[Lingtyp] query: 'give' and 'do'/'make'

David Gil gil at eva.mpg.de
Mon Feb 16 06:14:26 UTC 2015

Dear all,

Does anybody know of languages in which 'give' and 'do'/'make' are 
expressed with the same or related words?  Or of cases in which forms 
expressing one of these two meanings are historically derived from forms 
expressing the other meaning?



Further details:

My interest in this question stems from current field work on Roon 
(South Halmahera West New Guinea, Austronesian).  In Roon there is a 
single form /be/ expressing both 'give' and 'do'/'make'. (In fact, the 
same form /be /is associated with a wide range of grammatical and 
semantic functions, most or all of which seem to be derivable 
diachronically and possibly also synchronically from either 'give' or 
'do'/'make'.)  A cognate form /be /meaning both 'give' and 'do'/'make' 
is also present in closely related Biak and Dusner.

Identical words for 'give' and 'do'/'make' (but unrelated to /be/) also 
occur in at least two nearby non-Austronesian languages, Meyah and 
Hatam, and in the geographically proximate Austronesian language Wooi.  
However, I have not yet been able to find any other examples of 
'give'-'do'/'make' identity in other languages of the region, 
Austronesian or otherwise.  Thus, 'give'-'do'/'make' identity seems to 
be an areal characteristic of a small region of the eastern Bird's Head 
and western Cenderawasih Bay, in which it presumably spread from the 
original non-Austronesian to the intrusive Austronesian languages, 
through metatypy, relexification, or some such process.

In order to gauge the significance of 'give'-'do'/'make' identity as a 
diagnostic feature of language contact, I am thus interested in getting 
a feel for how widespread this feature is across the world's languages.  
For what it's worth, I can't think of any examples from other parts of 
the world — can you?

I am also interested in any ideas you might have about what the semantic 
basis of the connection between 'give' and 'do'/'make', and possible 
mechanisms of semantic generalization.  In the Roon/Biak/Dusner case, at 
least, the form /be/ is clearly cognate with the proto-Malayo-Polynesian 
word for 'give', suggesting that the direction of semantic  spread was 
from 'give' to 'do'/'make'.  But I have no information on the other 
known cases (Meyah, Hatam, Wooi).

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550333
Email:gil at eva.mpg.de

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