Category Archives: Paul Kroeger

Naylor’s Argument That Tagalog Lacks A Subject

The most persuasive and clearest argument I’ve found for the claim that Tagalog lacks a subject is Paz Buenaventura Naylor’s in her contribution to SUBJECT, VOICE AND ERGATIVITY (ed. Bennett, Bynon, Hewitt).  The majority so far of the posts in this blog have been attempts to wrap my head around this argument and to state the argument in my own words; I am placing this set of arguments in the category ‘Wrapping My Mind Around The Argument That Tagalog Lacks A Subject.’ In trying to gain a maximal grasp on this argument, I’ve learned a tiny bit of linguistics; but any illusion I may have produced (not likely anyway) of having any authoritative voice at all on the subject is just that, an illusion.  I am writing to learn, not to force-feed the world from my <this is meant ironically>vast store of knowledge</this is meant ironically>.

What follows is Naylor’s argument in a nutshell.  Further posts will be going into the details and articulating some disagreements.  I reserve the right to go back to her article and find out I have horribly misrepresented her position.

1)  A verb is a relation whose relata are (in the case of 2-place relations) subject and direct object and (in the case of 3-place relations) subject, direct object, and indirect object.  Conversely, a subject and object (direct and indirect) are always relata in a verb.

2)  Tagalog doesn’t have verbs.  What look like verbs are really something else:  They are names of actions rather than syntactical verbs.  We know that Tagalog doesn’t have verbs because ‘ng‘ is always a genitive.

3)  Since Tagalog doesn’t have verbs, and since subjects and objects are relata of those relations that are verbs, Tagalog does not have subjects.  (Neither does it have objects, direct or indirect.)

4)  This should be enough to show that Tagalog does not have a subject, but one can’t resist pounding in an additional nail in the coffin by pointing out the claims about syntax made by linguists such as Paul Kroeger are just wrong.

Many of my further posts in the blog will be elaborations on and criticisms of the above outline of an argument.