query: Where are you going?

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Thu Jun 2 11:24:33 UTC 2011

Dear all,

One of the most common greetings in many languages of mainland and 
insular Southeast Asia is a phrase whose literal meaning is "Where are 
you going?", eg. Thai /pai nai?/, Indonesian /mau ke mana?/  Crucially, 
it is not necessarily meant to be taken literally, any more than the 
English "How do you do?", and the most appropriate response will 
typically be something vague and non-committal, such as "just walking"

I am interested in mapping the geographical distribution of the "Where 
are you going?" greeting.  I would thus be grateful for information from 
as many languages as possible, answering the simple question: 

In language(s) that you are familiar with, is "Where are you going?" (or 
an alternative "Where are you coming from?") used as a common greeting, 
without necessarily being meant to be taken literally as an expression 
of interest in the direction of the addressee's movements?

I am equally interested in negative data, asserting that your language 
does not have such a usage, as I am in data of a positive nature.

In addition to confirming the presence of this greeting thoughout 
mainland and insular Southeast Asia, I am particularly interested in 
ascertaining the geographical boundaries of the greeting, to the west in 
the Indian subcontinent, to the north in China and Northeast Asia, and 
to the east and south, in New Guinea and Australia.  I am also 
interested to find out whether it occurs in other parts of the world, or 
whether it unique to Southeast Asia.  (A recent trip to Ethiopia 
suggests that it might also be found there.)

Looking forward to your responses,



David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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