LING6021 Language Types and Universals

  Lecture 6: head-marking and dependent-marking grammar

1.  Heads and dependent elements

                                               NP                         VP
                                             /       \                     /      \
                                           NP                    V       NP
                                        John's house             see    John

           Heads of phrase:               Noun           Verb

          Dependent element:    Possessor           Object
         Grammatical relation:  Possession          Transitivity

1.1 Dependent-marked and head-marked possession

              German                    Hungarian
    (dependent-marking)       (head-marking)

                 NP                           NP
               /      \                        /       \
            NP      N                  NP      N
        Peters     Haus           Janos   ház-a
       Peter-GEN house        John house-3sg
        “Peter’s house”          “John’s house”

 Double-marking of possession

             German                            Hungarian
                 NP                                    NP
               /      \                                /         \
            NP       N'                       NP            N
                        /     \                                   /      \
                      Det    N                             Det    N
Dem Wolfgang sein Lied        János-nak a lakás-a
the-DAT Wofgang his song      John-DAT the flat-3sg
 “Wolfgang’s song”                 “John’s flat”

Neutral marking: e.g. Possessive linker

       Tagalog:  nasa mesa ng libro      OR     libro  ng  nasa mesa
                     on table LINK book              book LINK on table

Absent marking: no overt marker of the grammatical  relation

Malay: rumah saya        Mauritian Creole:  lakaz Pierre
           house  me                                     house Peter
          "my house"                                  "Peter's house"

Cantonese: ngo ukkei
                   I   home
                 "my home"

1.2 Dependent-marked and head-marked clauses: case marking vs. agreement

             German                                    Swahili
(case: dependent-marking)     (object agreement: head-marking)
                  VP                                         VP
                 /      \                                    /         \
               V      NP                              V         NP
            sehe  den Mann             ni-li-ki-soma   ki-tabu
           see-1sg the man-ACC   I-PAST-O7-read 7-book
           “(I) see the man”            “I read the book”

Hungarian: double-marking (case marking + subject/object agreement)

            /       \
         V         NP
         /          /___\
   látom      az   embert
see-1sg-OBJ the man-ACC
  “(I) see the man”

Mandarin:   absent marking

                ta zhao ni
                 s/he seek you
               "She's looking for you"

1.3. Dependent-marking vs. head-marking in adpositional phrases (PPs)

P as head of PP, NP as dependent of P

             /       \
         P           NP
       for           me

           German:                                   Hungarian
(case: dependent-marking)     (agreement: head-marking)

          mit dir                                       vel-ed
          with you.Dat                             with-2sg
         "with  you"                                "with you"

        neben mir                                  mögött-em
       beside me.Dat                           behind-1sg
       "next to me"                             "behind me"

2.. Head-marking and dependent-marking as language types

    Tzutujil (Mayan, Aissen 1992): person agreement in PP

    “because of him/her/it”

    Person agreement on verb with ergative NP:

   Ja     k'a     rme'al       x-u-koj          pa   xasjoj  xin Tukun
   the PRT his.daughter Asp-Erg3-enter in dance  of  Tecun
  “He entered his daughter in the dance of Tecun”

Head/dependent-marking and word order

Nichols (1986): Verb-initial word order correlates with head-marking, e.g. in Mayan languages: head-marking Verb-initial languages (VSO and/or VOS) with verb agreement but no case

Harris (1978), Matthews (1988): Verb-initial structures with verb agreement in colloquial French

                                           V       S       O             V      O     S
Declaratives:                    Je l'aime  moi Marie  /  Je l'aime Marie moi
                                       1sg-Obj-love I Mary      1sg-Obj-love Mary I
                                       "I love Mary"               "I love Mary"

Interrogatives:                    V      S                                   V     S      O
                                    Il est là Paul?                  Tu  l' as  vu  toi  mon  frère?
                                   3sg-is there Paul                2sg-3sg-have seen you my brother
                                   "Is Paul there?"                 "Have you seen my brother?"

Development of head-marking grammar in Romance languages: object pronouns > clitics > agreement prefixes

               French                                          Hungarian
        Je  l' ai  pas  vu  Pierre                      Nem   lát-tam   Janóst
        I-him-have-not-seen Peter                 not saw-1sg-Obj John-ACC
       "I haven't seen Peter."                      "I haven't seen John."

3. Synthetic structures and isolating languages

"Languages of the isolating type will be left out of the discussion entirely,-- although their 'grammatical words', 'function words', 'empty words' etc. presumably also exhibit head-marking and dependent-marking tendencies."  (Nichols 1986: 59).

Cantonese:  ngo5 ge3 man6tai4
                   I   POSS problem
                 “my problem”

Mexican Spanish:   Su casa de Juan
                             his house of John
                            “John’s house”

Afrikaans:  die boer se huis
                 the farmer his house
                “the farmer’s house”


 Nichols on subordination (p. 64):

  dependent-marked:  [ Since I was tired], I overslept (subordinate clause as “dependent”)
  head-marked:   I was tired, [so I overslept]

Conditionals (Chen 2003)

dependent-marked:   If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to

head-marked:   [Lei5 m4 soeng2 heoi3] [zau6 msai2]
    you  not  wish    go      then  no-need

double-marked:  [Jyu4gwo2 lei5 m4 soeng2 heoi3] [zau6 msai2]
        if       you    not  wish    go       then  no-need

Aissen, Judith. 1992. Topic and focus in Mayan. Language 68, 43-80.
Chen, Ee San. 2003. Language convergence and bilingual acquisition: the case of conditional constructions. Annual Review of Language Acquisition.3, 89-137.
Harris, Martin. 1978. The Evolution of French Syntax. London: Longman.
Matthews, Stephen. 1988. French in flux: typological shift and sociolinguistic variation. In J. Alatis (ed), Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics, 188-203.
Nichols, Johanna. 1986. Head-marking and dependent-marking grammar. Language 62, 56-119.
Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Language Diversity in Time and Space. Chicago University Press.