Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Fri Nov 17 18:27:51 UTC 2000

I'll only comment on your first example!  I'd say that if you and the
student were side by side at the door, or if she was just behind you, she
could say "May I come in?"  If she was in front of you, I'd agree that
"May/can I go in?" would be more felicitous--but I suspect both verbs might
be used.

At 11:50 AM 11/17/00 -0800, you wrote:
>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 use 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
>      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 such a rigid constraint is associated with
> COME, against GO--or the other way around?
>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

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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