What are some strategies for making boundaries between top-level clauses obvious?

I think the most straightforward strategy is some kind of collection of sentence-final particles, but I'm curious about others.

I'm particularly interested in features that would enable discontinuous clauses.

I was reading a paper recently about prolific agreement in some Nakh-Daghestanian languages. The noun class that the absolutive argument belongs to can be repeated many times throughout the sentence:

Aˤli-l      qːatːa          b-ullaj      b-ur
Ali(I)-ERG  house(III).ABS  III-do.PROG  III-AUX

Here's an excerpt from Foley's paper Agreement in the Languages of the Caucausus showing a curious fact about this agreement. There are many kinds of words that can exhibit agreement with the absolutive argument, but agreement isn't uniform within a word class.

So far we’ve seen that NEC languages allow verbs of all stripes to agree — lexical and auxiliary, finite and nonfinite. But agreement is not limited to verbs. A remarkable property of NEC agreement is its ‘promiscuity’: a wide range of lexical categories can participate in gender agreement, all controlled by an absolutive clausemate. ... Yet while agreement in NEC may be promiscuous, it is also spotty. For any given lexical category that can potentially agree, typically only a minority of lexical items in that category actually do. For example, just 32% of Archi verb stems participate in agreement (Chumakina & Bond 2016:111) ...

A feature like this could be useful for making clause boundaries obvious if the repeated feature changes frequently from clause to clause. I think the absolutive argument is probably pretty variable, but I am not certain.

For instance, suppose we have two sentences. Following the notation of the paper, I'm using ROOT(n) to mean that ROOT has the nth noun class. (I) and (II) don't have any independent expression.

1) 1sg-ERG cat(I)-ABS see-PRES-I
   I see the cat.
2) 1sg-ERG mouse(II)-ABS NEG-see-PRES-II
   I see the mouse

Combining the sentences in the following way is possible, since it's clear which verb goes with which argument

3) 1sg-ERG cat(I)-ABS mouse(II)-ABS see-PRES-I NEG-see-PRES-II
   I see the cat, but don't see the mouse.

What are some ideas for features that could be used to support disentangling discontinuous top-level clauses?

  • Should it be ABS(I) and ABS(II)? The way you have it now makes it look like there are different cat and mouse roots but one absolutive case marker. – curiousdannii May 6 at 5:20
  • There is a single absolutive case marker in the example. In Foley's paper, ROOT(I) through ROOT(IV) are used to mark the noun class of a given noun. Example (3) is supposed to contain two interleaved clauses. As far as I know, the Nakh-Daghestanian languages don't actually permit this; it's a hypothetical feature inspired by the prolific agreement that they do have. – Gregory Nisbet May 6 at 5:29
  • Ah, I thought you were proposing there would be two sets of ABS markers to go with the two clauses and two verbs. So is ROOT(I) mean there's an extra marker? But it's not just considered a morpheme? – curiousdannii May 6 at 5:42
  • No, I wasn't proposing two parallel sets of case markers. Although that is a good idea. ROOT(I) is meant just to be an indication that ROOT is in class I. – Gregory Nisbet May 6 at 20:32

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