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Linguistic Analysis: Memory and Language

DateDespite the decades of meticulous research, the notion of linguistic studies still has a variety of aspects that require further examination. One of these aspects concerns the emergence of a language as a verbal system of communication. Among the series of theories, researchers find it hard to identify the most appropriate one. Some of the theories include a focus on the human intention to communicate, the speech itself, or syntax, while others claim the language evolution to be multicomponent (Fitch, 2017). Such a variety of approaches to language makes it more to complicated to define the way of the language classification.

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At some point, linguistic studies required morphological typology basis upon which further examination would be possible. Thus, at the beginning of the 19th century, German poet and translator A. W. von Schlegel defined the approach to language classification by dividing them into the groups of synthetic and analytic languages (Haspelmath & Michaelis, 2017). Whereas synthetic languages perform grammatical variations with the help of inflections, analytic ones tend to make use of word combinations and auxiliary verbs. Due to such distinction, languages vary significantly in their case marking, verb agreement, and syntax. In the course of this assignment, the data of one of the indigenous languages of Peru will be examined with the help of contrastive and descriptive analyses.

The first part of the research will be dedicated to the analysis of the language’s phonetic and morphemic structure. A word, being a universally accepted language unit bearing independent semantic meaning, consists of morphemes, which, in their turn, fall into phonemes. According to scholars, morphemes are divided into free and bound, where free morphemes can exist as a separate word, and bound morphemes bear only grammatical meaning (Velupillai, 2012). In order to define the further construction of the given language, it is necessary to specify whether the words include bound morphemes and case inflections.

The variation of the verbal representation of the word woman will be used to demonstrate the construction. Among the four examples, one can define four variations of the word, including warmita, warmi, warmikuna, warmikunata. By analyzing this word, it may be noticed that the morpheme warmi- is present in all words, forming the word’s root. Velupillai (2012) defines the root as “the smallest unit with any semantic content” (p. 90).

Other morphemes present in words include bound morphemes, or inflections -ta-, and -kuna-. The range of inflections allows one to assume that the indigenous language of Peru given in the assignment is synthetic. Researchers claim that synthetic languages do not have to pay as much attention to syntax as analytic ones (AlA’amiri & Jameel, 2019). As the English language is a vivid example of an analytic language, its syntactic structure will be compared later in the paper.

In the further course of the investigation, the case marking of the language will be defined. Case marking is primarily designed to identify the constituents’ agreement within a syntactical unit (Avetisyan, Lago, & Vasishth, 2020). In order to define the grammatical aspect of case marking of the language provided, the following sentences are to be compared:

  1. warmita rikun ‘he/she sees the woman’;
  2. warmi rikun ‘the woman sees him/her.’

The provided syntactical unit shows the subject-object juxtaposition by shifting the word woman. As it was mentioned previously, analytic languages pay much attention to syntax in order to convey the semantic context behind the structure. Such a process of grammatical relations change is evident in the example of English sentences, where woman has shifted from a sentence subject to an object of an action (Tallerman, 2014). Thus, the basic constituent order, expressed by subject (S), verb (V), and object (O) within a sentence is obligatory in order to define the agent, or the doer of the action (Whaley, 1996).

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However, once the sentences of the given language are analyzed, it may be noticed that the order of constituents remained the same in both cases. By means of an Adaptive Grammar model of the segmentation algorithm, which focuses on identifying the morphological units, the inflectional morphemes can be estimated (Loukatou, Stoll, Blasi, & Cristia, 2018). The primary difference between derivational and inflectional morphemes lies in the fact that latter ones are not able to change the part of speech, modifying the word’s grammatical category of number or person instead.

The grammatical relation is instead marked by case inflection -ta, forming the word’s Genitive case. The presence of this case inflection signifies the existence of other cases common to synthetic languages like Latin or Spanish. Another important aspect of nouns is the ways they modify in terms of number. The category of quantity is one of the universals for practically any language family (Mingazova, Subich, & Shangaraeva, 2016).

In the case of the given language, the plural form of the noun also depends on the constituent’s position in the syntactical unit. Hence, warmikuna ‘woman’ as a subject is formed with the help of suffix –kuna-. However, once the constituent’s role shifts to the action’s object, the Genitive case of the noun is added, forming the word warmikunata.

The role of the noun within a sentence is also of crucial importance for the language. In English, for example, the agent and the action are of equal significance for the syntactical unit, making the verb take the position right after the noun. Researchers claim that on the level of subconsciousness, recipients tend to perceive the information better once the order of constituents is fixed (Arantzeta et al., 2017). In the given language, the order is similar to Latin, where the nouns are placed before the verb like in the sentence warmi runtuta dalirqa ‘the woman hit an egg.’

Having analyzed the noun by means of contrastive analysis, it was established that the given language falls into the category of synthetic languages. The evidence for this statement is in the presence of a wide variety of inflectional affixes. Additionally, the word order in a sentence is similar to that of Latin, which, while having free word order, still aims at preserving the sequence of the subject, object, and verb (Devine & Stephens, 2017). In order to define other major language characteristics, it is necessary to dwell upon the verb descriptive analysis.

Verb, as a part of speech, has always been a significant constituent of both language and its syntactical structure. The verb usually helps the recipient estimate some additional information about the action and its agent. For comparison, an English verb as part of a sentence defines the object of the unit, which usually follows the action (Kilby, 2019). However, with different constituents order in the given language, the verb should include more features in order to define the sentence’s subject and object.

In order to take a closer look at this part of the speech, the word speak will be analyzed. To begin with, it is necessary to note the categories verb usually has in a language. According to de Haan, major categories expressed by this part of speech are the ones of tense, aspect, and modality (Song, 2011). Additionally, verbs also tend to present grammatical categories of person, number, and semantic categories of situations and events (Dickey, 2016). Hence, speaking of the word speak, its first-person singular form in the present is rimani, while the same past form is rimarqani. The third-person singular forms are riman and rimarga, respectively. Finally, the third person plural forms in the present and past are rimanku and rimarqaku.

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Based on this data, it may be concluded that while all the forms have the root rima-, the inflections help define the verb’s categories of absolute tense, person, and number. The division of absolute tense implies the moment when the action happened (past, present, or future) in relation to the moment of speaking (Merkibayev, Seisenbayeva, Bekkozhanova, Koblanova, & Alikhankyzy, 2018). Unfortunately, the data provided is not exhaustive to examine the grammatical categories of aspect and modality.

In order to finish the analysis, the issue of alignment in the language should be mentioned. In linguistics, alignment marks the relations between the arguments of the transitive and intransitive verbs (Zúñiga, 2018). Having synthetic characteristics, the given language presents the Nominative-Accusative type of alignment, which is primarily characterized by placing the subject of the sentence in a Nominative case, while the object obtains Accusative or Genitive case.

Considering the investigation, it may be concluded that the language presented for the study is characterized by major features of a synthetic language. Some of the most remarkable characteristics include a wide variety of case marking and inflectional affixes, SOV constituent order in the sentence with Nominative-Accusative type of morphosyntactic alignment. However, in order to define more features of the language, a wider range of empirical data should be provided.

References

AlA’amiri, B. F. K., & Jameel, A. F. (2019). Morphological Typology: A Comparative Study of Some Selected Languages. Journal of College of Education/Wasit, 1(37), 709-724.

Arantzeta, M., Bastiaanse, R., Burchert, F., Wieling, M., Martinez-Zabaleta, M., & Laka, I. (2017). Eye-tracking the effect of word order in sentence comprehension in aphasia: evidence from Basque, a free word order ergative language. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(10), 1320-1343.

Avetisyan, S., Lago, S., & Vasishth, S. (2020). Does case marking affect agreement attraction in comprehension? Journal of Memory and Language, 112, 104087.

Devine, A. M., & Stephens, L. D. (2017). Towards a Syntax-Semantics Interface for Latin. Catalan journal of linguistics, 16, 79-100.

Dickey, S. (2016). Lexical and grammatical aspect. The Routledge Handbook of Semantics, 338-353.

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Fitch, W. T. (2017). Empirical approaches to the study of language evolution. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 24(1), 3-33.

Haspelmath, M., & Michaelis, S. M. (2017). Analytic and synthetic. In Language Variation-European Perspectives VI: Selected papers from the Eighth International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 8), Leipzig, May 2015 (Vol. 19, p. 3). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Kilby, D. (2019). Descriptive syntax and the English verb. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Loukatou, G., Stoll, S., Blasi, D., & Cristia, A. (2018). Modeling infant segmentation of two morphologically diverse languages. In Actes de la conférence Traitement Automatique de la Langue Naturelle, TALN (Vol. 1, pp. 47-57).

Merkibayev, T., Seisenbayeva, Z., Bekkozhanova, G., Koblanova, A., & Alikhankyzy, G. (2018). Oppositions in the conceptual and linguistic category of time. Opción, 34(85-2), 116-148.

Mingazova, N. G., Subich, V. G., & Shangaraeva, L. (2016). The Semantic Morphological Category of Noun Number in Structurally Different Languages. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 11(15), 8387-8402.

Song, J. J. (Ed.). (2011). The Oxford handbook of linguistic typology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Tallerman, M. (2014). Understanding syntax. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Velupillai, V. (2012). An introduction to linguistic typology. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Whaley, L. J. (1996). Introduction to typology: the unity and diversity of language. New York, NY: Sage.

Zúñiga, F. (2018). The diachrony of morphosyntactic alignment. Language and linguistics compass, 12(9), e12300.

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