nhìn vào đó. [ 81950199dc2a7b1b46f2203209421b5a, accessed 21/12/08]

The examples in (1) and (2) certainly suggest no real incompatibility between sẽ/đã and có in affirmative indicative contexts. Instead, the problem in (19b) may lie with an incompatibility between không and (just in case functions as an assertion marker preceding the matrix predicate, rather than the matrix predicate itself. As noted in Duffield (2007), shows striking formal and functional parallels with English do, which can also function either as a grammatical auxiliary in negative, interrogative and emphatic contexts ("do-support") or else as a main verb. The speculation that Vietnamese works in the same way is supported by a second internet search that reveals many thousands of hits for the exact sequence "tôi đã không có" + NP, as illustrated in (3), but very few for the same sequence immediately followed by a verb, functioning as the matrix predicate (i.e. "tôi đã không có + V"): cf. the examples in (1) above. [The only exception is—predictably enough (!)—được: see section NN below]

3a. Nhưng tính tôi, đã không có tình cảm,... [, accessed 16/12/08]
but I ant neg have feeling
'But I had no feelings...'

b. Bố tôi đã không có con trai để cùng chia sẻ [, accessed 16/12/08]
father I ant neg have child male in order to share
'My father had no sons to share.'

As for "sẽ không có" this is vanishingly rare. Indeed, a Google search revealed exactly one hit for the string "sẽ không có" (a Googlewhack, in net terminology!). It is also telling, I think, that this is a counterfactual context, supporting the idea that an assertion marker có is necessarily tied to past tense contexts (see Duffield 2007):

4a. Nếu Nguyễn Thanh Quang cấm tôi vì lý do chính đáng, hay làm theo ý kiến cộng đồng, tôi sẽ không có nói gì.
[ắn_cho_Tin_nhắn_cho_người_quản _lý/Liebesapfel, accessed 21/12/08]
If NTQ had banned me for a good reason, or was following the opinion of the community, I would not have said anything.'

The comparative rarity of any "đã không có + V" strings could be explained if, in general, không and (ASR) có competed for the slot. [This would, however, necessitate a re-analysis of VP-ellipsis constructions in Vietnamese: see section NN, Duffield (in prep.), cf. Duffield (2007).]

A more radical alternative explanation for the unacceptability of (19b) may be that Y-N questions in Vietnamese involve a "Kaynian approach": sentence-final không occupies the ASR-head, while the rest of the sentence forms a tenseless topic constituent. See Duffield (in prep., for further development of this idea). Whichever is correct, however—and the two are not mutually exclusive analyses—the data in (1)-(3) above imply no real incompatibility between Tense and Assertion elements.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sentential Subjects: vP?, TP? other?

I've just completed a preliminary draft of the introduction to the section on topicalization. Exactly what this involves theoretically is huge question: for now, I'm adopting a fairly unconstrained interpretation of the term to mean any fronting of a constituent to the initial specifier position of the clause, where the fronted constituent is typically followed by the "topic marker" thì (but also by what I'll call secondary topicalization markers including and (in certain uses). Hence topicalization will include relatives, conditionals and a bunch of other things besides] But the present query relates to sentential subjects, which I also think are topicalized in this sense.

First the text:

Sentential Subjects

One type of topicalization that is of particular theoretical interest involves sentential subjects. As the examples in (3) illustrate, Vietnamese sentential subjects are not introduced by any subordinating complementizer: indeed, it is ungrammatical to place a complementizer in sentence-initial position. In spite of this, such constructions are highly frequent, and appear to be parsed without difficulty:

3a. (*Rằng) họ cười khúc khích làm chúng em thẹn. (Nguyễn 1997: 222)
that prn laugh giggle make plural prn embarrassed
'(The fact that) they giggled embarrassed us.'

b. (*Rằng) nhà tôi ở trong hữm thế này mà anh tìm ra kể giỏi lắm. [Huffman: 277]
that house I be in alley like this REL you find show skillful very
'(The fact that) my house is in an alley like this yet you found it shows that you are pretty clever.'

The examples in (4b) and (5), in which a clausal argument precedes the assertion morpheme and the anterior marker đã, respectively, are also consistent with a fronting analysis as sentential subject-fronting analysis: see Duffield in prep. and sections NN above

4a. Ông Ba có ngủ ngon không? (Dương 1971)
prn Ba asr sleep well Q
'Did Mr Ba sleep well?'

b. Ông Ba ngủ có ngon không?
prn Ba sleep asr well Q
'Did Mr Ba have a good sleep?' (lit. Mr. Ba sleeps is good, not?)

5. Họ ăn đã xong. [G: 258]
prn eat ant finish
'They finished eating.

Now, the query. I'd like to be able to distinguish a number of analytic options for the bracketed constituents in (4b) and (5). The minimal assumption is that they're something smaller than TPs, say vP, for the sake of argument. However, if it's possible to have higher functional categories (sẽ đã có không) within this constituent then we d be forced to assume they're tps at least. [Note that although there lot of structure in (3b), it's all fairly deeply embedded and still compatible with a vp=sentential subject analysis.] Any thoughts, help, advice, most welcome!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An initial query about reciprocals

In the initial draft just completed reciprocals, I noted the following:

Reciprocal pronouns

Reciprocity is Vietnamese is usually expressed by nhau ('each other'). Ngô N. B. (1999: 175) provides the following examples (also LVSP), in which nhau occupies a position c-commanded by the matrix subject họ ([raised] object and indirect object positions, respectively):

7a. Họ giúp nhau làm bài tập. [EV: 175]
prn help eachother do homework
'They help each other do homework'

b. Thỉnh thoảng họ viết thư cho nhau. [EV: 175]
occasionally prn write letter give eachother
'Occasionally, they write letters to each other.'

c. Hai cái áo giống nhau nhưng một cái rẻ và một cái mắc. [LVSP: 325]
two cls shirt resemble each.other but one cls cheap and one cls expensive
'These two shirts look alike, but one is cheap and the other expensive.'

Nguyễn Đ. H. (1997: 137) mentions one other rather interesting example involving nhau, in which the reciprocal occupies the object position, and the thematic object is projected as a prepositional phrase:

8. Anh ấy kiện nhau với ông chủ. [NDH: 137].
prn dem sue eachother with prn boss
'He sued his boss (literally, he sued each other with his boss).'

Though (8) may be interesting, and (7) not unhelpful, there's a good deal more to find out. First off, I'd like to know what happens in other embedded subject cases, such as (i)-(iii) below.

[If these constructed examples are ungrammatical for some irrelevant reason, please excuse (and correct the idiocy), but the point should be relatively clear: is nhau licensed in finite complement clauses, in VP-complements to causative làm and làm cho? I'm assuming that these examples are all fine if nhau is replaced by a pronoun with disjoint reference.

(i) Họ nghĩ (là) nhau dã viết lá thư
prn think comp each other ant write letter
'*They thought that each other had written the letter.' [= 'They each thought that the other had written the letter.'

(ii) Họ làm nhau khóc.
prn make eachother cry
'They made each other cry.'

(iii) Họ làm cho nhau nhảy.
prn make give eachother dance
‘They made eachother dance.’

Any advice, thoughts, most welcome!

Stopping vs. Completion: a query about Aspect

Gage (1975: 258) gives the following examples to illustrate differences between Vietnamese and English with respect to the expression of Aspect:

1a. Anh ấy ngưng chạy [G: 258]
prn dem stop run
'He stopped running.'

b. Anh ấy ngưng học [G: 258]
prn dem stop study
'He stopped studying.'

c. Tôi không thể ngưng việc được.
prn neg-poss stop work can
'I couldn't stop working.'

2a. Anh ấy ăn lót lòng xong.
prn dem eat breakfast finish
'He finished eating breakfast.'

b. Tôi đã soạn đồ hanh-lý ra xong.
prn ant unpack suitcase go-out finish
'I've finished unpacking.'

[ Also, note:
Họ ăn đã xong. [G: 258]
prn eat ant finish
'They finished eating...which needs to be accounted for]

Observation: The predicates in (1) are all activity predicates, whereas those in (2) denote accomplishments or achievements. The expectation is that ngưng could also be used with the latter predicates as well; however, as in English, it should imply that the activity has stopped before completion (i.e. is temporarily suspended). Could someone please provide relevant examples?

Query: If these examples are representative, rather than a sampling error, they suggest that predicates to do with true telicity always appear postverbally, whereas 'quasi-aspectual predicates' that simply mark the edge (beginning or end) of an event (Travis' Outer Aspect?) appear preverbally. I have a sense that the syntactic options for the pre/post-verb lại bear this out. Does this seem to be on the right track?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Demonstratives and Linguistic Interfaces

In writing up the section on use of kinship terms as pronouns in 3rd person contexts, I came across the following phenomenon, which, it seems to me, may have interesting implications for Minimalist conceptions of interfaces.

"Nguyễn Đ. H. (1997:43) mentions a third strategy for speakers of the Saigon dialect, namely, where the demonstrative element ấy is deleted and marked instead by a tone change on the kinship label itself. Nguyễn Đ. H. provides the following examples (observing also that this strategy cannot apply to words that bear inherent high tones such as chú or bác):

(5) a. bà ấy > bả ('she')
b. ông ấy > ổng ('hé)
c. cô ấy > cổ ('she')
d. anh ấy > ảnh ('he')
e. chị ấy > chỉ ('she')

f. thằng ấy > thẳng ('that guy, he')
g. thằng cha ấy > thằng chả ('that bloody guy')

Notice especially the contrast between the last two examples, which suggest that this operation is quite productive: tone-shift applies to the right-edge of the word. This would seem to indicate that the process is not purely lexicalized. On the other hand, it is lexically constrained, since elements bearing inherent high tones cannot be affected. It would also appear to have implications for Minimalist assumptions about the ways in which semantics and phonology can interact outside of narrow syntax (given that it is implausible to suppose that these phonetic properties enter into syntactic computations).

Briefly, then, this appears to be a morphophonological operation that is sensitive to phonological constraints, but which expresses a semantic property. Since the relevant phonetic property (the high tone which is realised as/changed to a low-rising tone when shifted to the left-adjacent segment) would seem to be syntactically inert, the question is how this phonetic change is able to affect interpretation unless semantics and phonology are able to interact independently of the syntactic computation?

Does anyone else think this is really a theoretical problem? or have I missed or misunderstood something obvious?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Does Vietnamese have expletives?

The normal assumption is that null-subject languages do not have expletive pronouns (i.e., pronouns used non-referentially, as, for example, in (1) and (2) below:

1. It remains to be seen whether John will come.
2. There has always been some controversy about her eligibility.

If Vietnamese is a null-subject language--and the typical absence of proforms in embedded clauses suggests this is the case--then it should not have expletives either. However, Phan Thi Huyen Trang (personal communication) draws attention to cases such as those in (3) and (4), in which, she suggests, the proform is non-referential, like English expletives:

3. Uống cho nó đã.
drink for it fill/quench
'Drink your fill (to quench your thirst)'

4. Tắm cái cho nó mát.
bath prt for it cool
'Take a bath to cool down'

These are interesting examples. However, at first glance, these do seem to be referential, although not in the sense of picking out participants in an event--which is the normal function of pronominal elements--but rather in referring to the Event/resulting situation itself. It may be more than coincidental that both of these examples show this element both embedded under cho: this is just where one might expect to see the event variable expressed (see section 5 of the grammar). In any case, it would be interesting to know whether these can also occur in the subject position of a matrix clause, and/or whether there are other such examples of a pro-form referring to situations rather than participants.