query: Where are you going?

Ruth Singer rsinger at UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Sat Jun 4 02:31:48 UTC 2011

Hi David,

There is evidence that the Mawng greeting Ngampiwi anpana? 'Where are
you going?' is used as a greeting rather than an actual question. It
is quite acceptable to answer Nguraka 'I'm going home'  no matter
where you are actually going.

Sometimes people will give their actual goal, at other times they
won't, so sometimes people will answer Nguraka 'I'm going home.' when
they are clearly heading in the opposite direction to their home.

I think that in Kriol it's usual to answer dijey 'this way' which also
shows that the question 'Where are you going?' can also be interpreted
as a greeting rather than a request for information, if used in the
right context, i.e. as the first utterance used when people meet.



On Sat, Jun 4, 2011 at 10:25 AM, Carl & Pat Whitehead
<c-p.whitehead at sil.org.pg> wrote:
> The practise for speakers of Menya (Angan Papuan, TNG, Papua New Guinea) is
> very similar to that reported by Liisa Berghäll for Mauwake. However, since
> people would generally know where the addressee is from, the question when
> people meet along the road could equally be "Where are you coming from?".
> Also a person who is at home when another arrives can say "You have come?"
> Carl Whitehead
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] On
> Behalf Of David Gil
> Sent: 2-Jun-11 9:25 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,
> 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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