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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Dative

The dative, or indirect object, is one of the four core cases - those cases that are almost universal in languages that have case - along with nominative/absolutive, accusative/ergative, and the genitive.

While the details vary by language, the general concept for the dative is a goal or direction of an action (especially with regard to transfer or movement), or the one perceiving an action. In the study of grammatical role, the dative roughly corresponds to the role of goal (although it may have additional uses in a given language). While English has pretty much lost its case system, the logical dative remains, usually expressed with the prepositions 'to' or 'for'.

Some examples of the various uses in several languages from Wikipedia and other sources (note that I'm mainly covering the most common uses, not ones that are specific to certain languages):

Goal of Transfer:
Latin: "Regina puellae pecuniam dat" ("The queen gives money to the girl")
Japanese: "Kodomo ni yaru" ("Give to the child")

Goal of Movement:
Japanese: "Ano hito wa gakkou ni haitta" ("That man has gone to the school")

Goal of Intent or Benefit
Latin: "Auxilio vocare" ("I call for help")
Latin: "Puellae ornamento est" ("It is for the girl's decoration")
Latin: Graecis agros colere ("To till fields for the Greeks")
Greek: "τῷ βασιλεῖ μάχομαι" ("I fight for the king")
Greek: "πᾶς ἀνὴρ αὑτῷ πονεῖ" ("Every man toils for himself")

Goal of Experience:
Latin: "Vir bonus mihi videtur' 'the man seems good to me"
Latin: "Quid mihi Celsus agit?" ("What is Celsus doing [that I am interested in]?")

One of the more peculiar uses (at least for English speakers, as I don't think English has anything like it), is the dative of possession. This renders phrases of possession as phrases of existence with the possessor in the dative. The logical basis of this usage is that in terms of grammatical role, in phrases of possession the possessor is technically classified as the goal.

Some examples:
Latin: "Angelis alae sunt" (literally "For angels there are wings"; freely "Angels have wings")
Greek: "ἄλλοις μὲν γὰρ χρήματα ἐστι πολλὰ καὶ ἵπποι, ἡμῖν δὲ ξύμμαχοι ἀγαθοί" (literally "For others there is a lot of money and ships and horses, but for us there are good allies")
Japanese: "Watashi ni tsuno ga nai" (literally "For me there aren't horns")
Tsez: "Кидбехъор кIетIу зовси" (literally "For the girl there was a cat")

Monday, May 25, 2009

Random Fact of the Day

I just learned that some lizards (e.g. Gila Monsters, Komodo Dragons) are venomous.
MRI scans of a preserved skull showed the presence of two poison glands in the lower jaw. They extracted one of these glands from the head of a terminally ill specimen in the Singapore Zoological Gardens, and found that it secreted a venom containing several different toxic proteins. The known functions of these proteins include inhibition of blood clotting, lowering of blood pressure, muscle paralysis, and the induction of hypothermia, leading to shock and loss of consciousness in envenomated prey.
I'd always heard what had been previously believed - that they merely had toxic bacteria in their mouths that was transferred in bites.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Basic Word Order

Obviously, English typically has has the word order subject-verb[-(direct) object] (or SVO, for short). This can be altered in specific situations due to WH-movement (e.g. OSV in "What would you like?") and other structures, but SVO is the normal word order.

However, this isn't the only possible word order. Basic combination math tells us that there are six possible orders: SVO, SOV (e.g. Japanese, Korean, Latin, and Proto-Indo-European), VSO (e.g. Hebrew, Trique, and Caia), VOS, OSV, OVS; these are, however, not all equally likely.

Two rules have been developed which govern the prominence of different word orders. First, there's a tendency for the subject to precede the (direct) object. This is known as subject salience. There have been various theories on the exact reason for this; the general idea is that it's more natural for the subject to precede the object because they subject is typically the source of an action, and thus precedes the object in both cause and effect and chronological order.

The other is that there is a tendency for the object to sit next to the verb (on either side). Linguistics thus far has developed the notion that the object and the verb logically form a structure called the predicate, which stands apart from the subject (i.e. a clause is typically defined as a subject + a predicate). I haven't investigated the full depth of why this has been decided, so I couldn't really give more detail than that (though it's noteworthy that this idea is consistent with my hypothesis that language began as commands - the command forms the predicate, and the subject was added in later).

Thus, we have four classes of word order: those that meet both conditions, those that meet one or the other, and those that meet neither. In agreement with theory, SVO and SOV are by far the most common among languages, at 42% and 45%, respectively. On the distant second tier is VSO, which places the subject between verb and object, occurring with 9% frequency. On the again distant third tier are VOS, and OVS, each placing the object before the subject; these occur with 3% and 1% frequency, respectively. At the bottom is OSV, which violates both rules, and was not seen in any language in this survey of 402 languages.

Clearly the subject salience rule dominates in significance, as orders where object precedes subject are very rare (3% or less); although it's also true that languages where the object is not next to the verb are uncommon (9% or less).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

& Spring 2009 Anime Music

I've been meaning to write a post about the anime series I'm watching this season (though some I still haven't decided if I'm gonna watch all of yet), but thus far (up to and including now) I've been too lazy to actually do it.

Instead, I'll do something that's substantially less work for me: post some of the theme songs of series I'm watching with (very) brief comments.

The Asura Cryin' ending theme is really the one that made me decide to do this post. Which is to say I'm fond of it.

The music within the series also didn't seem too bad. I haven't heard enough to decide whether I think it's good, it's certainly superior to the typical mediocre anime music.

The opening isn't as good as the ending, but not bad, especially the first 20 seconds or so.

As I watched the Pandora Hearts opening theme, the short violin segment reminded me of Yuki Kajiura, one of my favorite composers, who is known especially for very pretty violin pieces. A quick look on Anime News Network confirmed that the series was indeed done by her. I wouldn't say the opening is her best work, but it's certainly not bad.

So that should mean the music for the series will be pretty good.

The ending isn't as good as the opening, but from a quick glance at the credits I don't think it was done by her (it's fairly common for the openings and/or endings to be done by different composers than the series music - often real bands). It also isn't bad.

K-ON! is a quirky series. It's amusing, but excessively cute. From what I've seen so far, the music is very mediocre, though the opening and ending aren't quite so much, though for different reasons.

About all I have to say about that is that I don't think I'll be listening to that opening apart from showing it to people with hangovers.

The ending is similarly loud, but substantially better; palatable, and even a bit catchy. I do really like the animation that goes along with the ending theme - parts of it are quite artistic, and look very sharp (such as the black and white ensemble).