query: Where are you going?

Paolo Ramat paoram at UNIPV.IT
Thu Jun 2 13:45:43 UTC 2011

French "comment vas-tu ?" and "comment ça va?" , Germ.  "wie geht's dir ?" 
are the most familiar cases of movement verbs used in greetings (vs. Span. 
"còmo estàs?" [accents are not correct in e-mail characters and the inverted 
interrogative sign is also missing] It.  "come stai?" , lit. 'how do you 

Prof.Paolo Ramat
Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS )
Direttore del Centro "Lingue d'Europa: tipologia, storia e sociolinguistica" 
Viale Lungo Ticino Sforza 56
27100 Pavia
tel. ++390382375811
fax ++390382375899
-----Messaggio originale----- 
From: David Gil
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2011 1:24 PM
Subject: query: Where are you going?

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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