Topicalization

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14.1 Topics

The topic of a sentence refers to what the sentence is about, which is not always necessarily the subject. In conversation, one topic may be used over many sentences, or just one. All languages have some way of marking the topic, often by fronting it to the beginning of the clause. Novegradian, on the other hand, has developed a distinct topic marker, то to, which was originally a demonstrative. This older usage can be seen reflected in the formation of the subordinating conjunction то-це tó-ce. As a clitic, it may attach itself to any noun or pronoun, although never to any other parts of speech 1 . A topicalized noun will generally (although not necessarily) move toward the front of the clause as well, dragging prepositions and some adverbs along with it. The definite form of adjectives used with topicalized nouns derives from the Proto-Slavic anaphoric pronoun *-j-, which was also the source of the oblique forms of the third-person pronouns.

Topic marking is used frequently in Novegradian writing and discourse, but has been largely ignored in examples thus far because it means very little without context. Longer texts or transcripts of conversations are necessary to adequately demonstrate its usage. For this reason, in Section 14.5 at the end of this chapter there is a transcript of a brief conversation as well as an example of topicalization in formal writing.

14.2 Marking the Topic

The topic marker is attached to the end of the fully-declined noun, separated in writing with a hyphen. It undergoes a sort of vowel harmony where the vowel of the marker changes according to the last vowel of the word it was attached to.

In the nominative and inanimate accusative cases, there are six such forms. -от, with a metathesized vowel, is used after nouns ending in a consonant. -та is used after any singular noun ending in /a/, regardless of gender. -те is used after a noun ending in /e/. The plain -то is used in all other singular situations (neuter nouns in /o/, nouns in /i/, etc). -ти is used after all nominative/accusative plural nouns ending in either /i/ or /e/ and -та after all plural nouns ending in /a/.

In the oblique cases as well as the animate accusative, all of these forms collapse into just two. -те is used whenever the previous word ends in a front vowel /æ e i/ and -то when it ends in a back vowel /a o u ɨ/ or consonant.

For pronouns, the rules are slightly different. A combination of phonological rules (first and second persons) and natural gender (third person) comes in play. First and second person pronouns in any case have only two forms, -то after forms ending a vowel and -от after forms ending in a consonant: яс-от ias-ót “I.nom”, мене-то mené-to “I.acc”. In the third person, -то is used for all masculine, neuter, dual, and plural pronouns regardless of case, and -та is used for all feminine pronouns: она-та oná-ta “she.nom”, ѣ-та iě́-ta “she.acc”.

The same set of rules used with the third person (-та for feminine, -то for all others) apply to other pronouns such as ше, вехе, едене, and others that display gender. Interrogative pronouns all take -от, and almost always appear in their ‘emphatic’ forms with the suffix -ж: цоиж-от cojiź-ót “what...?”

1 Мариѣ-то овидѣле яс вецераш. Не со тѣм говориле ож многе астоу!
Maríjě-to ovíděle iás véceraś. Ne so tě́m govoríle oź mnóge ástou!
Maríja-acc-top see.pf-past-masc I.nom yesterday. neg with top.datins.sg speak-past-masc already many year-part.pl
“I saw Maríja yesterday. I haven’t spoken with her in years!”
2 Хоиж-от ко нама пришле цетуерге?
Hojiź-ót ko náma priślé cetuérge?
who-emph-top toward we.datins.dl arrive.pf-past-masc Thursday-acc.sg?
“Who came to our place on Thursday?”

Adjectives modifying a topicalized noun directly must appear in their definite forms. Across a copula this is optional, although increasingly uncommon.

3 Яс цервеное вино-то лублун векье неж бѣлое. Болше вокусе ест.
Iás cervénoie vinó-to lublún vékje neź bě́loie. Bólśe vókuse iést.
I.nom red-acc.sg.neut.def wine-acc.sg-top love-1sg more than white-acc.sg.neut.def. Big.comp-nom.sg.masc taste-nom.sg be.3sg
“I prefer red wine to white. It has a stronger flavor.”

If a compound nominal phrase is meant to be topicalized, the topical marker only attaches to the first word, though nevertheless applies to the whole phrase.

4 Дрожгьие-ти со томлам неслиғание простанакьѣш войнѣ останауловати стан грамадѣ несношимом, шилат розгоркости о них.
Dróźgjie-ti so tomlám nesliğánije prostanákjěś voině́ ostanaulováti stán gramádě nesnóśimom, śílat rozgórkosti o níh.
horror-nom.pl-top with misery-datins.pl unheard_of-nom.pl.def continue-act.impf.ptcp-gen.sg.fem-mid war-gen.sg leave-3pl position-acc.sg masses-gen.sg unbearable-datins.sg.masc, reinforce-3pl bitterness-acc.sg at n-they.gen
“The unprecedented horrors and miseries of the protracted war are making the people’s position unbearable and increasing their anger.”

14.3 Referencing the Topic

Generally once a topic has been introduced and no new topic has yet taken its place, it does not need to be mentioned and can simply be dropped, whether it be the subject, object, or an oblique case, although the latter two are much less frequent than the first. The sole required exception is when the topic is supposed to be the object of a preposition, in which case the preposition cannot be left stranded. In such cases, some pronoun must be left behind in place of the dropped object. If third person, a declined form of то is often used.

If a noun is repeated in full for emphasis after it has been introduced, the topic marker often remains attached in these subsequent occurances. However, if a pronoun representing the topic is repeated, the marker is rarely seen again.

14.4 Changing the Topic

The introduction of a new noun with the topic marker serves to replace the previous one with the new one from that point onward. A new noun bearing the topic marker appearing in a sentence also using the previous topic will appear toward the end of the clause, rather than the beginning, to avoid confusion. For example, in a discussion about Еване, a transition sentence may appear as И задѣм покренале новий воз-от “And then he bought that new car”), where the topic remains unchanged until the end of the sentence. Alternatively, the noun “car” could remain unmarked until the following sentence.

14.5 Examples

The following two examples consist of longer texts that allow topics to appear, be referenced, and be changed over the course of the prose. Due to the length of these samples, the glossing will be displayed in an interlinear format. The first line is the original Cyrillic, the second a transliteration, and the third an abbreviated gloss which shows far less information than the glosses used so far. Afterwards is a prose English translation.

14.5.1 A Conversation

A)
Таша-та!
Táśa-ta!
Táśa-top
Страво!
Strávo!
hello
Тебе
Tebé
you.acc
не
ne
neg
видѣле
viděle
see-past
довѣ
dově
two
шемицѣ.
śémicě.
weeks
Како
Káko
how
живеш?
źivéś?
live-2sg
B)
Добрѣ
Dóbrě
well
живун,
źivún,
live-1sg
Марке.
Márke.
Márke
Дави
Dávi
just
приледѣла
priledě́la
arrive-past
зев
zev
from
Идалин
Idálin
Italy-gen
A)
Ах,
Áh,
oh
да,
dá,
yes
праудаже.
práudaźe.
of course
Како
Káko
how
буиле
buíle
be-past
поезде-те?
póiezde-te?
trip-top
B)
Ой,
Ói,
oh
велем
vélem
very
красно
krásno
beautiful
буило
buílo
be-past
нав
nav
on
Идали-те.
Idalí-te.
Italy-loc-top
Тако
Táko
so
многе
mnóge
much
исторёк
istoriók
history-part
ест!
iést!
be.3sg
Тамо
Támo
there
гради
grádi
cities
старовѣгови,
starověgóvi,
ancient
прѣкрасна
prěkrásna
most beautiful
куљтура
kułtúra
culture
и
i
and
ѣда
iědá
food
вокуснейша.
vokusnéiśa.
tasty-comp
Егье
Iegjé
more
тибѣ
tibě́
you.datins
роскағьун
roskağjún
tell-1sg
спорой.
sporói.
later
А
A
and
ти-то,
tí-to,
you-top
цой
cói
what
пробуивало
probuiválo
happen-past
со
so
with
тѣм?
tě́m?
top-datins
A)
Немноге.
Nemnóge.
not much
О
O
at
мене
mené
I.gen
многе
mnóge
much
интересновево
interesnóvevo
interesting-part
не
ne
neg
буило.
buílo.
be-past
Надѣюш
Nadě́iuś
hope-1sg-mid
скорѣ
skórě
soon
поѣхат
poiě́hat
pf-go-sup
на

on
год
god
holiday
кудеш-от,
kudeś-ót,
somewhere-top
музеби
múzebi
maybe
Кидаем
Kidáiem
China-datins
или
íli
or
Японей.
Iaponéi.
Japan-datins

A) Táśa! Hello! I haven’t seen you in two weeks! How have you been?
B) Well, Márke. I just returned from Italy.
A) Ah, yes, of course. How was the trip?
B) Oh, Italy is a beautiful country. There’s so much history there! Ancient cities, beautiful culture, and amazing food. I’ll tell you more later. And you, what have you been doing?
A) Not much. I haven’t had much interesting happen. I hope that soon I’ll be able to go on vacation somewhere, maybe to China or Japan.

14.5.2 A Newspaper Article

Following is a summarized version of an article from the Novegradian newspaper Совѣшкьи Sově́śkji.

Вецераш,
Véceraś,
yesterday
дуадеши
duadéśi
twenty
цедиртий
cedírtij
fourth
врѣсанѣ,
vrě́saně,
in September
послалашин
poslálaśin
was sent
ко
ko
to
Каирем
Kajírem
Cairo
маленая
malenáia
small
група-та
grúpa-ta
group-top
сокладиш
sokladíś
consisting
со
so
with
пентерем
pénterem
five
дипломакьам
diplomakjám
diplomats
Организасин
Organizásin
of Organization
Сиединених
Siedinénih
United
Народ
Naród
Nations
нав
nav
on
едну
iédnu
one
шемицу
śémicu
week
во
vo
in
шем
śém
this
градѣ,
grádě,
city
напустенѣ
napústeně
wracked
войнам.
voinám.
by wars
Воклуѕаен
Vokludzáien
including
вуисоѕен
vuisodzén
highly-trained
спецялишекь
specialíśekj
specialists
зе
ze
from
Новеградескѣе
Novegradeskě́ie
Novegradian
Республикѣ,
Respúblikě,
Republic
Англин,
Ánglin,
England
Сиединених
Siedinénih
United
Штат,
Śtát,
States
Германин,
Germánin,
Germany
и
i
and
Лигѣ
Lígě
League
Арабеских
Arábeskih
of Arab
Народ,
Naród,
Nations
ше
śé
this
дипломадицеское
diplomadiceskóie
diplomatic group
бадет
bádet
will
вастатиш
vástatiś
meet
со
so
with
командирам
komandirám
commanders
протистанец
protistánec
of rebels
во
vo
in
лѣтнѣ
lě́tně
southern
Каирѣ
Kajírě
Cairo
со тѣм-це
so tě́m-ce
in order to
старатиш
starátiś
attempt
организати
organizáti
to organize
премирия.
premirijá.
ceasefire
Каире-те,
Kajíre-te,
Cairo-top
разом
rázom
together
со
so
with
валой
váloi
large
цестюм
cestiúm
parts
западна
západna
of western
Египета,
Iegípeta,
Egypt
буиле
buíle
was
под
pod
under
протистанцеуном
protistancéunom
rebel
властюм
vlastiúm
control
ож

already
со тово-це
so tovó-ce
since
нашнала
naśnála
began
грагьѣнеска
gragjě́neska
civil
война.
voiná.
war
Шена-та
Śéna-ta
scene-top
буила
буила
was
о
o
about
сорѣзаньѣ
sorězánjě
fighting
приглубѣ,
priglúbě,
deep
ейда
iéida
when
роспустин
rospustín
launching
спорадицески
sporadíceski
sporadic
рейди
réidi
raids
республиканески
respublikáneski
republican
крѣуностия
krěunostijá
strongholds
погољом
pogółom
throughout
града
gráda
city
на
na
on
бежѣди
beźě́di
occupied
мѣсти.
mě́sti.
sites
На врѣмено,
Na vrě́meno,
meanwhile
стоекьое
stoiékjoie
standing
республиканеское
republikaneskóie
republican
правястуо-то
práviastuo-to
government-top
премѣстилошин
preměstílośin
was relocated
на
na
on
граден
gráden
city
портовун
pórtovun
port
Ал-Искиндирея
Al-Iskindiréia
Al-Iskindireya
(Алѣксандрия).
(Alěksándrija).
Alexandria
Нимо тово-це
Nímo tovó-ce
despite
многие
mnógije
many people
не
ne
neg
надѣюци
nadě́iuci
hope
нав
nav
on
оспѣх
óspěh
success
шей
śéi
of this
миссин,
míssin,
mission
английске
anglíjske
English
дипломате
diplomáte
diplomat
Ричарде
Ríčarde
Richard
Аллене-те
Állene-te
Allen-top
сорѣѕиле
sorědzíle
said
то-це
tó-ce
that
„Надѣемши
“Nadě́iemśi
we hope
на
na
on
то-це
tó-ce
that
ше
śé
this
ест
iést
is
шегом
śégоm
step
ко
ko
towards
позидивием
pozidívijem
the positive
деля
délia
for
созданьа
sózdanja
creation
премирий‟.
premírij”.
of truce

“Yesterday, September 24th, a small group consisting of five United Nations diplomats was dispatched to Cairo for a week-long stay in the war-torn city. Including highly-trained specialists from the Republic of Novegrad, England, the United States, Germany, and the League of Arab Nations, the diplomatic dispatch will meet with rebel leaders in southern Cairo to try to organize a cease fire. Cairo, as well as a significant portion of western Egypt, has been in rebel control for the last three months since the civil war started. The city has been the scene of intense fighting as Republican strongholds scattered throughout the city have launched sporadic raids on occupied compounds. In the meantime, the acting Republican government has been relocated to the port of Al-Iskindireya (Alexandria). While many are not optimistic about the success of this mission, English diplomat and mission leader Richard Allen has stated that ‘we are hopeful that this is a step in the positive direction toward finally bringing about a truce.’”

1) The -то clitic that can appear with adverbs is not a topicalization marker, although it has the same form and origin; in this particular case it serves as an emphatic particle.