Jaakko Leino jaakko.leino at HELSINKI.FI
Tue Apr 25 06:22:22 UTC 2000

I get the feeling that the following point must have something to it:

> Willy Vandeweghe wrote:
> Couldn't it have to do with the saliency of participants? And case
> hierarchies? Eng. 'like' evolved into a predicate taking a [+ animate]
> [+ human] participant as a subject.

In most, if not all, of the examples cited so far, the subject in the
"new" meaning denotes a participant that could be seen as more salient,
more active and/or more in control than the one denoted by the subject
in the "old" meaning. In other words:
- When there's a "putting in charge" that involves the nanny and the
children, it is (hopefully) the nanny who's in control.
- In consultation, the expert/consultant is probably more active than
the one who receives the advice.
- In classroom, the teacher is (again, hopefully) more active and more
in control than the students.

Thus, this looks like a unidirectional process, rather than arbitrary
back-and-forth flipping and flopping. I'd assume that "teach" is not
used for "learn", and "lend" is not used for "borrow", for example. But,
on the other hand, I'd be surprised if this were a strict rule rather
than just a tendency. There must be quite a few counterexamples

One point about how or why such backwards meanings arise is influence
from other languages. To stick with the "learn" vs. "teach" example,
there are languages (e.g. French and Swedish) that don't make the
distinction. French "apprendre" and Swedish "lära" (i.e. la"ra, umlaut
on the first a) mean both "teach" and "learn", and there's not an
equally common verb that only means either one of the two.

I remember having heard someone use "borrow" for "lend" just once
(outside English classes in Finland, that is), and the speaker was
Japanese. I don't know whether Japanese has separate verbs for these two
meanings, but I know I always had a hard time keeping them separate
since Finnish doesn't. Thus, for me, "borrow" and "lend" are synonyms
(they both mean the same as the Finnish verb "lainata"), they just
"happen to have" different argument structures.

I know this is all pretty vague, but I think it makes more sense than
nonsense anyway. I'd like to raise a further question, however: what are
the properties of the "more salient" participant that makes him/her/it
more salient? [+ human] and [+ animate] are good candidates, of course,
but there must be more (in the classroom, for example, everyone's [+
human, + animate]). How do we know who's the most salient guy in the

  +----+----+                                   +----+----+
 /    /|    |\          Jaakko Leino           /|    |\    \
+----+ |    | +         PhD student           + |    | +----+
|    | +----+ |                               | +----+ |    |
|    |/ \    \|    University of Helsinki     |/    / \|    |
+----+   +----+     Department of General     +----+   +----+
|\    \ /|    |         linguistics           |    |\ /    /|
| +----+ |    |  www.helsinki.fi/~jaaleino/   |    | +----+ |
+ |    | +----+   jaakko.leino at helsinki.fi    +----+ |    | +
 \|    |/    /        +358-9-191 23327         \    \|    |/
  +----+----+                                   +----+----+

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