Salikoko Mufwene mufw at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Fri Nov 17 19:50:26 UTC 2000

This list has become unusually quiet... perhaps our minds are already into
Thanksgiving next week. Well, some of you may be interested in an exchange I
had with a foreign student of mine a couple of days ago. I was sitting in my
office and she asked, "Can I come in?" Then she observed that she could not
the verb GO in her question, although I am the one that was inside my office.
(Apparently a counterpart of either verb would be OK in Korean!) I concurred,
adding that there was probably a pragmatic constraint that requires that one
adopt the addressee's "camera angle" (to borrow something from Susumo Kuno)
under such conditions. If I had been outside my office too, next to her or
behind her, she probably should have asked "Can I go in?" and I think that
"could I come in?" would have been infelicitous.  I don't think Chuck Fillmore
discussed this kind of constraint when he published his paper on COME/GO in
SEMIOTICA, I think in 1973.

     I have been thinking and believe that the constraint applies in other
cases too. If you are puritanistic you may want to skip this paragraph and not
come/go/get into the following considerations with me. In sexual intercourse a
man can only tell his partner that he is coming, not going, I suppose. His
partner naturally can only invite him to come. Are there other cases where
a rigid constraint is associated with COME, against GO--or the other way

How's your paper/project coming along?
or How's your paper/project going (*along)?

Of course, any dialectal variation in this regard?


Salikoko S. Mufwene                        s-mufwene at
University of Chicago                      773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
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