tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Nov 24 20:39:37 2009

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Re: pu'jIn

Christopher Doty (

> The cat [(that) the dog [(that) the cow kicked] bit] meowed.

The problem here, as I see it, is that you can't have a relative
clause inside a relative clause...  But that's just a description, not
an explanation why...

> ...and it just sounds like a string of words, with no discernible meaning.  "Word salad."
> It's not a limitation of grammar, it seems to be more a cognitive limitation.

This could be a cognitive limitation, I suppose, but I wonder if it
has more to do with the fact that languages tend to emphasize initial
or final position, and a sentence like the above puts stuff in the
middle that should be peripheral?  Although this is, in and of itself,
a cognitive issue, so...

There are lots of languages that have stuff like this that ends up
looking like word salad when translated, but is fine in the respective
language: "take chopstick eat noodle" is Chinese for "Pick up the
chopsticks and eat the noodles." And some African (and other?)
languages do a same-object construction that always strikes me as
strange: "fish buy skin bone cook oil" for "Buy a fish, skin it, bone
it, and then cook it in oil."

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