"World" subjects of meteorological predicates

Anna Bugaeva bugaeva at JAPAN.EMAIL.NE.JP
Fri Feb 15 06:36:28 UTC 2008

In response to Pål's query:

In Ainu, there is a group of meteorological predicates with an incorporated 
subject (S) sir 'appearance, land, circumstances'. They are usually regarded 
in Ainu as "complete verbs" (Tamura 2000: 41, Bugaeva 2004: 29) with zero 
valency, because they cannot take any arguments. Here is a list of 
meteorological predicates from Nakagawa 1995.

sir-peker <appearance-be.light>  'it gets light, dawns'

sir-kunne <appearance-be.dark>  'it is dark'

sir-pirka <appearance-be.good>  'the weather is good'

sir-popke <appearance-be.warm>  'the weather is warm'

sir-sesek <appearance-be.hot>  'the weather is hot'

sir-homar <appearance-be.dim>  'it gets dark'

sit-tuyma <appearance-be.far>  'it is far'

sin-rarak <appearance-be.slippery>  'it is slippery'

(the latter two predicates are not stricktly meteorological).

There are also similar compounds with nouns denoting seasons (sak 'summer' 
etc.) and time of day (ankes 'early morning') which have a verbalizing 

sir-sak <appearance-summer> 'become summer'

sir-mata <appearance-winter> 'become winter'

sir-paykar <appearance-spring> 'become spring'

sir-cuk <appearance-autumn> 'become autumn'

sir-ankes <appearance-early.morning> 'become early morning'

sir-onuman <appearance-evening> 'become evening'.


Bugaeva, Anna (2004) Grammar and folklore texts of the Chitose dialect of 
Ainu (Idiolect of Ito Oda).ELPR Publication Series A-045. Suita: Osaka 
Gakuin University.

Tamura, Suzuko (1988/2000) The Ainu language. ICHEL Linguistic Studies v. 2, 
Tokyo: Sanseidoo.

Nakagawa, Hiroshi (1995) Ainugo chitose hoogen jiten [A dictionary of the 
Chitose dialect of Ainu]. Tokyo: Soofuukan.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <p.k.eriksen at ILN.UIO.NO>
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 9:25 PM
Subject: "World" subjects of meteorological predicates

> 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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