Verbs of existence
jwg2 at CORNELL.EDU
Mon May 2 15:59:08 UTC 2005
VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net
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Dear Prashant Pardeshi:
Sinhala certainly does have that distinction: tiyenawaa is inanimate,
innawaa is animate. This follows the basic nominal gender distinction
in (spoken) Sinhala, which is animacy. You can find this in several
places, including all of the basic textbooks, but I quote here the
section from the monograph by me and John Paolillo (å is schwa, © is
velar nasal; the original font does of course not come through in
e-mail).(James W. Gair and John Paolillo Sinhala Languages of the
World/ materials 345, Lincom Europa. 1997).
There are also distinct existential verbs for inanimate and animate
subjects: innåwa for animate, tiyenåwa for inanimate, as indicated in
(1) and (2).
(1) ehee pot tiyenåwa.
there books be (INANIMATE)-PRES
'There are books there.'
(2) la©kaawe ali innåwa.
Sri-Lanka elephants be (ANIMATE)-PRES
'There are elephants in Sri Lanka.'
Note that the animate existential is used for collectives, e.g.,
poliisiyå 'police', which are otherwise grammatically inanimate nouns.
Such nouns commonly appear in the instrumental case when they are the
subject of the sentence, as in (3), whether the verb is 'be' or any
(3) ehee poliisiye© innåwa.
there police-DEF-INST be (ANIMATE)-PRES
'There are police there.'.
Literary Sinhala makes the same distinction in verbs, but the gender
distinction for nominals is different. The Literary verb forms are
siTinawaa and tibenawaa. and there is are also a verb aeta, which
occurs with both animates and inanimates.
Hal Schiffman is of course correct on Tamil and the other Dravidian
languages, but I might add that the distinction in the negatives is
maintained in Sri Lanka (Jaffna) Tamil, as it is in Kannada, with illay
existential and alla identity or focus negation.
The situation in Dhivehi (Maldivian), the nearest Indo-Aryan relative
of Sinhala, is really complicated, and cannot be briefly summarized
here. It involves not only animacy, but gender (positional/spacial
orientation. and type of object. Furthermore, it varies with dialect.
There is a description in Bruce Cain and James W. Gair Dhivehi .
Languages of the World/Materials 63, Lincom Europa, pp.28-30. Also
there is a brief description of the special morphological
characteristics of the forms in Sonia Fritz, The Dhivehi Language (
Beiträge zur Südasianforschung Südasian Institut Universität
Heidelberg), . Ergon Verlag. 2002.Vol.1 242-243.
I hope this helps.
James W. Gair
On May 2, 2005, at 8:39 AM, Harold F. Schiffman wrote:
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net
> Editors: Tej K. Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York
> John Peterson, University of Osnabrueck, Germany
> Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say: INFO
> Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say:
> SUBSCRIBE VYAKARAN FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
> (Substitute your real name for first_name last_name)
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> Dear Prashant Pardeshi,
> Tamil, Kannada and Telugu (at least, probably Malayalam and other lgs.
> too) have a distinction between two kinds of 'be' but this mostly is
> in the negative only, and the distinction isn't between animate and
> inanimate, but in 'location' (iru) vs. 'identity' (aaku, aagu). In
> Kannada the negative is still in use in the spoken lg., e.g. 'illa'
> 'not located' and 'alla' means 'not identical to' s.t. Telugu forms
> /leedu/ 'not loc.' and /kaadu/ 'not ident.' Tamil uses these in Lit.
> dialect but not in spoken.
> I once made the mistake of using the wrong negative: I looked into a
> and saw that there was no one there, so I said to the Kannada speaker
> me, 'yaaruu alla'. I should have said 'yaaruu illa' (nobody is located
> there). What 'yaaruu alla' means is 'the person there is a nobody.'
> Interesting that the Japanese /iru/ is strikingly similar to the
> Tamil-Kannada /iru/ and I assume that /aru/ is not /*alu/ because of
> loss of l-r contrast, but the similarities are striking enough to make
> some people (Susumo Ohno, e.g.) to claim close relationships between
> Japanese and Tamil.
> H. Schiffman
> On Sun, 1 May 2005, Prashant Pardeshi wrote:
>> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net
>> Editors: Tej K. Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York
>> John Peterson, University of Osnabrueck, Germany
>> Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say: INFO
>> Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say:
>> SUBSCRIBE VYAKARAN FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
>> (Substitute your real name for first_name last_name)
>> Archives: http://listserv.syr.edu
>> Dear Vyakaran list members,
>> Currently a collegue of mine is working on verbs of
>> existence in Japanese from a historical perspective.
>> As you know, Japanese makes a distinction in the verb
>> of exitence according to animacy: the verb "iru" is
>> used for animates while the verb "aru" is used for
>> We are looking for languages which make such a
>> distinction and would appreciate if the list members
>> can suggest some references. To the best of my
>> knowledge Tamil and Sinhalese make such a distinction.
>> Thanking you in anticipation,
>> Best regards,
>> Prashant Pardeshi (Kobe University, Japan)
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