LINGUIST List 9.681

Sun May 10 1998

Qs: Voiced/Unvoiced,Nouns (Fem),Syntax,Adpositions

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  1. Felix Alvarez, Voice/Unvoiced
  2. Softclaws, Anomalous Feminine Nouns
  3. jaret, 'Basic word order' in the MP
  4. Alan Libert, Nominative Objects of Adpositions

Message 1: Voice/Unvoiced

Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 15:00:01 +0200
From: Felix Alvarez <>
Subject: Voice/Unvoiced

1. Explanations as to the difference between voiced and unvoiced
sounds are often proffered in both training courses and the literature
on the basis of "you can tell by feeling your larynx - there's
vibration in the case of "voiced" and none in the case of
"unvoiced". (As shorthand, I'll call this the "larynx
explanation"). For me, this has never been all that satisfactory, as I
always still seemed to feel some vibration in the so-called
"voiceless" sounds!

2. Anderson in his book "Cognitive Psychology and its Implications"
(p58) talks of "Categorical Perception" and the fact that the
difference between "voiced" and "unvoiced" categories is a 60 ms
(microsecond) lag between release and voicing. This period of time is
known as "voice onset time". He says that what we are perceiving when
distinguishing between "voiced" and "unvoiced" sounds is this time
lag. In other words, vibration STILL OCCURS in both voiced and
unvoiced categories! This seems to explain why I could always still
feel vibrations in the vocal chords even when tutors said otherwise!

3. I do not pretend to be an expert in phonetics/phonology and so I
would be most interested in hearing others' comments. In particular,
I'd be interested to know whether most people's training has provided
them the "larynx" or the "voice onset time" explanation as the
foundation for understanding the distinction voiced/unvoiced. If the
"voice onset time" information is correct, then some teacher training
courses (at least) may be misinforming their students! And teachers,
in their turn, may pass this dud information on to their pupils!

4. Ofcourse, there IS another explanation - i.e. that I have
misunderstood the explanation given by Anderson. In which case, I
would be happy to listen to anyone else familiar with Anderson's book
(p58) and/or with the particular point of discussion so as to shed
some light on it.

Felix Alvarez
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Message 2: Anomalous Feminine Nouns

Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 04:33:21 EDT
From: Softclaws <>
Subject: Anomalous Feminine Nouns

The word for hand, in German, and several Romance languages of which I
am aware, "looks" and behaves like it ought to be masculine, yet is
feminine. For instance, French has la main and German has die Hand,
while in both languages one would generally expect an ending in -e.
German, of course, has an umlaut in the plural, which normally is
found in masculine and neuter nouns.

Does anyone know of similar or contradictory examples from any of the IE
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Message 3: 'Basic word order' in the MP

Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 16:42:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: jaret <>
Subject: 'Basic word order' in the MP

Dear Listers,

Am I right in thinking that the notion 'basic word order' (i.e. VSO,
SOV, etc.) is undefinable in the Minimalist Program? If underlying
word order is universal (a la Kayne) and surface word orders result
from different feature strengths of Agr and T, then it seems like
there is no way to say for a language that has variant orders that one
surface order is more 'basic' than another. Right?

Here is the problem that could get you into if I am right. Let's take
a language that is overwhelmingly SOV, but has SVO as a minor
stylistic variant. Like the great majority of SOV languages it is
postpositional. But the MP cannot 'tell' that its SOV aspect is more
'fundamental' than its SVO aspect and therefore has no way of
predicting postpositions rather than prepositions.

Am I right about this? And if not, what am I missing?

Thanks for your input!

Frank Jaret
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Message 4: Nominative Objects of Adpositions

Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 13:59:10 +1000
From: Alan Libert <>
Subject: Nominative Objects of Adpositions

I am doing a survey on nominative objects of prepositions and
postpostions, and would appreciate any information on languages where
this happens. I am already aware of English examples such as "between
you and I", which have been discussed on the Linguist List, and in one
or two LI papers. I am also aware that this happens in Esperanto, and
this has also been discussed on the Linguist List.

	I am not concerned with instances such as those in Englishh
where an object of a preposition appears to be in the nominative
because there is no objective form of the noun, aas in "to John", I am
only interested in examples where an oblique form of a noun or pronoun
exists in the language, but is not used. There are a couple examples
of this happening in Greek papyri, and I would have to expected to
find some examples in Medieval Latin, say from Gregory of Tours, whose
case usage was dubious, but I have not found any instances of this,
and I'd be particularly interested in learning of Latin
examples. Similarly, there are "errors" in Akkadian and Ugaritic,
where prepositional objects are in the nominative rather than the
expected genitive. All of these instances I take to be symptoms of a
declining case system and/or of the imperfect knowledge of a second
	In Turkish and other Turkic languages objects of some
postpositions are in the nominative if they are nouns, but the
genitive if they are pronouns -- here I am not looking for data, but I
would like to know whether there are any accounts for this, in
GB/minimalism or other frameworls. In Mongolian and Hungarian there
seem to be some postpositional objects which (on the surface) are
nominative. I shall be most grateful if anyone has information on
other languages where this occurs, and I shall post a summary of the

Alan Libert
University of Newcastle, Australia
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