"World" subjects of meteorological predicates

Alice Vittrant vittrant at VJF.CNRS.FR
Wed Feb 20 09:46:47 UTC 2008

In response to Pål's query:

Dear Pâl,
In Burmese as in Kham (Watters 2002) — two Tibeto-burman languages 
—, it is also a noun meaning "sky" ['mo] which is used for  
meteorological expressions such as " it is raining", "it is cloudy",  
"be wet"  but also for the word "weather".

Here is some exemples :

Alice Vittrant

> ----- Original Message ----- From: <p.k.eriksen at ILN.UIO.NO>
> Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 1:25 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

Alice Vittrant
Université de Provence
vittrant at vjf.cnrs.fr

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