"World" subjects of meteorological predicates

Don Stilo stilo at EVA.MPG.DE
Thu Feb 14 20:34:43 UTC 2008

Dear Pål,

Persian and many other Iranian languages use the word hæva (Arabic  
LW) "weather, air" for some meteorological phenomena:

(These examples are cited in colloquial Persian)

hæva særd=e/hæva særd nist
weather cold=is/weather cold isn't (etc. -- =e is enclitic, but nist  
is not)
"it's cold (out)"

hæva baruni=e
weather rainy=is
"it's rainy" (but see * below)

hæva æbri=e
weather cloudy=is
"it's cloudy (out)"

hæva tarik=e
weather dark=is
"it's dark (out)"

hæva dare tarik mishe (sh = s-hacek)
weather PROG:3S dark become:PRES:3S
"it is getting dark"

* but the above are different from what would be verbal forms in some  
languages (English, Slavic, etc.) where in Iranian languages the  
corresponding noun is used where possible in place of hæva:

barun miad
rain comes
"it is raining, it (usually) rains"

barun miad
rain comes
"it is raining, it (usually) rains"

bærf miad
rain comes
"it is snowing, it (usually) snows"

bad miad
wind comes
"it is windy, it's blowing"

And hæva would not be used for "it is day/night" "it became morning/ 
night" (these would be like the forms 5 -7 "morning/night became", etc.


Don Stilo

On Feb 14, 2008, at 4:25 AM, p.k.eriksen at ILN.UIO.NO wrote:

>  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
> subject.
>     - 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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