Ruth Singer, University of Melbourne

Morpheme Meanings and Constructional Meanings – Relevance for Building GOLD

The current focus of the EMELD project is on the inter-comparability of data categories. The similarities between linguistic concepts used in diverse language documentation projects can be made explicit through a linguistic ontology. GOLD takes interlinear glosses as a starting point and is being built up mainly by the addition of semantic concepts.

Interlinear glossing is the product of a compromise between what a linguist analysing a language knows and is able to present within a very limited visual format. Certain phenomena are commonly omitted from interlinear glosses. In particular, those semantic concepts which are not uniquely expressed by a single morpheme but through an entire construction. As an example I wish to look at the Inclusory Construction, a type of nominal coordination construction which has not been recorded as having a unique grammatical marker in any language, so is never indicated in an interlinear gloss.

The Inclusory Construction involves a unique semantic relation which will be referred to here as 'inclusory', which is similar to a part-whole relation. The Inclusory Construction is globally common. It is found in most large-scale linguistic areas and is extremely common in some groups such as Austronesian languages and Australian languages (Schwartz 1985). In many languages the construction involves the use of a particular grammatical marker. What is interesting about the use of markers in the Inclusory Construction is that the construction always involves the use of a grammatical marker which is also used to mark a different semantic relation in another construction. In other words, no unique marker is ever found of the Inclusory Construction. Consequently, the inclusory construction is never indicated in an interlinear gloss.

Current efforts at building up GOLD involve the expansion of the types of semantic relations included. Semantic relations such as the inclusory relation, which lack unique morphological expression could be overlooked if interlinear glosses alone are used as a basis for finding new semantic relations to input to GOLD. Important grammatical meanings reside in constructions as well as morphemes. Thus grammatical constructions should be seen as an important area to survey for new semantic relations for GOLD.

Schwartz, L. (1985). Plural pronouns, coordination and inclusion. Minnesota papers in        linguistics and philosophy of language 10: 152-84.