the term conative

Hannu Tommola Hannu.Tommola at UTA.FI
Tue Nov 27 05:41:29 UTC 2012

Dear Nigel and all,

in Slavic aspectology 'conative' is used as a term referring to one  
use or one interpretation of the imperfective aspect, especially in  
the case of achievement verbs like ipf. ubedit'/ pf. ubezhdat'  
'convince', e.g.:

Ja dolgo ubezhdal     ego, no  ne  ubedil
I  long  convince.ipf him  but NEG
'I tried to convince him, but did not success'


Quoting Nigel Vincent <nigel.vincent at MANCHESTER.AC.UK>:

> Dear Colleagues,
> I'm interested in uses of the term 'conative'. I have seen it used  
> to describe case alternations equivalent to the difference in  
> English between 'he shot the bear' and 'he shot at the bear', for  
> example in languages like Warlpiri, and Kiparsky has suggested an  
> affinity between the Warlpiri pattern and the alternation between  
> accusative and partitive objects in Finnish. The latter are also  
> sometimes called irresultative. What I am finding it harder to get  
> examples of are instances of conative as a label for verb  
> inflections or periphrases. Matthews' Oxford Concise Dictionary of  
> Linguistics says the term can be used for verb inflections with the  
> meaning 'try to' but he doesn't cite any languages which have this  
> phenomenon. I'd be grateful therefore for any other languages that  
> colleagues can point me to which exhibit a conative construction in  
> this second sense. Aikhenvald's grammar of Tariana identifies a  
> complex predicate construction which she calls 'irresultative' and  
> which comes close: as she says such complex predicates 'describe  
> actions or states which do not quite amount to what they ought to',  
> though in her examples there doesn't seem to be any necessary  
> implication of trying.
> Thanks,
> Nigel
> P.S. I'm assuming that Jakobson's use of the term 'conative' to  
> describe one of the functions of language is something altogether  
> different.
> Professor Nigel Vincent, FBA
> Professor Emeritus of General & Romance Linguistics
> The University of Manchester
> Vice-President for Research & HE Policy, The British Academy
> Linguistics & English Language
> School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
> The University of Manchester
> Manchester M13 9PL
> UK

Hannu Tommola, Professor of Russian Language (Translation Theory and Practice)
School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies
FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
Phone: +358-(0)3-3551 6102

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