A Taxonomy of Argument Schemata in Metatheoretical Discussion of Syntax or Name That Tune—G.R.A.M.M.A.R. Son of Lingua Pranca Contents On Being Polite to Women in Slavic Languages—Émil Schouwiniste-Pigge

A New Basic Word Order: VOV

Arnold P. Fasnacht

Department of Linguistics
School of Agriculture and Drama
University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople
Hoople, North Dakota 61637

Recent years have seen a steady increase in the number of attested basic word order types. Greenberg (1963) originally recognized only three types, VSO, SVO, and SOV. Pullum (1977) added VOS to the list, but proposed that no others were possible. Derbyshire (1977) confirmed the existence of OVS, and recent reports (SIL Grapevine 1978) have indicated that OSV must also be recognized. These findings have caused a certain flurry of excitement among theoretical linguists. Reactions to the discoveries may be broadly divided into two classes, both of them annoyingly smug.

The first reaction is typified by M. Joos, in a hastily-convened press conference at Milwaukee Airport: “Look, it’s like I was saying back in 1951. Any damn thing is possible in these weirdo languages. If Lennie were here today he’d be so happy. You know, if those guys at MIT had only stuck to classifying allophones, we’d all be a lot better off today, especially me.”

The second reaction is typified by P.M. Pistol, in a 763-page squib in Linguistic Inquiry (Pistol 1978-81). He points out, with more satisfaction than really seems to be called for, that the six types now known are exactly the six types predicted to be possible by his latest revolutionary contribution to linguistics, Car Park Grammar.1 “Actually,” he remarks in a touchingly honest footnote, “I could only get four of them until I realized that certain interjection-forming phenomena present in my dialect (though not, apparently, in anyone else’s) required an additional theoretical device, the Wiggly Blue Line, and that did it.”

While I am confident that the excessive pessimism of a Joos need not discourage us in our search for Universal Grammar, I will demonstrate in this paper that linguistic metatheory must be sufficiently enriched to allow for the existence of yet another basic word order, VOV, an order apparently not predicted, or even allowed, by any existing theoretical framework except stratificational grammar, which seems to allow everything except English.2

The language in question is Kluj (pronounced ‘cloodge’), spoken by some seventy-five unattractive persons of rather unsanitary habits who live in an isolated valley near the town of Cojones in Westchester County. The language has, until recently, received little attention, at least partly because of the Klujans’ habit of eating strangers (the U of SND at H has lost five graduate students in this way). Its genetic affiliations are consequently uncertain, though Hasenpfeffer (unpublished ditherings) has claimed it for his proposed Macro-Hudson Valley family (Joisey, Bronkish, the extinct Stengelese, and the curious Madison Avenue Creole). But then Hasenpfeffer has been known to claim that the Puerto Ricans are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Accompanied only by a German shepherd guard dog and an Uzi submachine gun, I carried out eight field trips among the Klujans between 1961 and 1976.3 These field trips were supported, if that is the word, by the U of SND at H.4

During these field trips I was able to obtain, for the first time, an extensive corpus of material recorded in Kluj.5 This material I have now transcribed and analyzed, and while a number of difficulties remain,6 the most important features are reasonably clear.

One of the most interesting aspects of Kluj grammar is word order. Although it was a relatively simple matter to establish that the verb occurs both initially and finally in the sentence, the order of the remaining elements appeared quite unaccountably variable until I suddenly realized that it was governed by a simple, if novel, rulenamely, that when the first word in the sentence begins with a consonant, the order is Direct ObjectIndirect ObjectTimeMannerPlace, while when the first word begins with a vowel, the order is exactly the reverse: PlaceMannerTimeIndirect ObjectDirect Object.7

Remarkable as these details are, they are surely not as striking as the fundamental VOV pattern of Kluj sentences, since this represents a previously unattested basic word order. No doubt the reader’s mind is crowded with questions at this point. Let us begin with the question which is easiest to answer.

Where does the subject go in a Kluj sentence? The alert reader will have observed that the VOV pattern makes no allowance for an S, such as is typically found in the basic word orders of many other languagesEnglish, Spanish, Zeneyze (Genoese), Macedonian, Basque, Dyirbal, Southern Paiute, Avar, and South Greenlandic Eskimo are among the languages which have been shown to have subjects in their basic word order. Kluj, however, does not. At least it has no subject in SURFACE structure. Both Universal Grammar and internal considerations in the grammar of Kluj (see below) require that we postulate the existence of a subject in the deep structure of each sentence. Its deep-structure position is something of a problem, but given the above facts about Kluj word order, it seems best to assign the subject a variable position in deep structure, in line with the variable position of other elements, and to generate Kluj deep structures by means of context-sensitive categorical rules, that is, rules of the general form

α A β → α ω β     A ∈ VA;   α, β, ω ∈ (VA ∪ VT)* 8

The reason that a Kluj sentence has no overt surface subject is that the subject is invariably incorporated lexically into the verb. I do not mean that the subject is represented by a bound morpheme attached to the verb. Rather, to each English verb there corresponds a large number of Kluj verbs, each lexically marked for a distinct subject. For example, corresponding to English ‘go’, Kluj has, among many others, the following verbs (since this paper deals with syntax, I have omitted some details of the phonology):9

votsiʔ         ‘large dog goes’
gvinlak‘small dog goes’
juʔpis‘toad goes’
ʔuʔnax‘Dodge pick-up truck goes’
miʔs‘small disc-shaped object of little value goes’
mleʔtx‘girl of marriageable age goes’
pwaʔiʔ‘respected but irascible person goes’
nvil‘I go’
ʔiswai‘Harold goes’
ʔospi‘fascist warmonger goes’
dzeitloʔ‘Ralph Nader goes’

It will be appreciated that the addition of even a single new noun to the language necessitates the creation of hundreds of new verbs. The coming of 20th century civilization and technology to the Klujan’s valley has therefore meant that tens of thousands of new verbs have had to be coined to cope with the enormous influx of new nouns. Indeed, during recent years, most of the sober waking hours of the Klujans (and those are few enough) have had to be devoted to thinking up new verbs, causing a sharp decline in such favorite traditional practices as gang rape and dropping rocks on turtles. No doubt the intense hostility of the Klujans toward outsiders stems principally from this cause.

Indeed, I suspect that it is just this remarkable feature which accounts for the fact that the verb appears twice in the sentence. The point is that there are so many verbs to be mastered in Kluj that the Klujans, who are none too bright at the best of times, find difficulty in selecting the correct one to express a given meaning. Diachronically, it is easy to imagine that a Klujan speaker who had just uttered a sentence with the wrong verb would have had another stab at it, and that grammaticalization of this no doubt extremely frequent type of utterance would have resulted in the VOV pattern of modern Kluj. Support for this hypothesis is found in the observation that, even today, it is a rare sentence in which both verbs are actually identical, and in the further observation that utterances of the type VOVV, VOVVV, and so on, are not uncommon, as the speaker makes repeated attempts to find the right verb.10

Kluj is particularly interesting from the typological point of view. Since it is both a verb-initial and verb-final language, the reader may be wondering how it lines up with respect to the well-known typological correlations of word order first unearthed by Greenberg (1963) and extended by other workers. I am happy to be able to report that Kluj behaves in a way entirely in accord with these correlations, exhibiting a degree of internal logic which is almost breathtaking.

Consider adpositions. It is well-known that VO languages tend to have prepositions, while OV languages usually have postpositions. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Kluj has AMBIPOSITIONS. That is, each adposition consists of two parts, one preposed to the object and one postposed. An example is provided by the extremely common locative ambiposition nviʔ...dzlots ‘in/on/at/around/under/beside/between’, as in

(1)  gluʔni pflaxi nviʔspwatsdzlots gluʔni

‘I’m gonna stick this knife in/on/at/around/under/beside/between your fat gut.’

(In this case the context did not allow me (rather fortunately, I think) to determine which of the various possible interpretations was intended, and it may have been that all of them were. It will be noted that in this case the speaker had no difficulty in selecting the correct verb on the first attempt; this is typically so with threats, which appear to come more naturally to my Klujan informants than most other types of utterances.)

The same elegant solution is found with relative clauses, which surround their head noun, and with possessives, which behave similarly (actually, the first person singular possessive appears to be the only one in common use). As for verbal modifiers, adverbs, naturally enough, are simply placed between the two occurrences of the verb. The placement of modals might appear to pose a somewhat more difficult problem, but here Kluj exhibits a beautifully simple solution to its typological dilemma: it doesn’t have any modals. This might appear to be a remarkable lack, but the Klujans seem to manage very well with threatening gestures.

Kluj might have been expected to exhibit gapping in both directions, but in fact it has no gapping rule at all. It might at first seem surprising that a language whose speakers have so much difficulty remembering verbs should pass up a rule which deletes verbs from the sentence, but a moment’s thought reveals that the deletion of a verb in Kluj would inevitably entail the deletion of its subject as well, and even the Klujans are not so stupid as to attempt to communicate with a string of clauses of the general form O.

In sum, then, it appears that linguistic metatheory must be suitably enriched so as to be able to account for this remarkable and fascinating language,11 that many theoretical positions must be rethought and many putative universals abandoned, that many other grandiose if somewhat vague conclusions must be found if I am ever going to get this work accepted as a Ph.D. dissertation, and that this paper had better be published before Sticky gets out on parole, since he continues to harbor a most unfortunate and, in my view, rather unscientific attitude toward my findings.12

1 Car Park Grammar is known only through an unpublished 37-volume mimeo by Pistol entitled “On the Surface Interjection ‘Ouch’!”, and a rather brief elementary account, Dick and Jane Have Fun with Colored Pencils. It regards linguistic structure as consisting of a series of levels connected by ramps. The only operation is the repeated raising of elements from one level to the next, until they find a level with a vacant position available. If, as frequently happens, no such vacant position can be found, the element must then return all the way to the bottom and station itself next to a Yellow Line, whereupon a filtering device promptly assigns an asterisk in a little plastic envelope. Derivations are lengthy and seldom terminated.

2 P.M. Pistol (personal putdown) now informs me that Car Park Grammar does indeed predict the existence of the VOV pattern, given yet another device, the Double-Headed Pink Arrow. Independent support for the DHPA is provided by the fact that certain strings are unexpectedly ill-formed in Pistol’s dialect; e.g., *Trace theory strikes me as a big step forward and *These new papers by Bresnan and Lightfoot are exciting.

3 I am a slow worker.

4 It must be admitted that the linguistics department at the U of SND at H is perhaps not quite so up to date as it might be on the theoretical side, and that my attempts to introduce the faculty to works written since 1952 have met a mixed response at best. Nevertheless, in a spirit of Christian charity, I can only forgive the somewhat intemperate comments on my work which have occasionally been made, as, for example, by the head of the department, Professor Snodgrass: “Fieldwork? That long-haired fancy-pants pinko pansy from MIT wants to do fieldwork? The one who thought an allophone was a French telephone? I’ll bet he can’t even find the ‘record’ button on his tape recorder. Haw haw haw.” I do, however, resent the suggestion that I only received an unprecedented eight research fellowships from the university because the department kept hoping that I would be eaten.

5 These recordings are now available in the Language Archives and Fertilizer Storage Space at the U of SND at H, under the heading Kluj, vols. II-IV and VI-VIII. Volume I was never recorded, due to an unfortunate difficulty with the tape recorder. Volume V was recorded, but after a Klujan cat chose to relieve himself on it, it acquired a rather pungent smell, and the librarian/gardener refused to have it in the Archives.

These tapes were the source of some of the difficulties between Professor Snodgrass and me. The economic situation being what it is, I had to re-use old tapes for my fieldwork; by an unfortunate mistake I went off to Cojones with tapes containing several thousand hours of Professor Snodgrass’s telephone tapping (Professor Snodgrass is a devoted disciple of Charles Fries). When he discovered that I had unwittingly erased the results of five years’ work, he became somewhat more excited than usual and attempted to nail me up behind the door next to his Chomsky dartboard. Fortunately, I was able to persuade him that there remained enough tapes to do valuable work. It transpired that these remaining tapes contained only some 600 hours of the Speaking Clock in Fargo-Moorhead which had been recorded by mistake. From this superficially rather barren corpus, Professor Snodgrass, by applying rigorous post-Bloomfieldian distributional analysis, was able to produce his magnum opus, “The Grammar of Time in North Dakota”. This was offered to our local organ, the Working Papers of the Linguistic Circle of North Dakota and South-Eastern Saskatchewan; but it was unfortunately rejected (the first contribution EVER rejected by the WP of the LC of ND and SES). Fortunately for all concerned (especially me), he was able to find another publisher, and the work will be appearing shortly in Linguistics.

6 It must be confessed that these difficulties are at least partly due to the fact that, for excellent medical reasons, I never attended a single one of the phonetics practicals I was supposed to do for my degree. It is also true that I was never able to solve any of the morphology problems in Nida’s book, but I believe that linguistics should concern itself with higher things than morphology.

7 On making this discovery, I immediately informed Professor Sticky of Ohio State University, who I knew was even then composing a masterwork to prove that such things cannot be. He promptly obtained a grant to come and see for himself, and a few days later he arrived at Cojones, smiling confidently and assuring me that he would “have this little wrinkle sorted out in half a jif”. As the days passed, however, he became increasingly morose and refused to talk to me about Kluj. One night he turned up at my hut with a strange expression on his face and explained that he had found a beautifully simple solution to the whole problem and was going out to check it with some native speakers. The nature of his solution began rapidly to dawn on me a few minutes later when I heard a long burst of fire from my Uzi and, rushing outside, I found that he had machine-gunned some sixteen of my informants. Had he not fortunately run out of ammunition at this point, I shudder to think what the consequences might have been for linguistic metatheory, not to mention for me, since I suspect that Sticky’s suddenly-professed interest in amateur fire-eating does not entirely explain the can of gasoline I found next to my bed and my notes. In any case, it hardly seems fair to blame me for the resulting bad publicity, which led the Dean once again to renew his threat to merge the Linguistics Department with the Department of Advertising and Packaging, or worse still, with the Department of Phonetics.

8 Pretty nifty, eh? Actually, this bit has nothing to do with the rest of the paper, and I’m not even too sure I understand it. I just copied it out of a book and stuck it in to give the impression I’m au fait with all this dreadful hairy formal stuff you keep seeing nowadaysyou know, Shaumjan, Karttunen, Gazdar, people like that. To tell the truth, I’ve never made it through three pages of Shaumjan or Karttunen, and as for Gazdar, all I’ve ever understood from his stuff is that he doesn’t care too much for Geoffrey Sampson. I don’t see why he can’t write in English like other people, instead of in those funny little squiggles. He sure does have a superbly sarcastic delivery, though, even though it makes me feel inferior. And while I’m at it, I may as well confess that I had to look up the spelling of au fait in the dictionary.

9 Such as consonants and vowels. I have used the symbols ʔ and i more or less at random to indicate any segment whose precise phonetic nature I was never able to elucidate. This should not be taken to mean that the remaining transcriptions are accurate. Those damn Klujans never seem to pronounce a word the same way twice.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, a summary of Klujan phonology will appear in the forthcoming Festschrift Snodgrass. Professor Snodgrass, feeling somewhat aggrieved that no one had seen fit to prepare a Festschrift in his honor, intimidated his students into organizing one. The response so far has been somewhat disappointing, however, as the only contributions have been three dog-eared typescripts which have apparently been rejected by every journal in the Northern Hemisphere, an obscene verse, a typically original paper from Hasenpfeffer deriving certain Black English lexical items from Lappish reindeer-driver’s slang, and a rather fulsome tribute which was obviously written by Snodgrass himself under a pseudonym. For this and other reasons, the work is affectionately known around here as the Snodgrass Shortschrift.

10 Even more common, in fact, are utterances in which the final attempt at the verb is followed by a curse or, more commonly, a string of curses. Actually, such patterns as VOVC, VOVVCCC, VOVCCCC, etc., are so frequent in ordinary speech (the Klujans apparently finding curses easier to think of than verbs) that for a while I considered taking VOVCC as the basic word order. I finally decided against this on the ground that it was undignified. It was in connection with this problem that I seemed to have found a language that was worthy of my talents.

G. Gazdar, eschewing for once the use of the second-order predicate calculus, has suggested (personal junk mail) that the superficial VOV pattern of Kluj sentences is to be derived from underlying VO by means of two rules: (1) a rule of inverse reduplication (or “broken mirror” rule, as he calls it), which repeats all the words of the sentence in reverse order, thereby converting VO into VOOV, and (2) a rule which deletes the second of two adjacent identical NP’s. Such a proposal is typical of the armchair linguist who only reshuffles other people’s data after someone else has done the spade work. To the experienced investigator (i.e., me), it is immediately and blindingly obvious that such derivational complexities are far beyond the average Kluj speaker’s “competence” (I use the word in its technical, if ridiculous, sense), and Gazdar’s proposal will not be further considered, not even to be crushed by a dozen devastating counter-arguments.

N.B.: I am compelled by the US Freedom of Information Act to admit that in fact I have no such counter-arguments, but am merely bluffing.

11 P.M. Pistol, in the vanguard as always, assures me that he has already added several new colors to his collection of pencils, and that we can expect revolutionary new developments from him any day.

12 It is customary, in works of this sort, for the investigator to express, in the most nauseatingly fulsome terms, his undying gratitude to his informants for having put aside their livelihood to answer thousands of idiotic questions about subject-to-subject raising, for having graciously provided most of the crucial insights leading to whatever cockeyed analysis he is proposing, for having darned his socks, ironed his shirts, and tenderly nursed him through a bout of yellow fever in preference to their own children, for having through their rich and sensitive mythology and poetry, revealed to him the Oneness of all living creatures, and for having generally contrived to make him a wiser and better human being. I trust that my fellow linguists will forgive me if I depart from this tradition for once, since I cannot honestly say that I found my Klujan informants even bearable, let alone friendly and cooperative. Their repeated attempts to poison my water supply, while no doubt amusing enough at first, eventually wore my patience rather thin. I cannot say, either, that I found the land mine buried in front of my door the least bit entertaining, and I am sure that Mr. Frobisher, our late postman, who discovered it, would agree with me if he were still with us. In fact, it is difficult to say which of my informants constituted the gravest menace to civilized society, though I would be inclined to nominate the Klujan’s Managing Director, Harvey Wallbanger, whose habit of sharpening his butcher knife and running his finger across his throat with an evil grin whenever he saw me did nothing to improve my concentration. It is perhaps best for all concerned that he was one of the victims of Professor Sticky’s solution. Nor can I say I am sorry to have smelled the last of Swampgas Annie Veeblefetzer, whose unique combination of unpleasant personal characteristics made her single-handedly the principal source of air pollution in the entire valley. From this general condemnation I might almost except old Sanford Chickenwing-Smythe, the group’s bugi, or public-relations man. True, he was not much use as an informant, since he was never sober enough to say anything coherent, but at least he never attacked me, threatened me, or threw up over the microphone, like most of his fellow Klujans. But the only Klujan for whom I retain any degree of affection at all is Suzette “Hot Pants” Cummings-Shortley, whose generous and even enthusiastic attempts to teach me her language, and several other interesting things, by one of the most time-honored and delightful techniques, were undoubtedly the high point of my investigations. It was only after a number of these sessions, followed by a hasty visit to a physician, that I began to understand why the other Klujans, who still harbor a violent grudge against the rest of us for draining their ancestral swamps and forcing them to invent thousands of new verbs, used to refer to Suzette as their “secret weapon”. And while I’m on the subject, I would like to offer my most sincere apologies to all those young ladies in my Field Methods tutorial group who may have found themselves unwitting and indirect victims of the Klujan’s revenge.

A Taxonomy of Argument Schemata in Metatheoretical Discussion of Syntax or Name That Tune—G.R.A.M.M.A.R.
On Being Polite to Women in Slavic Languages—Émil Schouwiniste-Pigge
Son of Lingua Pranca Contents