Existentials with expressions of saying

Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Tue Oct 13 14:34:50 UTC 1998

At 2:56 pm +0200 13/10/98, Wouden A. van der wrote:
>Fellow typologists,
>I am looking for languages with existential constructions (English
>'there is', German 'es gibt') involving some word of
>saying. Background: as I see it, in Dutch such a thing is
>developing. Next to traditional 'er is' "there is" we now often find
>'er is sprake van grote problemen' "there is speech of great problems"
>for 'there are great problems'.  I would be interested in examples of
>comparable constructions/expressions from other languages.

1.	Comparable, but lexical rather than discoursal:
In English, "it transpired that X" has come to mean "it happened that X"
from an original more like "news reached us that X".

2.	Comparable, but with a verb of seeing rather than a verb of saying:
In Old Irish, the 'dependent' suppletive form in the paradigm of the verb
of existence is "fil" (used e.g. in negatives and questions, and in
relative clauses).  This is originally (it transpires) an imperative "see
x!", meaning "there is x", and correspondingly the noun phrase for x is
marked accusative, rather than nominative as in construction with the
independent form "ta-".  (The syntactic spread of "voilá" in modern French
is very comparable.)
	In modern Irish, this form has simply become a 'dependent' form
(-fuil) of the paradigm of the same verb, with no special syntax.

                       Nicholas  Ostler
             Foundation for Endangered Languages
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