"World" subjects of meteorological predicates

p.k.eriksen at ILN.UIO.NO p.k.eriksen at ILN.UIO.NO
Thu Feb 14 12:25:29 UTC 2008

 Dear colleagues,

    I am currently doing research on expletive subjects, and in connection
to that I am very interested in languages where meteorological predicates
("to rain", "to blow", "to be cold/warm", etc.) require, or at least often
occur with a subject meaning "world", "place", "surroundings", "sky", etc,
or which in other ways somehow refers to the locational/geographical
background of the weather phenomena (or even to a temporal background,
like "day") .

    Givón (in "Syntax Vol. I", 2001, p. 119) mentions that "the world" is
used as the dummy subject for meteorological predicates in some
languages across the globe, and gives an example from Palestinian
Arabic (where the subject is "dunya" ("world")).

    Apart from this observation, I have found a number of examples in
different grammars:

    - Nikolaeva & Tolskaya ("A Grammar of Udihe", 2001) shows that in the
Tungusic language Udihe a noun meaning "place outside" or "world" may be
used as the dummy subject for a number of meteorological predicates
(though not by all).

    - Watters ("A Grammar of Kham", 2002) shows that in the Himalayish
language Kham a noun meaning "sky" is the meteorological dummy

    - Keenan ("Remarkable Subjects in Malagasy" in Li (ed.) "Subject and
Topic", 1976) mentions that in Malagasy meteorological predicates
normally take a word meaning "day" as their subject.

    - Næss (p.c.) has told me that in Äiwoo (possibly Austronesian,
Eastern Solomon Islands) a word most often translated as "surroundings" is
found as a subject for meteorological predicates, and that the
neighbouring Polynesian language Vaeakau-Taumako similarly employs a word
meaning "land".

   Still, it is hard to find examples of this phenomenon, mostly because
many grammars don't even address the issue of expletive subjects and/or
the structure of meteorological sentences. Consequenty I would be very
happy for any other example you can give me, of languages with this type
of phenomenon.

   Many thanks in advance,

   Pål Eriksen

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