``Finite'' and ``nonfinite'' from a typological perspective

Autor(en): Maas, U
Stichwörter: Language & Linguistics; Linguistics
Erscheinungsdatum: 2004
Volumen: 42
Ausgabe: 2
Startseite: 359
Seitenende: 385
The differentiation between finite and nonfinite forms is among the most complex domains of grammatical description. This is probably the reason why this category plays only a marginal role in typology. Clarification is further handicapped by the tradition of school grammar, which simply copies its categories from specific languages. In order not to be trapped by this tradition, a distinction between semantic and morphological finiteness is proposed, one which makes it possible to clarify notoriously complex cases as, for example, movable predicate affixes in Amerindian and Munda languages, the `finite infinitive'' in Portuguese, etc. Two areas are investigated: complex predicate formation, where auxiliary formation is distinguished from multiple finite coverbal modification; and complex sentence formation with degrees of finiteness in secondary predicates (masdar, participial and converbal constructions). The problem is placed at the intersection of several quite fundamental questions of grammatical theory: the definition of the word as an independent level of description, word classes (noun-verb distinction), sentence patterns (nominal vs. verbal sentences), etc. These topics can only be touched upon so as to isolate the question of finiteness. As these questions are highly theory-bound, the argumentation in the article is informal, not committed to a special grammatical framework.
Meeting of the Deutsche-Gesellschaft-fur-Sprachwissenschaft, Marburg, GERMANY, MAR 01, 2000
ISSN: 00243949
DOI: 10.1515/ling.2004.012

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