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Toki Pona Forums • Perception of POS: what does it depend on?
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Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:32 pm
by jan Pilo
What are really POS in a language where they are not expressed in morphology and pretty much independent of syntax?

Let's start from a tiny philosophical analysis, certainly not perfect :
Noun - thing, object, subject (not grammatical here), state (treated as a whole and static), situation, something stable (by default, unless you add something else), substance etc.

Verb - process, state (with a focus on time, hard to describe anyway)

Adjective - trait, characteristics, part of description of a noun
Adverb - trait, characteristics, part of description of a verb

What makes it more funny is that names of POS are nouns themselves, including "verb". Nominalization in SAE allows such words as "movement", "change" (description of a process), "yellowness", "swiftness", "immateriality", etc. to be treated as nouns. As far as I can see, mostly people grown up in English environment would often doubt it. However, in languages with declention indicating case, nobody hesitates to call them "nouns". It's by virtue of definition of this kind of declention. Or, more generally, on the grounds that "the main part of a noun phrase is a noun".

I bet, in languages with little morphological marks or symptoms, Heraclitus followers would describe more words as verbs. Tao followers too. Probably "static" artists would support more the option " adjective", whereas movie directors vote for "adverbs". These are just my intuitions without any statistical research.

It would be interesting to see, what tp native speakers would say. There's higher probability, in my opinion, that they wouldn't care what parts of spech in tp "edibility" [v-->adj (--->n)] or "booking" [n-->v (-->n) are. Another language and "teachers with tp as L2" could have influenced them. On the other hand, tp speakers will recognize subject, object, predicate, setential modifier etc - even if woken up in the middle of the night after a dynamic party.

Trying to define anything that is not externalized leads to fragile theory.
On the other hand - need is the mother of inventions.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:18 pm
by janKipo
Well, Heraclitus was Greek and so in the midst of a very inflected language, where all the grammatical categories were nouns, Chinese has basically two categories, living words (all the content words, used in various ways) and dead ones (particles, like 'li' and 'e' in tp, and conjunctions of various sorts). Loglan/Lojban has complicated things enormously, but basically has two sorts as well, predicates and functors and maybe a separate class for referential expressions. And so on.
The problem is to deal with what seem (maybe only to English (etc.) speakers, but that doesn't seem quite true). That a person is eating at the moment seems to be a different sort of fact from that he might be eaten, now or later. But the tp expression for both is exactly the same. We can expand and alter these expressions in various ways to make the different points (and probably these expansions go back to the sources of the original sentence, which then have different grammars beneath their identical surfaces), Sometimes, of course, context makes it pretty clear what is meant. And sometimes it doesn't help at all -- or throws one off the scent completely. And the problem is common with other catch-all languages (consider the difficulty with the DDJ for 2500 years). But most of them hav devised better tricks than tp, so we need some new tricks.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:43 pm
by jan Pilo
1. I am not saying that grammar influences philosophy. That's why I wrote "followers" and not the known founders. Parmenides was Greek too. I've no idea if there was any Parmenides in more "verbial" languages. It's rather personal preference connected with philosophy that may influence personal theory of grammar and its understanding.
It doesn't change the overall language. It may change personal language through frequency of use of various constructions and POS. Or just be limited to calling them differently.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:17 am
by jan Pilo
2. I agree that distinction between a thing and a trait is very useful in tp, even more than in other languages.
"edibility" is a trait, a characteristic of a thing / object.
However, it behaves like a noun ("high edibility" and not "edibility products" for a noun phrase) , skipping over the fact that in English sometimes a noun before a noun becomes an adjective.It has been instrumentally nominalized. Grammar defines POS on "behavioral" grounds.
Behavioral distinctions are useless here in tp. Semantic and philosophical ones are very important,because of the facts you pointed out.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:54 pm
by janKipo
Long background story, not directly on topic at first, but brought about by the Whorf boondoggle and so at the heart of much of this talk. Early in the Twentieth Century, anthropological linguists started describing native languages "in their own terms" (i.e., not in term of Latin grammar) and they discovered many strange (to them) things, most of which they could absorb fairly easily, however (Finnish uses accumulated suffixes rather than declensions and prepositions, say, for the same thing). But some weren't so readily interpretable, in particular, cases where whole sentences seemed to be just single words. These words had to be verbs, of course (Latin was not completely dead and besides they had tense markers). So, since they described the world using only verbs and since verbs refer to processes, the speakers must see the world as processes (since they describe it using only verbs). Then a number of other language patterns found their place: speakers of these languages saw the world as embodies abstractions, or overlapping qualities or ...., because that was how their languages worked. So, there were many different observed worlds and no way to pick out reality and no way to really translate from one language to another, etc. etc. -- the whole linguistic relativism bit. In the latter half of the twentieth century, psychologists tested subjects from many languages and found that they all reacted pretty much the same in various situations where their languages would predict they would behave differently. Further, more sophisticated linguistic theories reexamined the exotic languages and found that, although their surfaces expressions were widely dissimilar, at their heart, they embodied the same basic structures and moved from these to the surface using moves from a relatively small toolkit of devices. That is, people who speak different languages don't really see the world differently (except in small ways -- they notice things that their languages make them notice, like different shades of blue in Russian, which others don't notice) and they don't put together the stuff of the world as observed in different ways either, except at very surface levels. To be sure, the usual representations of this common level -- as predicates and arguments, say -- are a product of Aristotelian imperialism, but the level and its contents would be the same even if represented in some other tradition (Chinese, say, or Hopi).
So, against that background, here is the problem. tp, in moving from this common core, uses a variety of transformations such that very different core claims end up being represented by superficially the same utterance (exactly the same words in exactly the same order). We can clarify a given case of this sort by going back a few steps and coming down to utterance by a different path. But it would be handy to have slightly different developments as the norm. We tend to single out -- because of notorious examples -- certain patterns as being especially unclear, but there are others as well. So, in the discussion over on another forum, I have focused on noun, verb, and adjective usage. These are not very precise but they make the point: 'moku' as "food", as "eating" and as "edible" (we miss "capable of eating", for example, which is also possible). And we notice that these three meanings (more or less) turn up in all possible positions: head noun, modifier, and predicate head. Let's take these three positions as the grammatical classes of noun, modifier and verb and the usages mentioned above as the semantic ones. Add to these the lexical classes (we'll figure out what to do with minor classes later), which are assigned mainly to ease figuring out the semantic classes in various lexical roles. So the problem is, how to make clear on the basis of the known lexical class and the observed syntactic role, what the semantic POS should be. And, at the moment, all tp has to offer is "context", which never works in isolated examples and often not in longer cases.
So, to take a classic case: 'jan li moku'. Barring some sneakiness about 'jan', which I will ignore for now (and which doesn't affect matters much in the beginning), this is a straightforward descent from noun + verb sentence ('li' obligatorily inserted and not obligatorily deleted later): "Human eats". But, of course, the same form of words, with the grammar noun + noun is "Human is food", which may come from some different structure like 'ijo li (ken) moku e jan' or from an original noun + noun (inclusion) pattern 'moku li jo e jan' or maybe something else altogether. Similar considerations lie behind "Human is edible", either involving different grammatical structures or different extractions of content from the generic "having to do with ingestion" that is the semantic core of 'moku', where the natural extractions (for us, at least) are the ingester, the thing ingested and the act of ingesting, with the act being primary. (Note that the ingester is never in tp 'moku' alone, for whatever that is worth. But the potential of being an object ingested is, for some reason. Go figure! Maybe that is just because it is the nearest thing to a relevant modifier.)

So, that is where I am coming from and I don't really quite see how it and your concerns come together for a meaningful discussion, but perhaps you have a better idea on that.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:39 pm
by jan Pilo
For me semantic differences between two cases of the same word in the same position in tp are more important than their POS also abstracting from sentence position. From what I gather, you have a similar approach. Names of POS are just a tool.
The problem is that there are many groups of words. E.g. "ijo" follows different patterns (n, v, a) than "moku". E.g. "lon" and "jo" are more stable than "pana" and " tawa" , etc. There's no symmetry at all, even within " typically verbial" group.

My point is that you can not univocally call everything (n/v/a) the same way. I am sure that different speakers would call differently
"jan pi sona mute".
I bet that "sona" would be a noun for many Germans. Some people who haven't heard the marketing slogan "no nested subordinate clauses in tp" would call it a verb, especially when they like processes. They all would understand the same:
"jan ni: ona li sona mute." He knows, possesses/ is related to knowledge and is knowledgeable/ knowing AT THE SAME TIME.

Theory of POS doesn't influence life in this case at all (maybe with the exemption of one impact : it will indroduce some intense disputes, like whether green color is connected with the fact that something smells with grass, is low, sings like a grasshopper or jumps like a frog. All of them are true). Doesn't change neither semantics nor pragmatics in this case.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 5:50 pm
by janKipo
But, pedant that I am, does change grammar. 'jan li sona mute', 'jan li sona e mute' and 'jan li jo e sona mute' (which may itself be based on two different starting points) all collapse top 'jan pi sona mute' by various ordinary routes and make no practical difference at all that I can see, But a different word here or there -- 'moku' for 'sona', for example -- can from these same bases make very different claims. I am still trying to get some system for all this: what are the possibilities, when do differences make a difference (so a classification of words that behave differently in the same contexts). What I have done so far is a first, very rough step. And, when I am done, I doubt that I will have anything that can actually be used in tp (it is more for Lojban, which, alas, is also badly designed to use it). I was working on the unambiguous (so vague) definitions for tp words, but that didn't help much. Maybe I need to look at just all the cases (tedious and tendentious since we probably can't agree about whether two form are practically the same). Maybe all there is is sensitivity training to get people more aware of the possibilities and the context (obvious tp goals, but hard to achieve).
[as soon as I walked away from this I realized how simple-minded even this treatment was, since 'jan li sona mute' is clearly two structures, "Man knows a lot" (which is somehow different from 'jan li sona e mute' or may be) and "Man is very smart", which is clearly different the other two and probably from the 'jo' version as well.] [oh, and "knows how to multiply/increase", too.]

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 1:11 am
by jan Pilo
There is no passive in tp, therefore in "ona li moku."
"be eaten" is as legitimate a verb as "eat"

There's no tense, therefore
"an eater at some point in time" could be as good a noun as "food at some point in time".

There is no "would" or "could", but in "ona li moku la x."
"edible" "capable of being eaten" can be also "capable of eating".

It is arbitrary that a noun is rather passive. It's no wonder that noun is more independent of time, but not totally.
It's just in the case of "moku" that adjective is rather passive. In case of "sona" it's not used as "known". It would be interesting to see how non-SAE-background speakers would choose active vs. passive options.

Re: Perception of POS: what does it depend on?

Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:40 am
by janKipo
Now that is a whole new thread, active/passive =~ verb/noun. (It does work for 'sona', too, since knowledge is what is known. And probably for verbs generally, since the same word is used for the genus of the DO). But the agent is never the same as the verb, indeed is always a compound (I think, but a surprise is to be expected.)
I suspect that what is needed is to look at the whole cloud and figure out how the various bits are taken out (indeed, what count as bits). Givne the general Ingestion, we can obviously somehow pull out the ingester and the ingestee, the process itself, various modal variations, properties associated with each role, and so on. Is there enough of a pattern, when we move on from this to, say, Communication ('toki') to formulate some general patterns? And then, how do we move those semantic patterns into syntactic realization? I don't really know how to start on this, even.