difference in form without difference in meaning

jess tauber phonosemantics at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 5 04:07:25 UTC 2011

Hi folks. I'll admit at the outset that this isn't my area, but just on the face of it, to my sensibilities, the difference between 'Saw you the bird?' and 'Did you see the bird?' is one of directness and/or formality. The first seems to me more intimate, informal, less 'accusing' usage, at least for my modern English. Maybe easier to see with 'See (you) the bird?' vs. 'Do you see the bird?'. With 'do' the question seems (at least potentially) as much about the bird as my ability/willingness to see it, while without it perhaps its more about the speaker's needs. I know that in many instances pronominal paradigms have been reshaped to reflect unwillingness to appear confrontational in conversation. It would be interesting here from the typological perspective to know whether there is any linkage between constructional switching and the degree to and direction in which discourse has to be negotiated. More formality structurewise= more formality interrelationally? Languages with the least morphology more context sensitive and all that rubbish.

Jess Tauber
goldenratio at earthlink.net

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