Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

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janKipo
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Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

Postby janKipo » Tue Dec 26, 2017 5:35 pm

Prof. Quang’s original paper with a title somewhat like this focused on English “Screw you!” (or a variant), not imperative, because that would require “yourself” (as in the rhetorically different “Ah, go screw yourself”), but pretty clearly a sentence and lacking an overt subject. Quang called it a phocative and gave a detailed discussion (not without challenges since). But no similar expression has occurred in toki pona, nor one for which a similar explanation seems plausible. So this paper is about interjections, complete utterances which are not obviously sentences and pretty clearly lack anything that is a subject (or maybe are only subjects).

We can start with the “social glue” expressions, which are used to facilitate social interactions but bear virtually no meaning whatever. Uttering one of them is just performing a social act and discussion about what the words used in the the act are pointless (and usually fruitless as well). The exemplar here is ‘toki’, uttering which is a greeting, an acknowledgement of a community with another person. It is not directly related to talking, the root meaning of the word, since it functions fulling in the most tangential contacts (“hi ’n’ bye”). Any attempt to derive it from a current sentence is doomed to failure along many dimensions.

The same is largely true of ‘pona’, saying which is thanking someone for a contextually obvious aid, that is, it acknowledges the aid and indicates appreciation of it. As such, it might be expanded into a fuller expression, but none of the proposals have seemed at all plausible. “mi pana e pona tawa sina” and the like have got the situation turned around, since thanks is for what you did for me, not me for you and what I offer you is not an aid or even a particular good, merely an acknowledgement: ’sina pana e pona tawa mi. ni li pona tawa mi’ or so. But that is in no way a plausible grammatical source of the interjection.

The rarely used response by the thankee, also ‘pona’, “You’re welcome” or “Don’t mention it” or “Glad to help” or similar in English, is even more opaque as, indeed, is the content of the response: acknowledging the thanks, approving that the forms are followed through, modestly downplaying the act itself, and so on. The main function is to continue firming the social bonds, even if not particularly between these two people.

To the frustration of translators, this ‘pona’ is indistinguishable, in print at least, from another ‘pona’ which is merely a particular case of a more general pattern of comment on the present situation and which can be viewed without difficulty as a case of erosion of ‘ni li pona’. A classic case would be ‘sina pana e sitelen, tawa mi. pona!’ “Thanks (for the picture)” or “(The picture is) pretty”? At one time, the habit seems to have been to use terminal ‘a’ in the latter case, but this habit has faded in both directions: no ‘a’ then and ‘a’ with “Thanks”. Context, alas, does not always decide.

‘pakala’ looks like one of those reportive interjections “(This is a) disaster/mistake.”But that does not do justice -- even with all the psychophonetics -- to the frustration, ain, rage and so on embodied in this utterance. So, it is probably better to take it as another unanalyzable itemIt is not a part of the social glue, of course, since it serves mainly a private function, not involving other people .

‘ike mi’, is a report, to be sure, but also a confession and an apology. (This seems to be borrowed English usage, so suspect, but apparently established.) Thus, it is both social and personal, somewhere between ‘pona!’ and ‘pakala’ pragmatically.

Returning to the more purely social, we have ‘kama pona’ “Welcome!”, pragmatically related to ‘toki!’ but looking like the many eroded optatives, like ‘tenpo suno pona!’ It can’t be an optative’. of course, because the event, the kama, is known to have occurred, the occasion for the utterance. (It can’t be an imperative for the same reason, as well as because the event is not a voluntary action.) So perhaps it is reportative: “This is a good arrival”, “Your arrival is good”. But these fail to take in the social dimension, the enfolding of the recipient into the community. Thus, it seems best to take ‘kama pona’ as a separate unit, ona a par with ‘toki’, where welcoming consists of uttering the phrase, a completed speech act.

In a recent Bible translation, the question arose whether the same might be true of the English word “praise” and the toki pona ‘toki e pona {x}’. Can the act of praising someone consist simply of saying “praise him” ‘toki e pona {x}’, in an appropriate context? Anyone who has been in such a context can see that it clearly can. So we have another case of a self-defined speech act, where saying it is doing it. Unlike ‘kama pona’ or ‘toki’, however, the piece continues to function normally as well, so that we can say ‘ona li toki e pona {x}’ or even (for an interesting doublet) ‘o toki e pona {x}’ (as we cannot with ‘kama pona’ or ‘toki’).

A different sort of doublet, along the lines of that with ‘pona’, perhaps, occurs between eroded optatives and current comments. ‘tenpo sin pona’ can be equally an observation that it is a nice morning and a wish that the hearer’s morning be good: deeply ‘tenpo sin ni li pona’ (or ‘ni li tenpo sin pona’) and ‘o tenpo sin sina li pona’ and, as social glue, they work about equally well, so context is not always sufficient.

In addition to current comments are the observatives, that call attention to features of the environment held worthy of attention. We tend to think of dangers like “Fire!’ ‘seli!’ or “Bears!” ‘soweli!’, but they can be used to call attention to anything around. At least to plausible sources for such eroded sentences ‘x’ are ‘o lukin e x’ and ‘x li lon’, with the former preferred because of its immediacy.

Answers depend, of course, on prior questions and their full form is supplied by the matrix of the question. The core of ‘A x ala x B’ is replaced by ‘(x)ala’ or ‘x’. ‘seme’ in the question marks the spot for the answer, if you hold that the answer to a question is deeply a full sentence.

An emendations also fits into the matrix fo a previous utterance, to correct it or add to it: ‘ona kama’ ‘li kin’ amounts to ‘ona li kama’. ‘mi tawa ma tomo Toleto’ ’mi kin’ becomes ‘mi tu ll tawa ma tomo Toleto’. Sometimes the placement of the emendation is not automatic but is in principle solvable.

The main problematic forms of the general type being considered here are those social glue short wishes: “Good morning”, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Birthday” and the like. We are all conscious that they are optative since we tend to extend them to ‘mi wile e ni tawa sina:’ and the like. And that also shows that we sense that they are deeply sentential. But this latter sense, combined with the bareness of of the form, leads to taking the whole as an imperative rather than an eroded optative. So ‘tawa pona’, “(may you) fare well” is presented as an impossible imperative ‘o tawa pona’(impossible since the wellness of the fairing is not voluntary). Rather it should be something like ‘o sina tawa pona’ or ‘o tawa sina li pona’ or even ‘o sina jo e tawa pona’ (This last is suspect since blatantly English and the sense of ‘jo’ as “experience, enjoy, etc.” doesn’t occur in other contexts.) Similar patterns are possible with most such cases, the ‘jo’ having the apparent advantage of always working and being easy to write rules for, though the rules are all mainly “get rid of ‘sina’ and all the particle-like pieces”.

This piece is preliminary and sketchy. I am sure there are many more cases to consider and many better suggestions about how to deal with specific cases. Comments of all sorts are eagerly sought.

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sonatan
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Re: Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

Postby sonatan » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:30 pm

I would question the social glue.
Greeting someone with “toki” or “speak” sounds more similar to the Klingon greeting “nuqneH” or “what do you want”.  There is no “please” and the closest thing to “I’m sorry” is “mi pakala” or “I destroy”. The similarities don’t end there.  “Thank you” is not used by Klingons and TP uses “pona” for “thank you”.  I take that as the equivalent of “fixed” which very close to the Klingon word “Qapla'” or “success” which is how a Klingon would respond if you forced him.   Where is the gratitude?  Even “You’re welcome” or “o kama pona” which sounds dreadfully like a command for me to “to assimilate” rather that being received with hospitality.  So why would the language of good share similar etiquette with a language that was specifically designed to be abrasive? It doesn’t come across as welcoming and many times a completely innocuous post in TP sounds hateful. Obviously, if I'm using TP to clarify my own thoughts, this is not an issue,but the lack of these words speaks about the purpose and effective use. To me TP, is hard to read but deciphering the emotion is near impossible. Irony is right out.

janKipo
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Re: Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

Postby janKipo » Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:15 pm

Well, that puts a grim light on things, but, happily, it also misrepresents what is going on linguistically. subjectless sentences in tp are not imperatives, as they often are in English, but interjections with a variety of origins. ‘toki’ and both ‘pona’s and probably ‘kama pona’ and ‘toki e pona ona’ are simply token used to perform certain social acts and have no meaning of their own. They certainly no longer have any reasonable or traceable connection to present imperatives or optatives or declaratives involving the same words. And, of course, even the interpretation of the words involved are, while generally possible, not at all likely to be the ones intended or ultimately involved. I suppose that, in the hostile world of tpt and the diatribes about ‘pona’, ‘o kama pona’ could mean “conform!”, but note that that is not what is said and is inappropriate in the usual context of saying. Similarly, ‘mi pakala’ (not transitive) means “I made a mistake, messed up” not (transitive) “I destroyed.” And so on. This terribly misrepresents the tp ethos.
On the other hand, it looks like a great way to get some Klingonites interested in tp. Thanks.

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sonatan
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Re: Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

Postby sonatan » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:07 pm

It's not a misrepresentation of what has happened in TP. The etymology is crystal clear. They are commands that have been re-purposed. They are TP words that can be translated. Clearly they still having meaning and any meaning you or the community assign to them is idiomatic. These phrases had to be picked arbitrarily. So why the avoidance of any hospitality words like please, thank you, or excuse me? Why are they structured as commands rather than request? I completely understand that they are not taken as commands when taken in context. Why would the language of good omit etiquette? I'm not questioning your analysis, you seem to have laid everything out. I question the evolution of the phrases and the word list. Aren't greetings and social etiquette the first words we learn of a new language?

Speaking from personal experience, TP is just as ambiguous conveying emotion as anything else. I noticed you referred to TPT as hostile. I would suggest that TP itself comes across as hostile many times or at the very least emotionless and abrupt. Especially in a TP only conversation it is really hard tell the difference from a suggestion and a attack. Which could contribute to your feeling of hostility with TPT. What you say may have been intended as advice comes across as a insult. I come from the deep south and we tend to be more honor-based than the rest of the country. Possibly, I perceive things as more hierarchical and TP is just more egalitarian than I am. It probably doesn't help that people ignore what you say so they can criticize your TP. What is the ethos of TP anyway? I get different ideas depending on who I ask.

janKipo
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Re: Non-imperative sentences without overt subjects

Postby janKipo » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:58 pm

I suppose it is a matter of words and deeds, more than just words. tpt is hostile in the sense that they have explicitly banned me from participating in their conversations. This is fairly unambiguous. They banned me -- as far as I can figure out -- because I pointed to errors in their (in particular the leaders’) tp and commented that if they were going to be using toki pona only they ought at least to be using toki pona, not English with funny words. So my wording was hostile, even if my intent was (often clearly repeated) to help them to a better grasp of a language they claimed to be wanting to learn. That is more ambiguous.
As for tp proper. There is admittedly no word for please and the standard reason is that everyone is polite, which may ring a bit hollow sometimes. Of course, people with a strong “Please” culture (nor all, probably not most, are like that) have created work-aronds ‘sina wile la’ or ‘ni li pona tawa sina la’, both of which feel artificial within tp. There is a perfectly good “Thank you”, ‘pona’, which is a generic good word and has come to this role in some unknown way, but certainly not obviously from some sort of imperious response. The requests are just that; don’t let the word “imperative” give you a wrong idea. Sentences of that sort are use to try to get others to do things you want them to do; the difference between begging and demanding is all external to the language here (it often isn’t in English, “Please” being the foremost of subservient whining beggary). We have fewer etiquette words right now at least because we have fewer actual interactions (I never have to get past you in a crowded room, say). We also don’t have much in the way of hierarchical terminology; everybody is ‘jan’. This doesn’t seem to me to be a defect, though putting the corresponding attitude into practice may sometimes be.
If you look at the textbooks, ‘toki’ was the first word (after ‘toki pona’) that you learned in most cases. And ‘pona’ soon after. I’d say we were covering etiquette fairly well and fanciful histories don’t seem to affect that.
But conveying emotions is something tp does not do well. We have ‘pilin pona’ and ‘pilin ike’ and maybe ‘pilin jaki’ and that covers the field from unalloyed joy to the depths of depression, from romantic love to black hate. And, since they can’t say very clearly how they feel, they may not express themselves very clearly to reveal it. It is probably worth noting that by a clear majority of the original works in tp (and a large percentage of the works chosen for translation) are downers, either tales of depravity or mayhem or cries of pain , depression and suicidal thoughts. Words for bad things outnumber those for good in the vocabulary, too. A strange “language of the good.” But that is not rude.


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