[Lingtyp] "become" - summary

David Gil gil at eva.mpg.de
Sun Jul 5 03:49:04 UTC 2015

Thanks to all those who responded to my query (reproduced below) 
concerning "become":  Winfried Boeder, Natalia Caceres, Bernard Comrie, 
Denis Creissels, Östen Dahl, Gréte Dalmi, Michael Daniel, Matthew Dryer, 
Bill Foley, Thomas Goldammer, Eitan Grossman, Guillaume Jacques, Lewis 
Lawyer, Seongha Rhee, Don Stilo, and Bjorn Wiemer.

Not surprisingly, many languages were offered in which "become" is 
identical to or derived from "do"/"make", suggesting that this is a 
widespread path of diachronic change.  Languages offered exhibiting this 
pattern were Mandinka, Soninke (Niger Congo), Hebrew, French, Russian, 
Georgian, Japhug Gyalrong (Sino-Tibetan), Walman (Torricelli), Yimas, 
Watam (Lower Sepik-Ramu), Patwin (Penutian), Ye'kwana (Carib), plus also 
Sumerian, Akkadian, Coptic and Latin.

For those who are interested: a few words on the motivation behind this 
query.  I am trying to unravel ancient contact between Austronesian and 
non-Austronesian languages in the Bird's Head of New Guinea.  The 
Austronesian language I'm working on, Roon, has the same word for (among 
several other functions) "give", "do"/"make" and "become".  The form in 
question is clearly inherited from the Austronesian word for "give".  
Its generalization to "do"/"make" seems to be under the influence of 
non-Austronesian languages in the region, which also exhibit 
"give"-"do"/"make" identity, e.g. Meyah and Hatam.  Other 
closely-related languages exhibit the same pattern.  But the question is 
when, or how far back, did this particular contact-induced 
generalization take place?

Some insight into this question can be gained from other nearby 
Austronesian languages in which different patterns of macrofunctionality 
are observed.  For example, in Ambel, the cognate form means "give" and 
"become" but not "do"/"make", while in Kurudu, the cognate form means 
"become" but not "give" or "do"/"make".  So where did the "become" words 
in Ambel and Kurudu come from?  Well, based on the results of the above 
query, and the cross-linguistically widespread development of "become" 
from "do"/"give", it seems plausible to posit that the "become" word in 
languages such as Ambel and Kurudu came from the cognate "do"/"make", 
still present in Roon, but subsequently replaced by another word in 
languages such as Ambel and Kurudu.  This, in turn, would entail that 
the development of "give"-"do"/"make" identity, due to contact with 
non-Austronesian languages, occurred at a relatively early stage in the 
spread of Austronesian languages in the region, specifically at the 
stage of a hypothetical proto-language descended from 
proto-South-Halmahera-West-New-Guinea but ancestral to Roon, Ambel, 
Kurudu, and several other languages which have a "become" word 
originating in the Austronesian word for "give".

On 03/07/2015 22:59, David Gil wrote:
> Greetings, typologists, from the New Guinea Bird's Head.
> Does anybody know of any cross-linguistic studies examining the 
> historical sources and etymologies of words or affixes that mean 
> "become"?
> Alternatively, is anybody familiar with cases in which a word meaning 
> "become" has its origin in a word meaning "make"/"do"?
> Thanks,
> David

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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