Claude Hagége claude-hagege at WANADOO.FR
Tue Nov 27 22:32:11 UTC 2012

Dear all,


A quite interesting issue, indeed! It is, in my opinion, not only terminological, but also morphologic~and~semantic, we should say “morphosemantic”, going far beyond the simple choice of a label.

The example given by the Latin grammarian Varro to illustrate the de conatu form(s) (the traditional term, as recalled by Martin K) was the opposition between parire “to give birth” and parturire” to be about to give birth, with an implication that it is desired but painful”;  parturire is a desiderative form of parire. Varro, however, does not say explicitly that –tu- is here a (former?) suffix. But the desiderative  meaning is linked to the frequentative (mentioned alone, apparently, by Setälä about Finnish), which, as recalled by Johanna, may be the source of Finnic irrealis (conditional, potential) suffixes, akin to the “trying” or “wanting to” –el- in the Finnish dialects she refers to. What seems interesting in this Finnish suffix is that it is a morpheme, not simply an element of a periphrasis, such as those in Italian, French or English which Paolo mentions.Turkish -se-, also recalled by Paolo, is certainly a morpheme, but not a conative one, since it is the Turkish mark of the conditional, unless we consider that there is a semantic chain <conditional-potential-desiderative-frequentative>. This confirms that the problem is not merely terminological. 

Like the dialectal use of Finnish -el- , the suffix referred to by Alec C with respect to Mongsen Ao also seems to be a morpheme. To some extent, the same could be said of the elements cited by Alice with respect to East and South-East Asian languages, including the famous Japanese (miru), Korean (po), Burmese Ci1 verbs “to see” or “to look” when used with a “try to” meaning within verb-phrases. But this treatment implies that we have arguments to prove that, in this use, miru, po, Ci1, and equivalent elements in Hmong and such TB languages as Lahu, Lalo, (Pwo)Karen, etc., are not (no longer?) verbs.

          The terms frustrative, attemptive, experimentative, irresultative do not, of course, refer to the same realities within the general notion of conative: the main difference seems to lie between situations in which the attempt has partly succeeded and situations in which it has failed, with certain (especially Slavic) languages stressing the unsuccessful effort by a contrast between imperfective and perfective forms of verbs: along with Hannu’s example with dolgo “long”, there is, in Russian, a striking (and recurrent) use of a reduplicated imperfective to indicate that the action has repeatedly been attempted, but eventually failed; this can even apply to non-human (hence supposedly non-volitional?!) participants, as in sneg tajal, tajal, no ne rastajal “the snow was melting, melting, but did not melt”; cf. the very frequent negative resultative (“cannot”) structure in Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Khmer, Hmong and other South-East Asian languages, e.g. Mandarin jr-bù-zhù (remember-NEG-remain) “be unable to remember”.

Although I am aware that this terminological inflation may have some drawbacks, it also has advantages if we want to reach fine-grained descriptions. Consequently, please allow me to …add a further term ! The meaning it expresses may indirectly shed light on the conative semantic sphere, since it refers to the opposite situations, i.e. situations where a negative event which could have resulted from a certain state of affairs is avoided or averted. Hence the term “avertive”. I coined this term as a suggestion to Tania Kuteva, who used, then, the longish expression “action narrowly averted” to refer to a meaning “was on the verge of V-ing but did not V”: Bulgarian štjax da “wanted that”, i.e. “nearly, almost”, Aranda (Australia) tyeke, Hua (Papua) hine, Huallaga Quechua paq, etc. I took over the notion of avertive in Adpositions (“Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory”) Oxford University Press, 2010). If I may overload the terminology (!), let me add that I suggested (Adpositions 327) to distinguish avertive from aversitive, the term I coin to refer to the (rare and strange) “mental state adpositions” found in Cariban language: the Tiriyó postposition aame(ke), for instance, means “in hatred for”. 








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