"World" subjects of meteorological predicates

Fri Feb 15 09:44:19 UTC 2008

Dear Pål,

In Wolaitta (Omotic, South-west Ethiopia) the meteorological predicates wont- 'be light', t'um- 'be dark' take sa/á 'earth/ground' as subject (cf: sa/á-n /utt-a  'sit on the ground' (earth/ground-LOC sit-2SG:IMP)). 
(1a)	sa/áy	t’um-iísi
earth-M:NOM	be_dark-3MS:PF
‘It became dark’
(1b)	sa/áy	wont-iísi
earth-M:NOM	be_light-3MS:PF
‘It became light’
Seasons are expressed in a similar way as in (2a, 3a). However, the onset of seasons is expressed by using the name of the season or event (in the case of rain) and common intransitive verbs such as gel- 'enter', kíy- 'go out', etc. (cf. 2b, 3b, c).  
(2a)	saʔá-y	balgó
earth-M:NOM	rainy.season:ACC
‘It is the rainy season (winter)’
(2b)	balgó-y	          gel-iísi
rainy.season-M:NOM	enter-3MS:PF
‘The rainy season started’
(3a)	saʔá-y	bone
earth-M:NOM	dry.season:ACC
‘It is the dry.season’
(3b)	bóneé	kíy-iisi
dry.season-M:NOM	go.out-3MS:PF
‘The dry season started’
(4a)	/íra-y	wó**-iisi
rain-M:NOM	descend-3MS:PF
‘It rained’
(4b)	/íráy	               bukk-iísi
	rain-M:NOM	beat-3MS:PF
	‘It is raining’

In case the fonts don't come out right, I attached a PDF with the examples.

With best wishes,


Azeb Amha
African Languages and Cultures; LUCL
Leiden University, The Netherlands

----- 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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