[FUNKNET] 'Hear' as 'understand'

Assibi Amidu assibi.amidu at HF.NTNU.NO
Wed Feb 3 16:30:41 UTC 2010

Dear Ekkehard,

Your comments are very pertinent. I believe what you mean is that 
contributors ought to supply illustrations for the senses given. I am 
not sure the phrase 'crude information provided by dictionaries' is 
appropriate. After all, good dictionary entries provide us with basic 
senses and a set of their semantic extensions. Basic senses are, 
therefore, types of meta-terms. To address your concern, here are some 
examples illustrating Kiswahili /sikia/ 'hear, understand, feel/have 
sensation, etc.' No word-for-word gloss is provided. They go from 
transparent to contextual specialized senses. Collocation plays an 
important role in sense demarcation.

1.    Asubuhi hii tulisikia kengele ya kanisa ikilia. (sikia = hear)
       'This morning we heard the bell of a church chime.'
2.    Ingawa wanaongea kwa sauti ya chini, sisi tunasikia maneno yao 
yote. (sikia = hear, ± understand) Vague? ambiguous? fused?))
      'Although they are speaking in low voices, we hear/understand 
every word of theirs.'
3.    Juma anasikia baridi/joto leo. (external source of sensation)   
      'Juma is feeling cold/warm today.'
4.    Juma anasikia njaa/maumivu.  (internal source of sensation)
      'Juma is hungry/is in pain, lit. Juma is feeling hunger/pain.'
5.   Mbwa husikia harufu za watu, mimi sisikii. (sikia = perceive, 
apprehend, lit. understand mentally)
      'Dogs smell people, I don't, lit. dogs perceive scents of people, 
I do not.'
6.    Mwalimu akawauliza wanafunzi, "Je, mmesikia maonyo ya Mwalimu 
Mkuu?" (sikia = understand) pupils are expected to understand not       
merely hear what they have been told by their teachers, and so no 
vagueness or ambiguity here.
     'The teacher asked the pupils, "Have you understood the admonitions 
of the Head Teacher?"'
7.   Mtoto huyu hasikii maneno ya wazazi wake. (sikia = hear but omit to 
follow instructions expected by parents/superiors, etc.) contextual
      specialization of -sikia. Is it equal to 'listen'? The grammar has 
the derived causative form -sikiliza 'listen'.
      'This child does not obey/pay attention to his parents, lit. this 
child does not hear the words of his parents.'
8.   Masikio ya mtoto huyu hayasikii neno/kitu. (-sikia + collocation 
masikio 'ear' = deaf, literally or figuratively)
      'This child is deaf, lit. the ears of this child hear nothing.'
9a. Masikio ya mtoto huyu hayasikii dawa. (sikia = (not) be 
sensitive/responsive to; (not) react to) contextual
     'This child's ears are not sensitive/responsive to medication, lit, 
this child's ears do not hear/feel medicine.'
9b. Kidonda chake hakisikii dawa.
      'His sore is not responsive/does not respond/react to treatment.'
10. Samaki huyu asikia/hasikii viungo (sikia = react to) contextual 
specialization with sense of 'taste'.
      'Lit. this fish reacts/does not react with condiments, i.e. this 
fish is/is not 'flavourable'.'

koenig at zedat.fu-berlin.de wrote:
> Dear Nino, dear all,
> I have followed this discussion with great interest, but I think that an
> analysis in terms of English as a metalanguage (or of any other language
> for that matter)is not very helpful, as was already obvious in Paul
> Hopper's example of Fr. ENTENDRE.
> Consider the following uses of the three verbs HEAR, LISTEN and UNDERSTAND:
> (i) This boy does not hear (= he is deaf) (GERMAN Hoeren)
> (ia) I can't hear you. it is too noisy. (German HOEREN)
> (ii) This boy does not listen (does not obey) (German HOEREN)
> (iia) This boy is not listening (German: ZUHOEREN)
> (iii) I understand Mandarin, but I cannot speak it.
> (iv)You just don't understand me. (book title, D. Tannen))
> Let me now look at German VERSTEHEN, normally rendered as 'understand' in
> dictionaries.
> (v) Ich verstehe kein Wort (I can't hear you. /telephone conversation)
> (vi) I verstehe Chinesisch ( I can understand Mandarin)
> (vii) Du verstehst mich einfach nicht. (D. Tannen's book)
> So, which uses of HEAR or UNDERSTAND are under consideration? It is not
> perfectly clear whether the examples given above are manifestations of
> polysemy or of vagueness. But it is certainly possible to differentiate
> between these use:
> German VERSTEHEN can denote an integration into (or matching with) a
> phonetic structure (v) into a mental/linguistic structure (vi), a
> structure of empathy and perhaps many more things. With these
> differentiations in mind the question raised looks much more complicated
> and the crude information provided by dictionaries is not really helpful.
> Best,
> Ekkehard
> Ekkehard Koenig
> Department of Linguistics
> UC, Davis
> DAVIS, CA 95616-8685
>> In Kiswahili -/sikia/ = 'hear, understand, feel/have sensation'. With
>> reflexive -ji- as in /-ji-sikia/ always means 'feel, lit. hear self'.
>> In many Gur languages /hear/ = 'hear, understand, feel/have sensation',
>> e.g. Buli /wom/.
>> Kwa languages Akan, Ewe /hear/ = 'hear, understand', e.g. Akan /te/, Ewe
>> /se/.
>> Assibi Amidu
>> ******************************************
>> Assibi A. Amidu, Ph.D.
>> Professor of Swahili/Kiswahili
>> Norwegian University of Science and Technology
>> Department of Language and Communication Studies
>> N-7491 Trondheim
>> Norway
>> Phone   +47 73 596522
>>              +47 73 596529
>> Fax       +47 73 596119
>> *******************************************

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