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

David Gil gil at eva.mpg.de
Tue Feb 17 09:58:26 UTC 2015

Dear all,

Thanks to all of you who responded to my query (reproduced below), 
either personally to me or to the LINGTYP list.

Many of the examples came, rather surprisingly to me, from familiar 
languages, such as the English "Do me a hamburger" (meaning "Give me a 
hamburger") and "Give a sigh" (meaning "Make a sigh") (the latter from a 
personal message from John Haiman).

While these examples suggest that the 'give'-'do'/'make' connection is 
indeed cognitively "natural",  they would appear to differ from the 
cases I'm working on.  Specifically, whereas in English and other such 
languages, the primary way of saying 'give' and 'do'/'make' is by means 
of different words that would be listed as distinct lexical items in any 
dictionary, in languages such as Roon, Meyah, etc., there are no 
distinct words for 'give' and 'do'/'make' (at least not in the everyday 
lexicon), hence dictionaries of these languages would list 'give' and 
'do'/'make' as primary meanings for the same word.

Thus, on the basis of the English-like usages, I would now rephrase my 
query, and ask for languages in which the same or related form has both 
'give' and 'do'/'make' as BASIC meanings, of the kind that would be 
listed in a dictionary.  From the responses that I have received so far, 
my impression (but please let me know if I've misinterpreted anything) 
is that the following languages fit the bill:  Classical Chinese (thanks 
to Randy LaPolla and Giorgio Arcodia), the Angan ("Papuan") language 
Menya (thanks to Carl Whitehead) and two Timor-Alor-Pantar ("Papuan") 
languages, Makalero and Makasae (thanks to Juliette Huber).  But more 
examples would be greatly appreciated!

In particular, I find the Chinese-Papuan connection tantalizing, as I 
have just completed a long paper arguing for a Mekong-Mamberamo 
linguistic area extending from Southeast Asia to Western New Guinea.  
But I would need much more data in order to see if there is any 
connection between 'give'-'do'/'make' identity and the Mekong-Mamberamo 
area.  (Of course, such a connection would be a very weak one at best, 
given the predominance of languages without 'give'-'do'/'make' identity 
even within the area in question).

Again, many thanks, and I look forward to more data!


On 16/02/2015 15:14, David Gil wrote:
> 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?
> Thanks,
> David
> 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
> Webpage:http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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