Author Topic: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead  (Read 1843 times)

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Offline archaic

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I'm having trouble.

As far as English language tech' terms are concerned, my cup is most definitely empty, I'm no linguist.

I'm an intuitive speaker, and I write how I speak.

All the material I've found that 'explains' them has circular references. So I'm told that this does this to that, with tech terms I don't understand, so I look them up only to to find they're explained with tech terms I don't understand, which I look up and sooner or later I'm back on the page where I started, frustrated and having learned nothing.

Is there a plain English guide to what they all mean?

I found another one today: Ergative-Transitive Agent (WTF?)
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 11:07:32 am by archaic »
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Offline Eight

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2010, 10:10:14 am »
Is there a plain English guide to what they all mean?
You tried this already?
http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0BxURBDXVBWhHMzA0ZjNiOWUtMWFhOC00ZjNjLTgxZWEtZGMwNzJmNmYwODAx&hl=en

Quote
I found another one today: Ergativr-Transitive Agent (WTF?)
The thing wot does somefing directly to somefing else.

e.g.
I slapped my wife for complaining about the Neytiri poster in the bedroom.
I being the agent here since slapped takes an object to indicate who/what was hit.

And no... I didn't slap my wife. We're not married. ;)

Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2010, 10:55:53 am »
Still too advanced.

I got that "I" was the agent here, but the rest was still over my head, sorry.

"The thing wot does somefing directly to somefing else."
Yep, that's about my level!

« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 11:10:16 am by archaic »
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Offline Eight

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2010, 11:07:47 am »
I got that "I" was the agent here, but the rest was still over my head, sorry.
Well... think of slapping. You can slap your thigh and have a good ol' knees up. You can slap your missus (but you shouldn't). You can even slap a double bass. But you can't just slap - the process of slapping means that something has to be on the receiving end.

If I said "I slapped". Your natural response would be "Eh!?!? What did you slap???"

So for verbs which have someone doing them (the agent) and something on the receiving end (lots of terms but we'll just go for object here) then we call them transitive and gives names to mark who is the slapper, and who is the slappee.

Offline suomichris

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2010, 11:56:27 am »
I'm having trouble.

As far as English language tech' terms are concerned, my cup is most definitely empty, I'm no linguist.

I'm an intuitive speaker, and I write how I speak.

All the material I've found that 'explains' them has circular references. So I'm told that this does this to that, with tech terms I don't understand, so I look them up only to to find they're explained with tech terms I don't understand, which I look up and sooner or later I'm back on the page where I started, frustrated and having learned nothing.

Is there a plain English guide to what they all mean?

I found another one today: Ergative-Transitive Agent (WTF?)

Wikipedia is probably your best friend here, but maybe I can clear up the ergative bit...

When we think about verbs cross-linguistically, we see that there are certain types of verbs that show up in every language: namely, intransitive verbs (with only one person, or "argument," participating in the action) and transitive verbs, which have two.  In linguistics, we call the single argument of an intransitive verb an S (short for, roughly, subject); the two arguments for a transitive verb are called A (short for agent, the one doing the action) and O (for object). So, in English we have examples like:

He sits (intransitive) / he = S
He hit him (transitive) / he = A, him = O

Now, when we look at this, we can see that, in English, the subjects of transitive and intransitive verbs are treated in the same--both the A and the S use "he"--while the O is different, and takes the form "him."  In languages like this, we call the A/S argument the "nominative" and the O the "accusative," and label the languages "nominative/accusative."

But, there are languages that do other things which are equally logical.  We have these three things, and in English, we split them up so that A = S / O.  But, one can see another possibility: namely, that A / S =O, where the subjects of intransitive verbs and the objects of transitive verbs are marked the same, but the subjects of transitive verbs receive special marking.  Now, there isn't really a way to translate this into English, but we can pretend a bit, using bad English. If we had this system in English, our sentences above might look something like:

He sits / he = S
Him hit he / him = A, he = O

So, we have a special form for the A here, while the S and the O are the same.  In these languages, we call the special form of the A "ergative," and the form taken by the S/O arguments the "absolutive," and refer to these languages as "ergative/absolutive languages."

Okay, with that out of the way, let's think about one other possibility, which is pretty rare in human languages, but is what we see in Na'vi: namely, A / S / O, where the subjects of intransitive verbs, the subjects of transitive verbs, and the objects of transitive verbs all receive different marking.  We can play with bad English again to get a sense of what such a system might look like, although again, there isn't really a way to translate it directly:

He sits / he = S
Him hit his / him = A, his = O

So, we can see here that we have a unique form for each of A, S, and O.  These languages are called "tripartite," but they still use the terminology for the other languages.  So, as we've seen, the term for the form of a word that is ONLY the A of transitive verbs is "ergative," and the term "accusative" is used for forms that are ONLY marked as the O of a transitive verb.  The other set, subjects of intransitives, Frommer calls simply "intransitive." Thus we can say:

Ergative = A = subject of transitive verb = -(ì)l in Na'vi
Accusative = O = object of transitive verb = -t(i) in Na'vi
Intransitive = S = subject of intransitive verb = (zero) in Na'vi.

Hope that helps!

Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2010, 11:58:05 am »
So,
I slapped Parker Selfridge

I (noun* - and agent)
slapped (verb)
Parker Selfridge (proper noun*)

'Verb' being wot the agent does to whoever/whatever is on the receiving end?


* I did try to learn in class, but noun & proper noun was about all that I understood.
That and clusivity, the example we got in class was to exclude me, which neatly summed up how I felt.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 12:08:33 pm by archaic »
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Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2010, 12:06:20 pm »
Wikipedia is probably your best friend here, but maybe I can clear up the ergative bit...

When we think about verbs cross-linguistically, we see that there are certain types of verbs that show up in every language: namely, intransitive verbs (with only one person, or "argument," participating in the action) and transitive verbs, which have two.  In linguistics, we call the single argument of an intransitive verb an S (short for, roughly, subject); the two arguments for a transitive verb are called A (short for agent, the one doing the action) and O (for object). So, in English we have examples like:

He sits (intransitive) / he = S
He hit him (transitive) / he = A, him = O

Now, when we look at this, we can see that, in English, the subjects of transitive and intransitive verbs are treated in the same--both the A and the S use "he"--while the O is different, and takes the form "him."  In languages like this, we call the A/S argument the "nominative" and the O the "accusative," and label the languages "nominative/accusative."

But, there are languages that do other things which are equally logical.  We have these three things, and in English, we split them up so that A = S / O.  But, one can see another possibility: namely, that A / S =O, where the subjects of intransitive verbs and the objects of transitive verbs are marked the same, but the subjects of transitive verbs receive special marking.  Now, there isn't really a way to translate this into English, but we can pretend a bit, using bad English. If we had this system in English, our sentences above might look something like:

He sits / he = S
Him hit he / him = A, he = O

So, we have a special form for the A here, while the S and the O are the same.  In these languages, we call the special form of the A "ergative," and the form taken by the S/O arguments the "absolutive," and refer to these languages as "ergative/absolutive languages."

Okay, with that out of the way, let's think about one other possibility, which is pretty rare in human languages, but is what we see in Na'vi: namely, A / S / O, where the subjects of intransitive verbs, the subjects of transitive verbs, and the objects of transitive verbs all receive different marking.  We can play with bad English again to get a sense of what such a system might look like, although again, there isn't really a way to translate it directly:

He sits / he = S
Him hit his / him = A, his = O

So, we can see here that we have a unique form for each of A, S, and O.  These languages are called "tripartite," but they still use the terminology for the other languages.  So, as we've seen, the term for the form of a word that is ONLY the A of transitive verbs is "ergative," and the term "accusative" is used for forms that are ONLY marked as the O of a transitive verb.  The other set, subjects of intransitives, Frommer calls simply "intransitive." Thus we can say:

Ergative = A = subject of transitive verb = -(ì)l in Na'vi
Accusative = O = object of transitive verb = -t(i) in Na'vi
Intransitive = S = subject of intransitive verb = (zero) in Na'vi.

Hope that helps!

Let me stop you right there. Wiki, my bible for most things, is one of the sites that sent me round in circles.
The thing is, I was in high school decades ago, and I didn't understand any of it back then!
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 12:10:12 pm by archaic »
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Offline kewnya txamew'itan

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2010, 12:09:43 pm »
If we take a look at the sentence below:

I give your bow to the hunter

we have an example of most of the things you're likely to hear at this level.

I is the noun (thing) that is doing the action and is called the agent or subject. With a transitive verb (see the line beginning "Bow is the" for an explanation) objects/agents are in the ergative case which means they have the -l suffix (bit stuck on them).

Give is the verb which is a word for the action.

Your is a possessive/genitive which is a fancy way of saying that it owns something else or something belongs to or is of it. This is called the genitive case and uses the -yä ending/suffix.

Bow is the thing being affected directly by the action/verb. Because it is being affected it is called an object and because it is being directly affected it is the direct object. This is also called the patient. This would be in the accusative case and would take the -ti suffix/ending. Any verb with a direct object will be transitive. In a few cases, the direct object doesn't need to be specified for the verb to be transitive but this is only really for verbs that would only make sense if there is an object (even one that isn't specified), examples of these verbs are kill (tspang) and possibly hunt (taron).

To you is being affected indirectly by the verb and is the indirect object. This would be in the dative case (the name comes from the latin word for to give because it is most commonly used with it, e.g. I give X to Y) and uses the -ru ending.





Other terms you might here are:

Topic(al) is what you are talking about. When it isn't clear you might use the topical marker (-ri) to clarify, but in general don't use it. If you use it once in a bit of Na'vi, it will be assumed until you put another topical marker in.

Prefix a little bit of a word that attaches at the front, like nì- which attaches to txur to make nì-txur or nìtxur.

A suffix is like a prefix but attaches after a word, like -l which attaches on nga to make nga-l or ngal.

An infix is like a prefix but attaches inside a word like <ei> which goes inside taron to make tar<ei>on or tareion. There are complicated rules about where to place them but I won't go into them here.

Tense is a property of a verb that describes when an action happened. Na'vi has five tenses, the future (<ay>); the immediate future (<ìy>) that refers to things just about to happen; the present (doesn't have an infix); the recent past (<ìm>) which refers to things that just happened and the past (<am>).

Aspect doesn't really exist in English but describes whether an action is/was/will be ongoing or completed. The perfective aspect (<ol>) means that the action is completed whilst the imperfective aspect (<er>) means that the action is ongoing.



I hope that helped a bit, if not I can explain anything in more depth.  :)
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Offline suomichris

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2010, 12:10:41 pm »
Let me stop you right there. Wiki, my bible for most things, is one of the sites that sent me round in circles.
The thing is I was in high school decades ago, and I didn't understand any of it back then!
Well, yeah, Wikipedia is kind of crap for linguistics stuff :p

Also, if it makes you feel any better, this is all college-linguistics-major stuff, and not high school stuff (as far as I know).

Offline suomichris

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2010, 12:14:21 pm »
Let me stop you right there.
Wait, I hope you didn't literally stop reading that giant and well-crafted post I just wrote explaining grammatical alignment to you just because I mentioned wikipedia .... ;)

Offline Eight

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2010, 12:55:29 pm »
So,
I slapped Parker Selfridge

I (noun* - and agent)
slapped (verb)
Parker Selfridge (proper noun*)
Yeah. And you could call Parker the affected, the direct object or (in Na'vi) the accusative object.

And don't worry about not knowing this stuff, most of the people I know have come through university and worked in marketing for years without knowing this. Learning a foreign language (or alien constructed language) is a great way to learn about your own language and linguistics in general. Enjoy it as part of your Na'vi studies.

Edit: Probably worth ignoring the term 'affected' at this point. It's probably clear why it can be called that, but it ties in to to some pretty heavy stuff.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 12:58:48 pm by Eight »

Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2010, 01:03:57 pm »
If we take a look at the sentence below:

I give your bow to the hunter

we have an example of most of the things you're likely to hear at this level.

I is the noun (thing) that is doing the action and is called the agent or subject. With a transitive verb (see the line beginning "Bow is the" for an explanation) objects/agents are in the ergative case which means they have the -l suffix (bit stuck on them).

Give is the verb which is a word for the action.

Your is a possessive/genitive which is a fancy way of saying that it owns something else or something belongs to or is of it. This is called the genitive case and uses the -yä ending/suffix.

Bow is the thing being affected directly by the action/verb. Because it is being affected it is called an object and because it is being directly affected it is the direct object. This is also called the patient. This would be in the accusative case and would take the -ti suffix/ending. Any verb with a direct object will be transitive. In a few cases, the direct object doesn't need to be specified for the verb to be transitive but this is only really for verbs that would only make sense if there is an object (even one that isn't specified), examples of these verbs are kill (tspang) and possibly hunt (taron).

To you is being affected indirectly by the verb and is the indirect object. This would be in the dative case (the name comes from the latin word for to give because it is most commonly used with it, e.g. I give X to Y) and uses the -ru ending.





Other terms you might here are:

Topic(al) is what you are talking about. When it isn't clear you might use the topical marker (-ri) to clarify, but in general don't use it. If you use it once in a bit of Na'vi, it will be assumed until you put another topical marker in.

Prefix a little bit of a word that attaches at the front, like nì- which attaches to txur to make nì-txur or nìtxur.

A suffix is like a prefix but attaches after a word, like -l which attaches on nga to make nga-l or ngal.

An infix is like a prefix but attaches inside a word like <ei> which goes inside taron to make tar<ei>on or tareion. There are complicated rules about where to place them but I won't go into them here.

Tense is a property of a verb that describes when an action happened. Na'vi has five tenses, the future (<ay>); the immediate future (<ìy>) that refers to things just about to happen; the present (doesn't have an infix); the recent past (<ìm>) which refers to things that just happened and the past (<am>).

Aspect doesn't really exist in English but describes whether an action is/was/will be ongoing or completed. The perfective aspect (<ol>) means that the action is completed whilst the imperfective aspect (<er>) means that the action is ongoing.



I hope that helped a bit, if not I can explain anything in more depth.  :)
Just about kept up as far as "This would be in the accusative case..." then I got lost
English language was always my weakest subject.

Let me stop you right there.
Wait, I hope you didn't literally stop reading that giant and well-crafted post I just wrote explaining grammatical alignment to you just because I mentioned wikipedia .... ;)
No, it looked good, just way over my head. And there's nothing wrong with referencing outside material.

Let me stop you right there. Wiki, my bible for most things, is one of the sites that sent me round in circles.
The thing is I was in high school decades ago, and I didn't understand any of it back then!
Well, yeah, Wikipedia is kind of crap for linguistics stuff :p

Also, if it makes you feel any better, this is all college-linguistics-major stuff, and not high school stuff (as far as I know).
It does make me feel slightly better actually, but knowing it's college-linguistics-major stuff doesn't help me comprehend it.

Can I have my bow back now?  ::)
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Offline kewnya txamew'itan

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2010, 01:23:11 pm »
The accusative case is just a fancy naming for that form of the noun (thing) and is used by direct objects.

The rest of that paragraph isn't really necessary so feel free to skip that bit, if you get most of the first section you'll have got most of it.
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Offline Eight

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2010, 01:32:49 pm »
Can I have my bow back now?  ::)
Not until you ask for it in Na'vi. :D

Offline suomichris

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2010, 01:34:05 pm »
No, it looked good, just way over my head.
Well, you might try to fight your way through it and ask me if you have questions :p  Learning this stuff now will make future Na'vi learning much easier...

Offline Na'rìngioang

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2010, 02:54:35 pm »
Well, yeah, Wikipedia is kind of crap for linguistics stuff :p

Also, if it makes you feel any better, this is all college-linguistics-major stuff, and not high school stuff (as far as I know).

If you're like me and took a year of Latin in High School, then you at least know the basics of noun cases. Declining nouns was the bane of my existence in that class... hence my lowly C... God how I wish I had paid more attention then, I feel I'd be much better off now.

I've been trying to come up with a VERY lay-man's terms friendly way of explaining the cases for people, unfortunately, I still haven't mastered them myself.

A lot of these lingustics terms make my brain hurt as well, but I've been doing a lot of the worksheets and things the Skxawng has created, and they're VERY helpful in the long run. I highly recommend them.

Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2010, 02:56:07 pm »
Nawm tsteu taronyu, si tsmukan tung oeyä tsko ne’ìm rutxe srak(e)? Fpi oe tseng(e) swok apxa ìlä fì’u.
Tìngay ayngal ayswizaw nìtut tswayon ngay.
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Offline Technowraith

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2010, 08:04:19 pm »
No, it looked good, just way over my head.
Well, you might try to fight your way through it and ask me if you have questions :p  Learning this stuff now will make future Na'vi learning much easier...

Irayo for that information!  :)

I understand the technicalities a little better now.

@Archaic: English is the god-almighty worst language on this planet (and Pandora, too  ;)). You'll pull your hair out trying to figure out this madness. It does make sense in the end once you get an understanding though. Granted, it's been 4 years since i've touched an english book of any kind. And now with learning Na'vi, I've had to revert to what i remember or find learning resources to help me out. A word of wisdom: Never rely on Wikipedia for anything really. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, including those who "aren't as knowledgeable as they let on."  If you're using Wikipedia to help you learn English, I would reconsider. Do a google search for "Free Learning Resources For English" or something similar.
 :)
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Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2010, 02:31:03 pm »
Having tech problems. >:(

Hopefully back on line soon.
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Offline archaic

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Re: My poor understanding of english language tech' terms stops me dead
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2010, 07:30:03 am »
I think I've sorted the tech issues...

No, it looked good, just way over my head.
Well, you might try to fight your way through it and ask me if you have questions :p  Learning this stuff now will make future Na'vi learning much easier...

Irayo for that information!  :)

I understand the technicalities a little better now.

@Archaic: English is the god-almighty worst language on this planet (and Pandora, too  ;)). You'll pull your hair out trying to figure out this madness. It does make sense in the end once you get an understanding though. Granted, it's been 4 years since i've touched an english book of any kind. And now with learning Na'vi, I've had to revert to what i remember or find learning resources to help me out. A word of wisdom: Never rely on Wikipedia for anything really. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, including those who "aren't as knowledgeable as they let on."  If you're using Wikipedia to help you learn English, I would reconsider. Do a google search for "Free Learning Resources For English" or something similar.
 :)

Words of wisdom there, I don't normally rely on Wikipedia, but its often a good place to start research on stuff.

"Nawm tsteu taronyu, si tsmukan tung oeyä tsko ne’ìm rutxe srak(e)? Fpi oe tseng(e) swok apxa ìlä fì’u.
Tìngay ayngal ayswizaw nìtut tswayon ngay."

Is what I might have said in 'ìnglìsì, I just looked each word in turn in the lexicon, and guessed the word order, did I get anywhere close to correct?

(Wikipedia doesn't translate into Na'vi. So, like Gunship becomes 'kunsìp in Na'vi and Doctor becomes toktor, how about Wikipedia becoming Wïkxeypitiy' (the closest I could match), is there a better translation, or is this kind of speculation taboo?)
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