Clause Structure in South Asian Languages

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All of these bound verb forms are restricted in their TMA values, and these restrictions differ depending on the subordinator. In Malayalam TMA marking is commonly expressed by suffixes or stem changes Malayalam converbs are subordinate adverbial verb forms that can only be marked for aspectual distinctions, but not for tense or mood. They can also form chained clauses. Famous examples of Dravidian converbs are lengthy sentences containing several converbal clauses ending with the main clause.

Example 21 shows one such clause chaining in Malayalam. CV newspaper read:PFV. As we can see, chaining constructions in Malayalam are structurally parallel to the chaining in MIP in cf.

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The notable difference between the two languages is that Malayalam converbs have a synthetic form, while in MIP the verb and the subordinator are two distinct words. Malayalam distinguishes between perfective, progressive, and neutral forms of converbs. The grammatical elements in focus are in bold. One important aspect to have in mind when comparing the adverbial subordination between Malayalam and MIP is that the latter unites several characteristics of both adverbial clauses with subordinators and converbs in Malayalam.

The following examples show that the converbal constructions in Malayalam also allow for looser temporal restrictions, and large temporal distances between the subordinate and the main clause can be expressed. Example 24 is a translation of 17 in MIP, and 25 is comparable with The example follows the transcription rules from Asher and Kumari In Malayalam, converbal constructions are also felicitously used to tell time The implications of these differences on the meaning at the clausal level are yet to be fully understood.

South Asian typology and ecology Recent developments in creole studies are characterised by an ongoing debate over whether creoles should be considered exceptional in some way. While some linguists contend that creoles share a number of typological features that can characterise them as a separate group of languages just by virtue of being involved in language contact e. McWhorter ; Bakker et al. Ansaldo ; Blasi et al. Portuguese-based creoles in Asia have been studied in particular for having a higher level of convergence and a richer morphosyntax than it is usually claimed for creole languages.

Indeed, the sociolinguistic conditions regarding Indo-Portuguese creoles since their formation until today are very different from many Atlantic creoles. For example, in the case of Atlantic plantation creoles, it is often assumed that the native languages of the creole community cease to be functional which leads the community to shift to the superstrate language.

Furthermore, the Indo-Portuguese substrate languages also became their adstrate languages, while Atlantic creoles usually ceased to be in contact with their substrates Holm The fact that the notions of substrate and adstrate merge in the Indo-Portuguese context shows that the Indo-Portuguese ecology is different from the creoles for which these notions were originally designed.

Thus, we argue that it is necessary to analyse the language ecology in each specific case of language contact in order to understand the origin of different contact-induced changes. For that reason, the case of MIP constitutes new evidence that the theoretical assumptions made on the basis of Atlantic creoles should not be carried over to the analysis of other creoles. We will test one such theoretical assumption on the case of MIP and conclude that the only tenable assumptions regarding contact situations are those that take language ecology into account e. Ansaldo As defined by McWhorter , a structure is more complex when it requires more rules to be generated by the grammar.

Although this is not an unambiguous definition25 see DeGraff ; Ansaldo , we will apply it only to morphosyntactic rules, just as McWhorter does. The subordinate clauses are then more complex than coordinate ones, since they require more rules on dependency relations of the subordinate clause on the main clause McWhorter What does this mean in the context of MIP? In Portuguese, both of these cases have to use some form of coordination26, in which two clauses are structurally and semantically independent from each other. In contrast to subordination, in coordination there are no necessary rules for the syntactic dependency, nor for the restriction on the time frame in which the state of affairs of the main clause is obtained.

In sum, there are fewer grammatical rules operating in coordinate clauses than in subordinate clauses in Portuguese. Following the definition stipulated above, coordination is simpler than subordination in Portuguese.

Language Families of South Asia

Thus, at a certain point, MIP had to choose a more complex structure of subordination over the simpler coordination available in Portuguese for the same meanings that needed to be expressed For an overview of different approaches to simplicity in creoles, see Siegel However, the participle form has not been preserved in MIP, and even in Portuguese the participle cannot form chained clauses.

The typological characteristics of expressing temporal relations in MIP, such as conflating of chaining and adverbial clauses Bickel , can only be meaningfully described in the context of its ecology.


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Dravidian languages have been discussed in the literature for their converbs used to conjoin clauses e. Asher and Kumari ; Coupe The areal affinity for subordination in this context becomes even clearer once we look at another Indo-Portuguese creole of South Asian substrate and adstrate.

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Smith shows that they behave just like converbs in South Asian languages. Thus, the properties of clause linkage in MIP can be described as having a Dravidian typological profile, where temporal subordination includes chained clauses and has a wider semantic scope of usage than it is the case in Indo-European languages. This case study shows that so-called simplicity or complexity is not a factor that determines which features are chosen in a situation of language contact in the sense of Mufwene What does play a role in a situation of language contact and thus creole genesis is the language ecology and the availability of specific linguistic features.

Exposure of a language to certain linguistic typologies can then lead to its approximation to these typologies Ansaldo and Matthews ; Ansaldo Conclusion Starting with the description of temporal clauses in MIP and their novel features when compared to the Portuguese etymology, we accounted for many domains of Malayalam influence.

We have shown that these characteristics can be explained by the influence of Malayalam adverbial subordination and converbs, capable of forming chained clauses and referring to temporally distant states of affairs.

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These findings are of particular importance for creole studies, especially regarding the claims about pan-creole characteristics. MIP extended the use of Portuguese subordinate temporal clauses into new semantic domains that can only be related to Dravidian adverbial subordination. The approximation of MIP to the Dravidian typological profile supports the view that the outcome of a situation of language contact is influenced by language ecology, rather than predetermined by contact itself. Sources: Cardoso, Hugo C.

Oral corpus of Cannanore Indo-Portuguese Creole. Cardoso, Hugo C. Smith, Ian R. Sri Lanka Portuguese structure dataset. In Susanne M. Vicente, Gil. Pranto de Maria Parda. References: Aboh, Enoch O. Complex Processes in New Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


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  • Ansaldo, Umberto. Creole complexity in sociolinguistic perspective. Language Sciences 26— Contact languages: Ecology and Evolution in Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Deconstructing Creole: The rationale. Deconstructing Creole. Asher, Ronald E. London, New York: Routledge. Creoles are typologically distinct from non-creoles. In Stephen A. Tryon, eds. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Bickel, Balthasar. Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective. Linguistic Typology 2: — Grammars are robustly transmitted even during the emergence of creole languages.

    Nature Human Behaviour 1 10 : Vector verbs in Malabar Indo-Portuguese. The Indo-Portuguese Creoles of the Malabar: historical cues and questions. In Pius Malekandathil, ed. Primus Books. Free shipping for international orders is a limited time only special promotion and may be terminated by Souq at any time without prior notice, at our sole discretion. In the event we determine, at our discretion, that there is an abuse of the Free Shipping Program of any kind, we reserve the right to cancel, suspend, terminate, recover or recall orders, deliveries, payments and accounts deemed in abuse.

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    Clause Structure in South Asian Languages

    The researchers in the field of theoretical and theoretically inclined descriptive linguistics have for a long time felt a need for detailed and clearly presented linguistic treatments of various syntactic phenomena in South Asian languages. We will send you an SMS containing a verification code. Please double check your mobile number and click on "Send Verification Code".

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    Clause Structure in South Asian Languages

    Copyedited version appears in Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk eds. Volume 1, ch. Oxford: Blackwell. Should appear in vol.