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Three broad features of modification constructions are the modification--reference continuum, word order of modifiers and head, and anaphoric-head constructions. Nominal modifiers may perform an anchoring function, establishing a referent that helps to pick out the head referent; or they may perform a typifying function, subcategorizing the head referent not unlike prototoypical modifiers. The constructions used for nominal modification vary correspondingly. Numeral and mensural constructions also differ along the modification--reference continuum, albeit with a reversal of head and modifier. Asymmetries in modifier--noun word order obey a number of implicational universals, and also provide evidence that prenominal modifiers are more tightly integrated into the referring phrase than postnominal modifiers. Anaphoric-head modifiers lack a common noun head, and employ either pronominal head or ‘headless’ strategies. Modification constructions may arise diachronically when an anaphoric-head construction comes to be juxtaposed to a common noun and then integrated into a single referring phrase.
The skeletal structure of a sentence is defined by the propositional acts of reference, predication, and modification. Reference is carried out by a referring phrase. The prototypical head of a referring phrase denotes an object; this is a noun. Modifiers are dependents of a noun that form attributive phrases. The prototypical head of an attributive phrase denotes a property; this is an adjective. A clause predicates something of a referent or referents. The prototypical head of a clause denotes an action; this is a verb. Reference, modification, and predication of nonprototypical concepts is possible, and often expressed by distinct constructions. Three principles govern how combinations of information packaging and semantic content are expressed: any concept can be packaged in any way; some ways are more ‘natural’ than others; and how they are packaged is constrained by conventions of the speech community. Nonprototypical constructions often share properties of ‘neighboring’ prototypical constructions. They often differ by having additional forms coding the nonprototypical function, and/or by a lesser potential for expressing associated grammatical categories (e.g., inflections).
Modifiers come in a wide range of semantic types. The prototypical modifiers, property concepts, sort the referents of the noun category into subcategories. Numerals, quantifiers, set-member modifiers (‘next,’ ‘last,’ ordinals), and mensural terms function to select an individual, a set of individuals, or an amount of a nonindividuated object. Nominal modifiers use another referent to situate the head referent, most commonly via relations of possession or location. Modification constructions use a variety of strategies to express the modifier--head referent relation, strategies that are used in many other relations within a construction. Simple strategies do not use any other morphemes to encode the relation, and include juxtaposition and compounding. Relational strategies encode the semantic relation between modifier and referent (more generally, dependent and head), and include adpositions and case affixes. Indexical strategies index a referent, either the head referent or the nominal dependent referent, and include most classifiers. The sources of these strategies are constructions with pronouns, nouns, or verbs; and the strategies may evolve into a linker.
Complex sentences stand at the edge of discourse: they represent conventionalized forms of discourse cohesion. Coordination and adverbial subordination express the same types of semantic relations between events. Coordination packages the related events in a symmetrical, complex figure construal; adverbial subordination packages them in an asymmetrical, figure--ground construal between a matrix clause and a dependent clause. Referents and other concepts may be coordinated as well. Both coordination and adverbial subordination share the same strategies. Both may use conjunctions to express the relation between events, although the semantic categories expressed by coordinating conjunctions differ from those expressed by adverbializers. Both may use either a balanced or deranked strategy for the form of the predicates expressing the events. Crosslinguistically, one can distinguish two types of deranked predicate forms: converbs (for adverbial subordination) and action nominals. Conjunctions typically originate from discourse markers. Deranked coordination appears to originate in deranked subordination; in some languages, both are expressed identically.
Many stretches of discourse typically consist of a sequence of distinct events; but many referents recur across events. The tracking of referents contributes to discourse cohesion but is also an element of complex sentence constructions. The most likely (but not necessarily the only) referents to be tracked are the subject referents of the clauses in a complex sentence construction. Hence, the primary distinction in reference tracking constructions is between same-subject (SS) and different-subject (DS) constructions. Balanced constructions may use the standard discourse reference strategy (Chapter 3), or the SS strategy may use a zero subject strategy not used for general discourse reference (conditional discourse reference). Reference tracking constructions may be distinguished such that the SS construction is deranked and the DS construction is balanced (conditional deranking), or both SS and DS constructions are deranked (absolute deranking). If both SS and DS constructions are deranked, but systematically differentiated, then the absolute deranking system is a switch-reference system.
Predicates may be simple or complex. A broad view of complex predicates is taken here, including the expression of tense, aspect, modality and polarity (TAMP) as well as stative concepts combined with event concepts (see chapter 14). Complex predicates are not as syntactically cohesive as referring phrases. Complex predicates have a variety of diachronic sources, although they tend to converge on a common set of complex predicate strategies. Eventive complex predicates involve the packaging together of two eventive concepts as a single predicate, although one concept may also grammaticalize into the TAMP category(ies) for the other event concept (= auxiliary construction), or into a form expressing a participant role (= flag). Strategies include one in which both concepts are expressed in a verblike form (serial verb constructions) or where one concept is in a nonverbal form (deranked; see chapters 14-15) including a nounlike construction (support verb constructions). Finally, a related type to the latter strategy is the semantic development of a verb-argument complex predicate, where the argument originally expressed an object concept.
Peripheral participants in an event may be construed as more salient in certain situations, and hence expressed by core argument phrases. In causative events, an external cause participant brings about the event, and is generally expressed as the subject (a more core participant). Causative constructions vary as to how the other central participant(s) is/are expressed, similar to the strategies found with transfer events described in Chapter 7. In events expressed by applicative constructions, a peripheral participant that is not an external cause is construed as more salient, and expressed as the object (a less core participant). If there is a third participant that is prototypically expressed as object, it may be encoded as object or as an oblique, if it is expressed at all. Applicative constructions may differ depending on the role of the participant expressed as object. Applicative constructions may also have the same form as causative constructions in a language. Finally, there appears to be a hierarchy of nonbasic voice constructions with respect to whether the verb is zero coded or overtly coded.
Clauses may represent one of three types of information packaging. The most common is topic--comment (referent--predication) packaging, assumed in Chapters 6–9. The topic may be the most central participant (the ‘subject’; see Chapter 6), or there may be multiple participants high in topicality. A variety of strategies is used when the most topical participant is not the most central one, or is not a participant at all. Thetic packaging does not divide a clause into topic and comment. Thetic packaging is associated with certain situation types (including weather), and discourse functions such as presentation and background description. Identificational packaging divides the information into a focus and a presupposed open proposition (POP). A number of contexts are typically construed as identificational, including questions and answers and different types of contrast. Thetic and identificational strategies include distinct prosody and word order, and/or distinct morphosyntax. Most thetic strategies involve making the subject argument phrase look less like a subject, and/or making the predicate look less like a predicate. Identificational strategies include clefts and ellipsis.