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

David Gil gil at eva.mpg.de
Wed Feb 18 11:05:23 UTC 2015

Several comments in this thread highlight a recurring difficulty in 
talking about semantics, namely that in using words from a particular 
natural language (usually English) as our metalanguage, we often 
unintentionally buy in to various idiosyncratic properties of the 
natural-language words that we use to represent these meanings.  My 
original query was of course guilty in not making clear that what I 
trying to refer to was abstract meanings rather than the exact ranges of 
meanings that happen to be expressed by English "give", "do" and 
"make".  This issue arose earlier with the case of causatives, which, in 
some languages are expressed by the same word that also expresses the 
'give' or 'do'/'make' meaning, and it arises also in the case of Russian 
'davaj' and Italian 'dài' below.  Specifically, if these words, whose 
basic meaning is 'give', also have a derived exhortative meaning, and if 
English "do" also has an exhortative meaning (not sure that it does, but 
let's say so, for the sake of argument), then yes, in Russian and 
Italian, in certain specific contexts, a word whose basic meaning is 
'give' may translate into English with the word "do", whose basic 
meaning is 'do'.  But this does not entail that in Russian and Italian, 
there is a single word that has the basic meanings that, for lack of a 
better, language-independent metalanguage, we refer to with the English 
'give' and 'do'/'make'.


On 18/02/2015 19:47, giorgio.arcodia at unimib.it wrote:
> If I may chime in, the use of 'davaj' (da-vaj give.IMPF-IMP.2SG) in 
> Russian is pretty close to the use of 'dài' / 'dai' (da-i 
> give-IMP.2SG) in Italian.
> In Italian, it is (to me) an all-purpose exhortative form, which could 
> be 'do', but also 'hurry up', 'cut it out', etc.
> Giorgio F. A.

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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