COME vs GO

Tim Frazer tcf at MACOMB.COM
Sat Nov 18 21:40:43 UTC 2000


In My Inland North/North Midland dialect, 
How's your paper coming?
How's your paper going? 
-- would both be OK.

The following oberservation is scatological but perhaps interesting.
One "comes" during sexual activity.
One "goes" to the bathroom.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Salikoko Mufwene 
  To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU 
  Sent: Friday, November 17, 2000 1:50 PM
  Subject: COME vs GO


  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 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 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?

  Sali.


  **********************************************************
  Salikoko S. Mufwene                        s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
  University of Chicago                      773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
  Department of Linguistics
  1010 East 59th Street
  Chicago, IL 60637
  http://humanities.uchicago.edu/humanities/linguistics/faculty/mufwene.html
  **********************************************************

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