Archive for September, 2012

Clusters, particles and leaning objects

September 8, 2012

No, this post is not about Higgs boson, it is about more simple objects, called clitics and clitic clusters. The latter require a much more simple mathematical apparatus, since they, as I (following in the footsteps of several noted colleagues), are instantiations of standard mathematical objects called ‘tuples’ in math.

The most exciting thing about clusters of syntactic elements is that they seem to exist in natural languages and their behavior can be predicted on a basis of presumably universal (or at least, general principles). An attempt at doing this is made in my recent paper ‘A unified analysis of clitic clusters in world’s languages’ published in Computational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies, Issue 11 (18), 2012:


Word order systems with clusters are a slightly different story. But apparently predictable, too.

What is relevant that clusterizing elements usually are clause-level, not phrase-level elements, and that clusters almost always appear to be clause-internal, as has been argued by several linguists including myself. I really do not know whether this is an essential property of clause-level clusterizing elements or just an empirical generalization reflecting the incompleteness of our knowledge of world’s languages. I am addressing this issue in my paper ‘Системы порядка слов с клитиками в типологическом аспекте‘ (Word order systems with clitics in a typological aspect’) published in  Вопросы языкознания (Issues in linguistics, No. 4, 2012, p. 3-38.)


Meanwhile, it is important to tackle the problem of cluster hosts, i.e. to define fragment of syntactic structure adjacent (usually immediately preceding) clusters. In a recent talk given at the SLS 7 conference in Lawrence, Kansas (25-27 August, 2012), I argue that some world’s languages, including some well-known Slavic languages have clause-initial sententional clitic hosts (IPs and CPs).


If clusters tend to consist of clitics, what kind of things are clitics then? I am not quite sure: probably some leaning (towards their host) objects as e.g. this slightly tipsy church on the picture below flirting with the gravitation, maybe not. I even do not exclude that clitic clusters and clitics correlate like ganzers and ganzer eggs on the planet Melde: were they related at all? Probably…