pro-verbs cross-linguistically

Amiridze, Nino Nino.Amiridze at LET.UU.NL
Tue Apr 20 12:22:04 UTC 2004

Dear colleagues,

I was wondering whether you could help me with finding out langauges
having pro-verbs, language data and/or references.

Under pro-verbs I mean proforms which serve as a substitute for verb forms.
I know in some sense also English "do" can be described as a pro-verb but I
need pro-forms which not simply appear in ellipsis but act as a filler.

The pro-verbs I am looking for are used in the case when the utterer
searches for a word (verb form) because (s)he forgot what to say or also for
intentional vagueness.

Modern Spoken Georgian has such proverbs which are used when one has
accidentally forgotten or avoids mentioning the exact lexical verb form for
some reason. The proverbs are based on the root -kn- (in fact suppletive
-ken- / -shvr- / -zam-) originally meaning "do" and conjugate in any
possible way within all the TMA Series.

In order for a pro-verb to be able to replace a lexical verb form in a
discourse the two have to have some features identical while lexical meaning
can vary. For instance the proform in aorist indicative (Example 1) with a
certain preverb (here gada-) and the 1st person indirect object marker m-
can replace any of (2) with the same preverb, the same indirect object
marker and in Aorist but none of (3) which have other preverbs (3a), other
indirect object marker (3b) or are in a different TMA Paradigm (here future

(1) gada-imas-m-i-kn-a
"(S)he VERBed it for/to me"

(2) a. gada-m-e-xv-i-a
    "(s)he hugged me"

    b. gada-m-i-q'ar-a
    "(S)he threw it/them to/for me"

    c. gada-m-a-chv-i-a
    "(S)he made me change the custom"

(3) a. she-m-a-chv-i-a
    "(S)he made me acquire the custom"

    b. gada-g-e-xv-i-a
    "(s)he hugged you.SG"

    b. gada-m-i-q'r-i-s
    "(S)he will throw it to/for me"

Andrew Spencer suggested to check Chukchi which according to Skorik's 1977
Grammar (volume 2) and Michael Dunn's 1999 dissertation has proverbs. Martin
Haspelmath suggested to call the pro-verb in (1) obliviative pro-verb (just
like obliviative pronouns English "thingamy", German "Dingsbums" or

Could you let me know if you have ever come accross such (or similar)
pro-verbs as I just described for Georgian.

Thank you.


Nino Amiridze
Utrecht Institute for Linguistics
Utrecht University

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