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What are the differences between finite and nonfinite complement clause? Typologically speaking, what are the criteria I could use to distinguish one from the other two?

While I am not really asking for an analysis of a particular example (rather for criteria in general), here's an example to fuel discussion:

1sg-know Joao-GEN mandioca-ACC eat-NMZ-3POSS 'I know (that) Joao eats mandioca' (lit. 'I know of Joao's mandioca eating.')

  • I'm not familiar with the terms full-finite and partially-finite. Which model of syntax/grammar are you using? – curiousdannii Jul 7 '14 at 9:44
  • OK, let's just stick with finite and nonfinite. – Teusz Jul 7 '14 at 10:08
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    For starts, long before we start assigning names to verbal forms, what language is the example in? – jlawler Jul 7 '14 at 19:40
  • Undescribed agglutinative Amazonian isolate. – Teusz Jul 7 '14 at 20:30
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    Finite clauses have subjects; non-finite clauses do not. (I owe this way of distinguishing the two to Stan Starosta.) – Greg Lee Feb 15 '17 at 6:08
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Though of course more language-specific information is needed, general criteria do exist. The finiteness of a clause is basically how non-nominalised it is (Givón, 2001), and, as is well known, the 'nouniness' of a constituent is gradient rather than absolute (Ross, 1973). Thus, the finiteness of the clause can be described as how few NP-like features it has.

Givón (2001) lists the following criteria. Clauses which satisfy a lot of these are less finite (closer to the prototypical NP), whereas clauses satisfying most of these are the most finite:

a. The verb becomes a head noun
b. The verb takes nominalising morphology
c. Tense-aspect-mood distinctions are lost
d. Pronominal agreement is lost
e. Either the subject or the object acquires nominative case
f. Determiners are added
g. Adverbs become adjectives

Sources:

Givón, T. (2001). Syntax: an introduction (Vol. 2). John Benjamins Publishing.

Ross, John R. (1973), 'Nouniness', in O. Fujimura (ed.), Three Dimensions of Linguistic Theory (Tokyo: TEC Company, Ltd.), 137-258.

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  • @OP, hope you don't mind my late answer. You've probably figured it out long before :P – WavesWashSands Feb 14 '17 at 17:14

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