2009/10/15 Paul Hartzer <[log in to unmask]>

> He didn't indicate that it's not standard terminology, he indicated that
> there are other definitions.

Sorry? That's what Alex wrote:

"Nnn... this is far from standard terminology, that's for sure.  I've never
seen what you call a "morpheme" called that before, nor anything called a
morpheme that crosses word boundaries.  Morphemes are supposed to lack
internal compositional structure: it's clear that "run" is a unit of some
sort in English, as is "up", so each is (at least) one morpheme.  "Lexical
item" seems close to what you were going for -- anything entered separately
in the lexicon with a fixed meaning is a lexical item, including
collocations and idioms ("ice cream cone", "at the end of the day").

That words are most easily defined orthographically doesn't say much about
the utility of that definition.  In broadly literate societies it's likely
to correspond to the way speakers think about words, perhaps.  But do
Chinese languages and Thai lack words?  How about languages not reduced to

He used the words "standard terminology", and he questioned strongly the
utility of defining words in terms of orthographic whitespace. What is
different from what I wrote? And in linguistics, defining words purely as an
orthographic concept *isn't* standard terminology. It's a restricted
definition that is of use only when discussing native orthographies that
have such a concept. When linguists speak about "words", they usually have
other, more general concepts in mind (usually the "syntactic word", but not
always), which may or may not map with orthographic words in languages with
writing systems that have them.

> In my own post, I indicated that the definition of word in terms of white
> space only applies to languages with writing that uses white space.
Really? Here's what you wrote:

"I agree. This was my possibly-lost point.

French clitics are words and not prefixes because French orthography treats
them as such, plain and simple. There's no immediate reason why we couldn't
write, say, "je netecomprends pas" instead of "je ne te comprends pas," but
in modern French, we don't.

This is why the notion of "morpheme" is relevant: Words are most easily
defined in languages with appropriate orthographies as the units between the
spaces, by whatever rules that language's orthography dictates. "Der
Brieftraeger fahrt meiner Briefkasten um!" is, by this rule, six words
("fahrt um" being two), while "Der Brieftraeger wollte meiner Briefkasten
umfahren!" is likewise six ("umfahren" being one); I don't know if that
matches German analysis (Duden is being unhelpful on the specific topic, but
does discuss syntatic words). "Run up" in both "I ran up a big hill" and "I
ran up a big bill" would be two (syntactic) words, even though it's two
morphemes in the first case and one morpheme in the latter."

Where in this post is there any indication that you are even *aware* of
other definitions for words? You only refer to words in terms of
orthography, and nowhere indicate that you know there are other definitions
for the term "word", including those that don't refer to orthography at all.
That was my point. Where in your post is it shown that I was wrong to point
that out?

I was just trying to show you that treating French pronouns as words rather
than prefixes only because of orthography was not useful, because it forgot
the whole part about *Spoken* French (i.e. the living language, not the
conlang pet of the Académie Française). A language is not only what's
written on paper. A prefix is *not* an entity defined by orthography, but by
behaviour. So you *can't* rule out the possibility that French pronouns are
really prefixes just because the written language writes them as separate
orthographic words. In what way exactly was that wrong to point out?

> I made an error about "morpheme." Unlike you, I'm not perfect.
Excuse me?! Where did that come from? Why do you think you are even allowed
to insult me like that? I was simply disagreeing with you, and attacked your
arguments, and your arguments *only*. Nowhere did I attack you as a person.
So why do you think it's acceptable to reply with an ad hominem?
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.