query: Where are you going?

Frans Plank frans.plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Fri Jun 3 07:10:24 UTC 2011

To add to Paolo's message, in German (perhaps somewhat archaic German,  
that is:  most of the corpus examples you'll find will probably be  
from Goethe's Faust, set in the Leipzig area), one person travelling  
on foot and meeting another can greet her/him thus:

Wo-hin d-es Weg-s?

No movement verb here (well, no verb at all), but a local  
interrogative plus a deictic -hin for 'direction away from deictic  
centre' (here the addressee).

This is probably an information question as well as a greeting  
formula:  I don't think these would necessarily have to be mutually  
exclusive alternatives.  If David defines 'greeting' as an  
interrogative speech act not expecting a literal answer (though I  
don't see why one would insist on such a definition -- what sort of  
answer is expected by 'How are you?' or 'Wie geht's' in English- or  
German-speaking cultures?), then perhaps this wouldn't count as a  
greeting.  Though, on the other hand, I wouldn't be too surprised if  
one or another traveller had responded to the above question/greeting  
with 'Und du/Sie?' [and you?], rather than by (also) specifying her/ 
his destination.


On Jun 3, 2011, at 2:09 AM, Bill Palmer 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/

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