deontic "will"

James Gair jwg2 at CORNELL.EDU
Tue Aug 7 21:18:22 UTC 2001

NOTE: I sent this yesterday, but seem to have done so only to Paolo
Ramat. It might be of some interest to others, so I'm resending. In
the meantime, Scott DeLancy has posted his note on "need" which does
indeed seem relevant to what follows. Apologies for ant double

Jim Gair

In this connection One might consider here the English (mainly
British, as far as I am aware) use of "want" in expressions like
"this wall wants mending". The connection here with "want" as
lack/deficiency as well as desire is interesting and suggestive of
what may be involved in the other cases as well.

In that connection also think of situations like Sinhala oona/oonæ,
which generally indicates "want" with a dative subject and an
infinitival or nominal, but "necessary' with no subject (though the
case is a bit more complicated semantically, and the "no subject"
one, as my choice of phrase suggests, is subject to a possible
analysis as a having a null dative subject). With  a
nominative(apparent)  subject and an infinitive, the sense is
generally "must", but there is reason for interpreting this type as
having an infinitival sentential subject with the nominal being the
subject of the infinitival clause.(overt subjects of infinitives in
Sinhala are indeed possible, and occur in a number of constructions)

maTa ee perahæra balanna oona 'i want to see that procession'
ee wæDa ikmanaTa karanna oona 'that work needs to be done quickly'
(gedara yanna issella) mama ee wæDa karanna oona '(before going home)
I must do that work.

In Sri Lankan Tamil, and as far as I know,in Indian varieties as
well, the form veeNum  Lit veeNTum) with a dependent infinitive, has
a range including "want' and "must", but with a nominative subject
only,so that it lacks the associated case contrast found in Sinhala
(it may however have a dative subject with a nominal rather than an
infinitive. This can be pursued in other Dravidian languages as well.

This may be more than anyone wanted, but I will also add a
Bibliographical Note: The Sinhala dative subject structures with oona
have been treated in a number   of places, perhaps most concisely in
the James W. Gair and John Paolillo Sinhala sketch in the Lincom
series. The contrast with the nominal subject ones have been
described in various places, including the Fairbanks, Gair and De
Silva basic textbook Colloquial Sinhalese (Sinhala) and the J.W. Gair
1998 volume Studies in South Asian Linguistics from OUP, esp Chapter
3. , The justification for a sentential subject analysis for the
latter type has, however, appeared as far as I know only in a paper
of mine  on control in Sinhala presented at a workshop and awaiting

For Sri Lankan Tamil see J.W. Gair, S.Suseendirajah and W.S.
Karunatillake An Introduction to Spoken (Sri Lanka) Tamil. University
of Sri lanka External Services Agency 1978, but out of print at
present. (though I have a few copies).
For Indian Tamil, there are several sources on these structures.
Among them,  Thomas Lehmann's A Grammar of Modern Tamil (Pondicherry
Institute of Linguistics and Culture-1989 gives a concise and clear
description with examples.

James W. Gair

>Dear LINGTYP users,
>in the substandard variety of Sardinian Italian the following
>construction is used:
>  la casa vuole pagata; questo vuole fatto , litt. "the house wants
>paid" i.e. "the house has to be/must be paid". This is the
>italianization of  a Sardinian dialect construction: Campidanese su
>domu boliri pagara "the house has to be/must be paid"; kustu boli
>fattu "this has to be done".
>A parallel construct is attested in Pantelleria (Sicilian
>dialect):stu múru si voli autigghiari "this wall has to be/must be
>(18)     "    It has been suggested  that this deontic use of the
>verb "will,want" is of Arabic origin: Malti .  dan  il-hajt   irid
>joghla (diacritics omitted) "this the-wall wants elevated".
>                Is it a particular feature of some Mediterranean
>languages or does anyone  know of other  instances of this use of
>                 Many thanks for your suggestions.
>Prof. Paolo Ramat
>Dipartimento di Linguistica
>Università di Pavia
>Tel: +39 0382 504484
>Fax: +39 0382 504487
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