Sally Caves said:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mark P. Line" <[log in to unmask]>
>> Jim Grossmann said:
>   (and I'll get to him)
>> > Mark P. Line wrote:
>> >
>> > "That said, I think it's [marking tense on the noun is] an *awesome*
> idea
>> > for a conlang. It's different enough from the way natlangs work to be
>> > intriguing, while not so different that it would prevent usage
>> (unlike,
>> > say,
>> > unrestricted center embedding).  Lots of natlangs have clause-level
>> > markers
>> > on nouns, after all -- but they tend to be involved with valence
>> > assignment
>> > and/or pragmatic functions that are more-or-less intimately tied up
>> with
>> > the
>> > noun being marked."
> Hi, Mark; could you give an example?  It's very hard to extract from all
> the
> linguistics speak.  What are the clause-level markers in which languages
> that tend to be involved with valence assignment that could lead to a
> development, in your mind, of tense marked on nouns?   Any in English?
> Actually, you might answer this below in your example.

My point was not that I think certain types of noun morphology might lead
to clause-scope tense marked on nouns. My point was simply (and relatively
trivially) that clause-scope morphology doesn't always have to be on the
verb. A good example of this is *case*: case expresses relations at the
level of the clause, it doesn't modify the meaning of the marked noun as
such. I specifically had case in mind when I mentioned 'valence assignment
and/or pragmatic functions' above: that's what case is for, it has a lot
to do with the marked noun (i.e. its role(s) in the clause), and is
usually marked on the noun.

I was contrasting this with clause-level tense marking, which does *not*
have a lot to do with any particular noun participant in the clause: tense
is marked on the verb when it's marked morphologically. (At least, I
haven't seen a counterexample yet.)

>> > Jim G. wrote:
>> >
>> > When I read this, the first thing that came to my mind was a system in
>> > which
>> > vowel-alternation was used to mark proximate vs. remote AND past,
> present,
>> > and future.  In this nonce-language, assume that all the vowels are
>> > syllabic:
>> >
>> > v-dors (dog)
>> >
>> > -a- proximate
>> > -i- remote
>> >
>> > -u- past
>> > -o- present
>> > -e- future
>> >
>> > vaudors this-dog-in-the-past
>> > vaodors this-dog-in-the-present
>> > vaedors this-dog-in-the-future
>> >
>> > viudors that-dog-in-the-past
>> > viodors that-dog-in-the-present
>> > viedors that-dog-in-the-future
>> >
> [Interesting stuff snipped for clarity]
>> >
>> > Would the foregoing illustrate tense marking on the nouns?
> Actually, whether it does or not, it's quite an awesome little example,
> and very interesting.
> Mark responds:
>> Glossed as you have them here, my answer would be 'no'. Tense is a way
>> to
>> distinguish temporal relations at the clause level, thus distinguishing
>> the following:
>> (a) John gave yesterday's paper to the former president.
>> (b) John's giving yesterday's paper to the former president.
>> (c) John's gonna give yesterday's paper to the former president.
>> There are *other* temporal relations expressed in these examples (by
>> modifying the nouns), but they're not tense because they're not
>> expressing
>> temporal relations of the event to which the clause is referring.
> Okay, this I understand.  Is this an example of what I was seeking from
> you above?   I.e., clause level markers involved with valence assignment
> and other pragmatic uses?

No, these examples were meant to demonstrate the presence of two different
kinds of temporal relations in the same clause -- because that's where a
lot of people (including numerous linguists who've published on the
subject) are getting confused.

The three clauses differ only in *tense*, which is a kind of temporal
relation at the clause level. The entire event of John giving something to
somebody -- that is, the referent of the entire clause -- occurs at
different times with respect to the time of utterance in these three

But there are other temporal relations expressed in these examples as
well. It's *yesterday's* paper, and the *former* president. These nouns
are not being marked for *tense*, which is a clause-level category,
because "yesterday's" and "former" are just modifying the noun -- not
expressing clause-level relations of any kind.

(The literature on the subject is confusing because some linguists have
chosen to refer to certain kinds of noun morphology as "nominal tense"
because it has to do with time. I do not follow this practice, and
discourage others from doing so on ontological grounds.)

>> A language that truly marked *tense* on nouns instead of on the verb or
>> periphrastically in the clause would have to something like this:
>> (a) Djanden yestadepela pepa wantaimpela perezent gif.
>> (b) Djanbi yestadepela pepa wantaimpela perezent gif.
>> (c) Django yestadepela pepa wantaimpela perezent gif.
> "The then John"?  "The now John"?  "The future John"?   Yeah, that's cool.
> If I have that right.  But how does it differ from Jim's example?

No, no. I intended *these* examples (a), (b) and (c) to have PRECISELY the
same meaning as the earlier (English) examples (a), (b) and (c). Please
compare them again. What I've done in the impromptu pidgin examples is to
mark *tense* (REAL tense: an expression of temporal relations at the
clause level) on the subject of the clause instead of any other way
(morphologically on the verb, or periphrastically).

In the English examples, we have:

(a) give+past = "gave"
(b) give+present = "'s giving"
(c) give+future = "'s gonna give"

Clearly, tense (REAL tense, not "yesterday" or "former") is being marked
on or around the verb here.

In the pseudo-pidgin examples, we have:

(a) give+past = SUBJECT-den
(b) give+present = SUBJECT-bi
(c) give+future = SUBJECT-go

The suffixes -den, -bi and -go precisely do *not* modify the subject
'Djan' to make it "the then John", "the now John" and "the future John".
That's precisely the distinction that I'm trying to demonstrate! The
suffixes -den, -bi and -go mark CLAUSE-LEVEL TENSE: the only way to mark
tense (REAL tense) in this language is to put -den, -bi or -go on the

This, therefore, is an example of what a language would be like that does
what the initiator of this thread was asking about: tense being marked on
a noun instead of anywhere else (like on the verb or periphrastically).

>> And even here, we only have morphological tense marking on the noun
>> 'Djan'
>> if the attached morphemes '-den', '-bi' and '-go' really are *affixes*
>> and
>> not clitics.
> Why is that a problem?  What difference does it make if it's an affix or a
> clitic, which are very similar animals in my ignorant sense of these
> things?

We were being asked about nouns marked for tense. A noun to which a
periphrastic tesne marker has been *cliticized* is not being marked for
tense: it's simply joined phonologically with the next word, which
happense to be the tense marker.

I made the distinction because there are *lots* of languages (including
English) that *appear* to mark tense on nouns because there are
tense-marking clitics that can attach to nouns. But as I pointed out in an
earlier post in this thread, the sentence

   (d) John is at work.

no more marks tense on the noun than does

   (e) John's at work.

In (e), "'s" is a clitic, and marks tense (among other things). It is
*not* a tense affix, and English is *not* an example of a language that
marks tense on nouns (hence my distinction between clitics and affixes).

> Now if each noun were internally changed, in the way some cases are, for
> tense, would that solve the problem?  Djan, Djain, Djeno?  But then,
> didn't cases start out with noun + affix?

It's not a problem: I was merely stipulating that the tense morphemes of
the pseudo-pidgin have to be affixes to qualify as an example of what we
were looking for. Sure, you could use *any* morphological process instead:
tone change, ablaut, infix, prefix, suprasegmental nasalization or
devoicing, whatever.

> Thanks for bearing with..., Sally

My pleasure. Hope this was helpful.

-- Mark