indefinite ordinals + indefinite verbs

claude hagege claude.hagege at FREE.FR
Sun Mar 25 14:12:28 UTC 2001

   In the title of my last message (23-03), I announced indefinite ordinals, but I forgot them on the way! Before tackling this matter to-day, I wanted to suggest  that, if I don't misinterpret Max's (12-02) words, to wit ""Romance languages generally lack an interrogative degree word", it is useful to recall, among other cases, Spanish ?cuanto,a?, as in ?cuantos anos  (I cannot write the correct upset ? nor the correct "tilded" n) tienes?,  or  ?cuantas palabras ha dicho?, etc.
   I call indefinite ordinal a word like colloquial English umpteenth, meaning "der(die,das)-ich-weiss-nicht-wievielte", as in I am telling him so for the umpteenth time. It would be interesting to look for indefinite ordinals in other languages. It might turn out that such words, used in "affective" contexts, are to be assigned to a category between indefinite and exclamative, or exclamative-interrogative, ordinals, in contexts implying a sense like "wo-the-hell-knows-der-wievielte!!"
   And finally, a query: are there many languages having an indefinite verb? This would be, in metalinguistic English, to something, either intransitive, as in he somethinged (="was, did, etc. something)", or transitive, as in she somethinged (="did something to") him.

   Best,  Claude.

Claude Hagège, Collège de France, Chaire de Théorie linguistique
claude.hagege at
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