[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

the last few weeks

A brief break to read items I have barely had time to scrape off the  server,
let alone read.  So some of these comments may be about issues long ago
solved and/or forgotten.

Imperatives (various titles to the thread)
English bare invariant verb forms used finitely come from several sources
besides the imperative form.  Most of them are from ol subjunctives,
themselves the inheritors of  a number of older forms.  Given that the
imperative is defined as much functionally as formally -- the form to
direct the action of the addressee, these forms should not be treated as
imperatives unless the subject is the addressee (usually second person, but
xorxes and goran at least have come up with some third person general
pronoun cases: nobody, somebody, everybody, which goran correctly
interprets, though justifying his explanation would give many a grammar
the willies).
Most of the remaining -- subjunctive -- uses are optative in the broad
sense, expressing wishes, hopes, and the like rather than trying to
influence anyone's actions explicitly.  We still have a few relic conditional
forms "Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread,"
as well, some even with the "if"  (though many take the contrary-to-fact
form, more like the past tense or the retro-future).  The ones of interest
here are those that come from older (but still available) forms like "Would
that my love come" or (the model now in Spanish) "Oh that my love
come"  These finally come to the bare forms, without the "that" in English
and in an inverted way (actually, not always, since there is a second source
for several common examples, coming up).  The set pieces (as most are)
of this sort are "Bless you" and "Damn you" where one might argue that
they come from either "Heaven/God bless/damn you,"  plus the optative
"may," or directly from a non-subjunctive "I bless/damn you."  In any case,
they cannot be from second-person forms, as that would make the object
"yourself."  And here we note the classic paper of Quang Phuc Dong of
South Hanoi Institute of Technology (reputedly later at Sam Houston) in
the MacCawley Festschrift in 1973 (or so) which contrasts (if the
scholarly nature of our proceedings will allow) "Fuck yourself" (usually
preceded by "go"), a clear imperative, with the more common "Fuck you,"
which just as clearly is not one.  Nor is it referrable to some designated
fucker, like the designated blesser and damner.  Nor can it be first person,
since the circumstances of utterance are usually just those in which the
speaker is powerless vis a vis the addressee.  I appears then as a pure
optative "May you be fucked."  Quang (or maybe his colleague Yuck Phu)
distinguishes a number of these forms by function -- essentially related to
xorxes reducing them to attitudinals, I think .
The "let" construction shares a similar pair of patterns.  "Let them do their
work" may be an imperative to the addressee to stop interfering with
"them "or another of those optativish critters whose function is usually to
refuse one's services to help "them" do the work (exactly how it works is
not too clear, but presumably is related to "Let us do this," which is in the
family with suggestions and proposals.
The problem with "their" in the general pronoun case, where the pronoun
clearly refers to all the addressees in spite of its form, is that the
agreement is relatively late in the sentence development, after the surface
form of the antecedent is fixed (cf "yourself" earlier).  As I said, the
a grammar of the appropriate sort has to go through to get from "All of
you, don't move your hands"  to "Nobody move their hands" (Don't nobody
move their hands" is traditonal) are truly scary.

Nice problem, related to a discussion donkey's years ago about Lo??an and
American Sign Language.  I think that came out that Signed Lo??an was
not going to work well, since the signers did not take kindly to all the
grammatical marks.  But simple sentences, without too many subordinate
or coordinate forms worked very smoothly.
As for the problem of seeing y'y, when I find myself sliding either into xy
or y.y, I start using English voiceless "th" ("thin" not "then"),one of the
most distinctive sounds I can think of for seeing (aside from labials, of

Officially, intensional forms are those that refer to models other than the
one being used to evaluate, and so is a relative concept to the notion of
model at hand.  In the case of tenses, I suppose that the standard model
has a single time-line.  The non-standard model then has, in effect, a fan
of time lines beyond the present, all sharing the past.  (In fact, this
future is probably a better model for tenses in most langauges than is the
totally linear one, given the relation between one kind of contrary-to-fact
form and tense forms, so that what is now contrary to fact looks like what
is happening at the time corresponding to now on some alternate future to
some past point.)  The inchoative, as an intensional concept, is then that
on most such branches (but not necessarily the actual one) the event does
take place (and we get to the inchoative just when the number of such
branches comes into the majority -- more or less).  This is related to (and
may be extensionally the same as) xorxes' notion that the inchoative is just
about the present.  To take the ball case, xorxes would have the inchoative
of the ball falling to be a way of summing up the microphysics of the ball:
the current balance of forces acting on it, its current velocity and
its current location with respect to the edge of the table, the
coefficient of
friction of the table top-ball interface  -- but ignoring the watchful xorxes
ready to leap in.  I think it likely that at some point that
microsituation will
determine that in most possible futures the ball will fall, since in most
xorxes will not be watching or will be too slow to the task or will fail to
recognize the upshot of what he sees or...  I am not sure they are
equivalent absolutely, but, if they are not, I am inclined to go with xorxes'
version (actually extensional, though in a rather different way from the
tenses).  It has a long history: the "present in its causes" locution from
whenever (Aristotle? the 13th century? the 17th, 18th or 19th -- one of
those guys). It is simpler (obiously).  And it is easier to argue about
directly, which I think is a crucial part of inchoative talk.
Inchoative talk comes up most often, in fact, when the event do NOT take
place.  The whole notion of prevention depends upon it and upon the
event not taking place.  But the notion cannot be just a subjective one, else
it could not stand up the the scrutiny it does -- in the law, for
The difference between self-defense and other forms of justifiable
homicide and murder in various degrees (and manslaughter and among
many of these later categories) depends upon some plausibly objective
inchoative aspect: he was about to shoot, he was going to jump.  And the
judgements of those involved are exposed to rigorous examination.  A
claim that something is about to happen may be falsified by other facts
that that it does not turn out to happen and confirmed by other things than
that it does happen.
Lojban needs this not-quite-intensional notion and the aspect markers look
to be its natural home.  (The fact that we use the locution in past tense
claims, even though we know the event did not occur, and can argue about
whether the aspected claim is true or not, show that it is not just about a
future beginning.)
But the argument that aspected claims are somehow aspects of events and
could not be if there were no event does not speak against this
interpretation.  For one thing, as xorxes has pointed out (this agreeing with
xorxes does make me nervous but he is good most of the time), tha
interpretation is not what aspected claims mean.  But also, we agreed long
ago (most recently in something about wanting something or other) that
all _lenu _ expressions are proper, that they refer, that, in short, all
exist within the inherent ontology of Lojban (neutrality, anyone?), whether
or not they actually occur ("obtain").  Hey, maybe "facade of" creates an
intensional context, like "want."
On eating an apple.  Distinguo, as the learned Cowan has said.  "Eat"
(and _citka_ on a
bet, though we don't do this kind of specifying often enough) is
ambiguous (as most
English verbs are) between an activity and a process (and probably, for
"eat," an
achievement, too).  The activity, eating an apple, once started can go on
for any amount
of time up to the virtual disappearance of the apple down the maw (core
not required,
probably), at which time the process would be completed and the activity
stop.  But the
activity could stop -- either short or pause (whether or not picked up
later) -- at any point
before.  The process would stop or pause then, too.  But the activity
would be completed
at that point; indeed, an activity is completed as soon as it is at all
("I have eaten on this
apple" -- to make the point clear -- is true as soon as "I am eating on
this apple" is true).
But the process would not be complete; is not complete until the apple is
down the chute
except for acceptable  relicts (I can't claim "I have eaten up this
apple" while some part of
the apple --  aside from acceptable relicts -- remains uneaten).  Much of
the debate, then,
was just between two different claims that happen, in English and in
informal Lojban, to
look the same.