Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 29, 2018

Transparent and non-transparent languages

Kees Hengeveld and Sterre Leufkens
From the journal Folia Linguistica

Abstract

Languages differ widely from one another in the extent to which they are transparent, i.e. obey one-to-one relationships between meaning and form. Transparency, in turn, is an important factor in the learnability of languages. This paper first sets out a framework for the study of transparency and subsequently studies cross-linguistic differences in transparency, using the theory of Functional Discourse Grammar as its point of departure. Transparent and non-transparent features of languages are systematically defined using the multi-level architecture of this model of language, representing them as mappings between and within levels. In applying this framework to a sample of 30 languages it is shown that the (non-)transparent features investigated can be ordered into an implicational transparency hierarchy, and that as a result the languages of the sample can be ranked in terms of their degrees of transparency as well. Finally, the consequences of these findings for the learnability of languages are discussed.

Acknowledgements

We are greatly indebted to Enoch Aboh, Jenny Audring, Eva van Lier, J. Lachlan Mackenzie, Roland Pfau, the members of the Amsterdam FDG Colloquium, and our anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this paper. We thank Afra Klarenbeek and Luisa Seguin for their help in collecting part of the data.

Abbreviations

1

first person;

2

second person;

3

third person;

I

gender I;

II

gender II;

III

gender III;

a

actor;

abs

absolutive;

anim

animate;

aux

auxiliary;

com

comitative;

comm

common gender;

comp

complementizer;

contr

contrast;

dat

dative;

def

definite;

dem

demonstrative;

erg

ergative;

f

feminine;

fin

finite;

fut

future;

imp

imperative;

inan

inanimate;

inch

inchoative;

ind

indicative;

indef

indefinite;

inf

infinitive;

lnk

linker;

lv

locative version;

loc

locative;

m

masculine;

neg

negation;

neut

neuter gender;

nh

non-human;

nmlz

nominalization;

nom

nominative;

nonsubj

non-subject;

pf

perfective;

pl

plural;

pol

polite;

poss

possessive;

prs

present;

pst

past;

purp

purposive;

q

question;

rem

remote;

res

resultative;

sg

singular;

u

undergoer

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Received: 2017-8-13
Revised: 2017-3-2
Revised: 2017-9-21
Accepted: 2017-11-17
Published Online: 2018-3-29
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

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