The Serial Verb Formation in the Dravidian Languages

Item Code: IDD473
Author: Sanford B. Steever
Language: English
Edition: 1988
ISBN: 8120803787
Pages: 142
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.8" X 6.5"
Weight 410 gm
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Book Description

This book explores the grammar of the Serial Verb Formation in the Dravidian languages to discover how the interaction of morphology and syntax is mediated by the grammatical property of finiteness. The roots of this study lie within two separate fields of linguistic endeavor: generative morphology, and comparative Dravidian syntax. The two of them converge in the single phenomenon of finiteness, a syntactic property that is morphologically interpreted with the help of agreement rules. Finiteness is derived directly from a syntactic relation that holds between certain constructions and their heads, and proves to be an essential ingredient of the Dravidian sentence. It specifically plays a crucial role in the Serial Verb Formation, which actually embraces a set of structures whose existence in Dravidian has not been recognized hitherto. The analysis of these structures therefore promises to east new light on the functions of finiteness in the creation of the sentence and its component parts. Accordingly, we seek to establish the existence of the Serial Verb Formation, to explain its inherent properties in terms of the rules that generate it, and to demonstrate how ingeniously it uses finiteness to co-ordinate morphology and syntax in the Dravidian sentence.

Generative grammar tends to view morphology as something of a poor relation, one who’s claims to legitimacy and the attentions of scholars seem always to give way to those of syntax. Although there has been significant work in generative morphology, its progress still lags far behind the achievements of syntax. Despite the fact that morphology often encodes Information that is syntactic in nature, it cannot readily be reduced to a purely interpretive system. It is an autonomous component of grammar whose constitutive rules obey their own internal logic, and do not necessarily reflect syntactic concepts such as dependency and constituency in any direct way. I suspect that due to the stigma of association with American descriptive linguistics, the study of morphology lost much of its appeal and impetus during the polemical fulminations of generative grammar during the 1960s. What remained of it was partitioned between phonology and syntax. Yet, if morphology and syntax are indeed autonomous components they must interact within the all-encompassing grammatical system of which they are two parts.

Morphology and syntax influence one another most frequently and directly at the level of surface structure. Output constraints, filters, and surface structure formation rules, all of which purport to govern at least in part the well-formedness of surface structures, often include morphological parameters which syntactic rules must obey. A clear example of a morphological constraint on syntax is that one cannot pronounce a form which the lexicon fails to provide with the appropriate morphology. Therefore no syntactic rule may apply to make a word assume a morphology it does not possess. For example, no rule of English may apply so as to place a demonstrative pronoun in a grammatical context that requires the genitive case, e.g. the poss—ing construction, it possessor NP: demonstratives lack a genitive case in English (but not in German or Kannada). Certain English verbs such as allege have only passive morphology, and must undergo Passivization. Tamil Relative Clause Formation may not extract a noun from a relative clause so that it strands a bound postposition (Steever 1981, Chapter VII). No rule of Tamil, such as Clefting (p. 16), may displace an imperative or hortative verb form into a context that requires a non-finite form: these speech-act forms lack non-finite morphology altogether. Although early work on the lexicon (Seuren 1969), the theory of exceptions (Lakoff 1970), and surface structure constraints (Perlmutter 1971) drew attention to the role of morphological constraints on syntax, it has not been vigorously pursued.

Comparative Dravidian syntax displays the opposite bias: while it has made great strides in phonology, morphology, and lexicon, it has neglected syntax since Bloch’s (1946) Structure grammatical des langues dravidiennes. Intense concentration on morphology at the expense of syntax is understandable in the study of these languages. First of all, most Dravidian languages have just two parts of speech: nouns and verbs. Their elaborate inflectional morphology encodes grammatical information which in other languages might well be encoded through syntactic means. Second, the Dravidian languages lack by and large those parts of speech which generative grammarians have so profitably exploited elsewhere in the study of syntax: conjunctions, complementizers, and adverbs. The results of these studies cannot be directly applied to the analysis of Dravidian syntax with- out the risk of severe distortion. Finally, the native grammatical traditions of India concentrate on the analysis of words: they seek, in modern par- lance, to generate well-formed words, not sentences. The pre—generative European grammarians who first undertook the comparative grammar of the Dravidian languages naturally sympathized with this mode of analysis, and tended to ignore syntax.

In the attempt to combine these different concerns, our research begins where Bloch’s stopped: at the threshold between the simple and the complex sentence. As an essential ingredient of the Dravidian sentence, finiteness must be regulated in the composition of simple and complex sentences alike. The distribution of finite predicates in the Dravidian sentence, no matter how internally complex, is severely limited: there can be only one in a sentence, and it must appear in the toot clause (Chapter I). This restriction on the distribution of finite predicates throws the entire burden of forming complex sentences on the non-finite verb forms of the language.

There are several sets of principled exceptions to this rule, which help to circumvent certain problems which the use of non-finite verb forms entails but cannot solve. These exceptions permit the use of multiple finite predicates in the Dravidian sentence, and are introduced one by one in Chapter ll. The Serial Verb Formation is in effect the last in this series of exceptions to the rule that governs the distribution of finite predicates.

The Serial Verb Formation properly includes a set of structures in which two or more finite verb forms co-occur, marking agreement among them- selves. Agreement is used here to delineate the syntactic relation between certain verbal constructions and their heads, and differs markedly from its better-known use to mark the subject-predicate relation in the root clause of the sentence. The general features of the Serial Verb Formation are formulated by means of deduction at the beginning of Chapter Ill. How- ever, since the presence of this set of structures has not been generally re- cognized in Dravidian, the book must justify its existence and confirm the predictions about its structure with the use of empirical evidence. Accordingly, Chapters III-VI introduce relevant examples from fifteen daughter languages, with one chapter dedicated to each of the four primary sub- groups. The Dravidian specialist who doubts the existence of this construction and the general linguist who questions the introduction of so much data may wish to read the first section of Chapter VII first, and then return to the catalogue of forms in the four previous chapters. Chapter VII] con- firms by induction the predictions made by deduction in Chapter III about the grammar of the Serial Verb Formation. Once that is done, the rule that governs the distribution of finite predicates in the Dravidian sentence is re-formulated to accommodate the Serial Verb Formation, and to integrate it into comparative Dravidian syntax.

Some works of comparative grammar may burst forth fully formed from virtual nothingness, but this is not one of them. It is indebted to the work of many scholars in the Fields of general linguistics, Indology, comparative Dravidian grammar, and the individual Dravidian languages. l hope to recognize here all those who have directly contributed to this work through their scholarship and generosity: in Hyderabad: C. Ramarao, Lakshmi Bai, B.Ramakrishna Reddy; in Pune: Peri Bhaskararao, Susie Andres; in Delhi: K. V. Subbarao, Anjani K. Sinha; in Madurai: M. Shanmugam Pillai; in Mysore: D. P. Pattanayak, Francis Ekka, G. Sambasiva Rao, M.B. (Ganesh, Thomas and Mary Fogarty; and outside India: Franklin Southworth, Murray B. Emeneau, and Thomas Burrow. Four scholars should be singled out; K. Paramasivam who guided. My Tamil Studies in Chicago and Madurai, and whose introduction to the concept murreccam set this work in motion; N. Bh. Krishnnmurti whose expertise in comparative Dravidian grammar and personal interest encouraged me to include all of Dravidian in my research; E. Annamalai who, as Acting Director of the Central Institute of Indian LANGUAGE, provided ME with an ideal setting for this research,. And kept my mind alive to the issues of area and theoretical importance which it raises; and Thomas Lehmann who read through the entire manuscript and offered me provocative commentary on all of it.

While these scholars have generously contributed their knowledge to this research, none of them should be held responsible for any of my interpretations of their work or for any errors of commission that might still linger. These ritualistic disclaimers often give the impression that the book is the final word on the subject, and that scholars have nothing else to learn about it. In any exploratory work such as this, such an impression is entirely inappropriate. I have compiled a catalogue of the Serial. Verb Formation, and attempted to analyze the grammatical patterns that obtruded from that catalogue. I expect that others will read different patterns and deduce. Different principles within this catalogue; some of them will go on to discover new empirical evidence and revise the catalogue. This is the first, but surely not the last analysis of the Serial Verb Formation in Dravidian. This book is for the innovators who follow as much as for those who came before.

It is appropriate to remember the institutional support that such a specialized book has received. I wish to acknowledge the assistance of the American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi and Chicago, P. R. Mehendiratta, Executive Director. The Institute is responsible for bringing me to India for three years on three separate occasions. The initial research fort this book was begun during my tenure as a Junior Research Fellow of the Institute during 1979-80, and it was first drafted during my tenure as a Senior Research Fellow during 1984-85. During this last period, I was affiliated with the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore; and am deeply grateful for the support and hospitality extended by E. Annamalai, Acting Director.

About the Book

In the first major study of Dravidian syntax since Bloch's Structure grammaticale des langues dravidiennes (1946), Dr. Steever explores the linguistic structure and development and of the Serial Verb Formation, a family of constructions whose very existence has escaped the notice of earlier Dravidianists. A serial verb is a structure in which two or more finite verb forms enter into construction, marking agreement among themselves. The synchronic and diachronic analyses are based on evidence gathered in a survey of fifteen Dravidian languages. Explicit rules are formulated to describe and explain the basic patterns and variations that emerge from the catalogue of serial verbs. These rules are then integrated into the core of Dravidian grammar: they are incorporated in the principles that govern the use of finite and non-finite predicates in the Dravidian sentence. This book makes original contributions to the syntax of complex sentences, comparative Dravidian grammar, and the study of India as a linguistic area.

About the Author:

An expert in syntactic theory, Tamil grammar, and comparative Dravidian linguistics, Dr. Steever has spent three years of study and research in India. Educated at Cornell University (B.A. 1974), the University of Chicago (M.A. 1979, Ph. D. 1983), and Madurai Kamaraj University (Diploma in Tamil 1978), he has published extensively in Dravidian linguistics. Some recent publications include: The Genesis of Polypersonal Verbs in South Central Dravidian, Selected Papers in Tamil and Dravidian Linguistics, The Evolution of the Present Perfect in Pengo and The Origin of the Past Negative in Konda. He is a member of the Linguistic Society of America, the Oriental Club of Philadelphia, the Dravidian Linguistics Association, and the American Oriental Society.



1. Introduction
2. Finiteness as a Grammatical Property
3. Finiteness and Sentence Structure
4. A Sketch of Dravidian morphology
5. A Sketch of Dravidian syntax
6. Summary
1. Introduction
2. Two Exceptional Verbs
3. Some Exceptional Clitics
4. Summary
1. Introduction
2. Tamil
3. Kota and Toda
4. Kannada
5. Kodagu
6. Summary
1. Telugu
2. Muria Gondi
3. Konda
4. Pengo
5. Kuvi
6. Summary
1. Introduction
2. Parji
3. Kolami
4. Ollari
1. Introduction
2. Kurux
3. Malto
4. Brahui
5. Summary
1. Catalogues, Patterns, and Rules
2. The Historical Development of the SVF
3. Prospects for the Future

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