reversative morphemes

David Palfreyman David.Palfreyman at
Mon May 2 09:32:14 UTC 2005

I think "encore" in French, "encara" in Catalan and probably cognates in Italian, Spanish etc can have a related meaning (related to "wieder", anyway), e.g. in French "encore une fois" = "once again", "encore mieux" = still better (I think), and "pas encore" (not yet).


>>> Hartmut Haberland <hartmut at> 02-May-05 1:11:26 PM >>>

mhoff at wrote:

> As I recall, Arnim von Stechow had a discussion of 'wieder' in German 
> that might be relevant. I think the kinds of examples included things 
> like (apologies to German speakers):
> Die Tuer wuerde wieder geoeffnet
> Die Temperatur ist wieder angestiegen
> where 'wieder' may presuppose an earlier door opening or rise in 
> temperature, but also may mean 'opened yet further'/'rose higher than 
> it was'. Von Stechow has a paper from 1996 on his web page that might 
> be useful. 
> best, Miriam

I didn't check Arnim's paper yet, but the second sentence (Die 
Temperatur ist wieder angestiegen) makes perfect sense to me. The first 
(Die Tür wurde wieder geöffnet) I find slightly problematic, since the 
intended second reading (opening the door further) presupposes an atelic 
reading of öffnen, which I don't get without any further (e.g. 
adverbial) support.

Die Tür wurde wieder etwas geöffnet 'The door was opened a bit again' is 
clearly ambiguous to me, though. Maybe that's Arnim's original example.

Very close til Kutenai la is Danish tilbage 'back', cf.

Der          var          ingen kaffe  tilbage
DUMMY be.PAST no      coffee back
'There was no coffee left'

In the '90s, I gave a number of papers on 'Reversal, Repair and 
Repetition' at some of the EUROTYP conferences, but the material 
(including a lot of data from languages of the EUROTYP sample) has never 
been published. What fascinated me at that time, was the fact that 
adverbs and affixes meaning 'again' and 'back' are either ambiguous 
(like Italian, French, English (etc.) re-, German wieder, Danish igen) 
or 'share' the work for expressing these R-meanings.

Hartmut Haberland

>> A student of mine, Scott Paauw, is interested in identifying 
>> references to reversative morphemes in various languages, grammatical 
>> morphemes that sometimes translate into English as ?back? and 
>> sometimes as ?again? (so that when combining with ?He went?, the 
>> resulting meaning might be either ?He went back? or ?He went 
>> again?).  In some languages, such as Kutenai, the reversative has a 
>> use that goes beyond this, that occurs in clauses containing a 
>> morpheme that is semantically negative, illustrated by the following 
>> (using <l> to represent the voiceless lateral fricative:
>> taxa-s    la      lit-uk-s-i.
>> then-obv  revers  without-water-obv.subj-indic
>> ?Then there was no more water.?
>> An English translation with ?again? doesn?t work, like ?Then they 
>> were without water again?, since that implies that they are returning 
>> to a state without water, when the original sentence appears not to 
>> have any such implication.  Another Kutenai example:
>> qapi-l    la      lu?-s-i
>> all-prvb  revers  not.exist-obv.subj-indic
>> ?All of them were gone ?
>> Scott tells me that there is a reversative morpheme in Indonesian 
>> that shares this property with Kutenai.  So he is interested in any 
>> other information about reversatives, especially any other instances 
>> where they interact with negative morphemes in this way.
>> You can reply either to me or to Scott (shpaauw at
>> Thanks,
>> Matthew Dryer

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