LINGUIST List 11.1012

Wed May 3 2000

Qs: "give", Morphosyntactic alternation, Taboo Lang

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  • Bernard Comrie, 'give' and Person Suppletion
  • Michael Hughes, Morphosyntactic Alternations
  • Fatima Hashim, Taboo Language and Euphemisms

    Message 1: 'give' and Person Suppletion

    Date: Mon, 1 May 2000 09:39:13 +0100
    From: Bernard Comrie <>
    Subject: 'give' and Person Suppletion

    I am aware of a number of languages in which the translation equivalent of 'give' has different forms depending on the grammatical person of the recipient. For instance, Malayalam has _koTukkuka_ 'give (to third person recipient)' and _taruka/tarika_ 'give (to first or second person recipient)'. A few more examples are noted below. I would be grateful if readers of the List could let me know:

    a) if there is any general literature on this topic;

    b) if they are aware of any examples other than those cited below (or of additional information regarding the examples cited below).

    I will post a summary of responses if appropriate.

    Examples known to me of person suppletion with 'give':

    i) Malayalam distinguishes _koTukkuka_ 'give (to third person)' from _taruka/tarika_ 'give (to first or second person)'--these seem just to be distinct roots. (Data from R.E. Asher and T.C. Kumari, Malayalam; London, 1997: Routledge, p.348.)

    ii) Tsez (NE Caucasian) distinguishes _teL_ 'give (to third person)' from _neL_ 'give (to first or second person)' (where _L_ represents a voiceless lateral affricate). Etymologically at least, the initial consonants seem to be deictic prefixes, but this is not a productive pattern in Tsez. Simple and derived transitive verbs have different imperative formations in Tsez, and different varieties of Tsez attest both the expected simple-verb imperative _teL-o/neL-o_ and the expected derived-verb imperative _teL/neL_.

    iii) Saliba (Oceanic) distinguishes _le_ 'give (to first or second person)' from _mose-i_ 'give (to third person)'. The roots are distinct. Interestingly, there is a further difference (not found in the Malayalam, Tsez, or Japanese cases), namely the two roots have different argument structures: _le_ is syntactically a monotransitive verb having giver and gift as arguments; _mose-i_, which includes an applicative suffix, is a ditransitive verb, with three more specific syntactic frame possibilities. For details, see Anna Margetts, Valence and Transitivity in Saliba; Nijmegen, 1999: MPI Series in Psycholinguistics, pp. 300-308.

    iv) Japanese has a somewhat similar, but not identical, system, and I remain open as to whether it should be subsumed under the same head. The verbs _yaru/ageru_ are used when the gift moves away from the speaker, the verbs _kureru/kudasaru_ when the gift moves towards the speaker. (The difference between the two verbs in each pair concerns the relative social status of giver and recipient.) For instance, if someone gives something to me, I will always use _kureru/kudasaru_. If the mayor of my town gives something to my father, then I will use _kureru/kudasaru_, as the gift is coming towards me. But if the mayor of my town gives something to the mayor of another town, I will use _ageru/yaru_, since the gift is going away from me.

    - Prof. Dr. Bernard Comrie Director, Department of Linguistics

    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Inselstrasse 22 tel +49 341 99 52 301 D-04103 Leipzig NEW 01/00 tel secretary +49 341 99 52 315 Germany fax +49 341 99 52 119

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    Message 2: Morphosyntactic Alternations

    Date: Wed, 3 May 2000 09:52:31 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Michael Hughes <>
    Subject: Morphosyntactic Alternations

    Dear Linguistlist,

    I would like to know if anybody is aware of any non-Germanic languages which show a morphological alternation like the strong~weak adjective alternation in several Germanic languages. In German, for instance, the adjective suffix may be drawn from one of two paradigms, despite identical Case/Gender/Number specifications, in slightly different 'syntactic' environments.

    Thus, for nominative masculine singular we find the following possibilities:

    (1) ein gut-er Wein. (det unmarked, adj. strongly inflected) a good wine

    (2) dies-er gut-e Wein. (det marked, adj. weakly inflected) this good wine

    (3) gut-er Wein (adj. strongly inflected, no det) good wine.

    More Generally, I am searching for examples in which some morpho-syntactic distinction generally must show up on one or another sub-constituent of a phrase, but not always on the same sub-constituent (cf. 1-2 above).

    Examples of such a phenomenon need not be drawn solely from NPs. I will be glad to post a summary.

    Many thanks,

    Michael Hughes

    Department of Linguistics UC San Diego

    Message 3: Taboo Language and Euphemisms

    Date: Wed, 03 May 2000 12:37:40 GMT
    From: Fatima Hashim <>
    Subject: Taboo Language and Euphemisms

    Where can I find on-line materials about taboo and euphemism in languages and cultures?