query: Where are you going?

Ruth Singer rsinger at UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Fri Jun 3 04:00:15 UTC 2011

Hi David,

Ngampiwi anpana? (where 2sg.F-go.NP) 'Where are you going?' is the
most common greeting in Mawng (Iwaidjan, Australia). This makes sense
when you are greeting somebody who is clearly on their way somewhere.
If not, such as when one person enters a room, where the other is
seated, for example, people use Kiki kanmin? (how P.2sg-do-NP) 'How
are you?'. This is typically the greeting taught to English speakers,
probably because it matches the English greeting 'How are you?' more

I think that 'Where are you going?' type greetings are common in
Australian languages, and are found in Kriol, a contact language too,
but you'd have to ask a Kriol expert more about that.



On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 10:09 AM, Bill Palmer
<Bill.Palmer at newcastle.edu.au> wrote:
> Hi David
> This is typical in the Oceanic languages of the Solomon Islands. In Kokota the standard greeting is Lao hai? 'Where are you going?'. When I was very first in the field I was met with astonishment and much amusement when I would responde with a brief precis of where I was going and why.
> cheers
> Bill
> Dr Bill Palmer
> Linguistics Discipline Head
> Convenor, Endangered Languages Documentation,
>    Theory and Application Research Group
> Linguistics Research Higher Degree/Honours coordinator
> School of Humanities and Social Science
> University of Newcastle
> Callaghan NSW 2308
> Australia
> email bill.palmer at newcastle.edu.au
>>>> David Gil <gil at EVA.MPG.DE> 02/06/11 9:24 PM >>>
> 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,
> Thanks,
> David
> --
> 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/

Ruth Singer
ARC Research Fellow
Linguistics Program
School of Languages and Linguistics
Faculty of Arts
University of Melbourne 3010

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