affixal 'only'

peterarkadiev peterarkadiev at YANDEX.RU
Fri Jun 12 08:11:48 UTC 2009

Dear colleagues,

I would like to inquire whether you could give me examples of languages exhibiting an affixal expression of meanings similar to English 'only'. Let me explain what I mean.

1. In Russian, 'only' is expressed by a particle _tol'ko_, which must precede the constituent it has scope over, thus

(1a) Tol'ko Ivan chitaet knigi 'Only Ivan (and nobody else) reads books'
(1b) Ivan chitaet tol'ko knigi 'Ivan reads only books (and nothing else)'
(1c) Ivan tol'ko chitaet knigi 'Ivan only reads books (and does nothing else)', but not *'Ivan reads only books'

Are there languages where 'only' in sentences like (1a) and (1b) would be expressed as an affix on the noun?

2. In English, as is well known, the particle _only_ can appear in the preverbal position while having narrower scope (depending on intonation, as far as I may judge from the literature):

(1d) John only reads books 
- 'John reads books and does nothing else'
- 'John reads books and reads nothing else'

Are there languages where 'only' in sentences like (1d) would be expressed as a genuine affix on the verb? More importantly, I am especially interested in situations when such affix would allow readings similar to the second interpretation of (1d), i.e. with the narrow scope.

I know of one such language, namely Lithuanian (not an 'exotic' language, as it were). Here there are two expressions of 'only': one is a particle _tik_ in all relevant respects similar to the Russian _tol'ko_, and the other is a prefix _te-_, which, notably, shows scopal properties more similar to those of the English _only_ (i.e. it allows almost any type of constituent to be in its scope, including the subject, the direct and indirect objects, obliques, and even can scope into the embedded clause with some matrix predicates). Now I am looking for typological parallels to this situation.

Many thanks in advance!

Best wishes,

Peter Arkadiev
Institute of Slavic Studies
Russian Academy of Sciences

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list