[Lingtyp] "become"

Eva Schultze-Berndt Eva.Schultze-Berndt at manchester.ac.uk
Sun Jul 5 19:46:09 UTC 2015

Dear David and all,

A do/become polysemy (even without detransitivisation operations of any sort) is attested in various languages – I have described it for the Australian (W. Mirndi) language Jaminjung (Schultze-Berndt 2000: Ch 5) and more generally in (Schultze-Berndt 2008), where I also mention Samoan (Mosel & Hovdhaugen 1992: 113) and Yimas (Foley 1991: 293-300).

In the 2008 paper I argue that the notion of ‘internal causation’, as per Levin & Rappaport Hovav (1994, 1995), can account for these diverse uses of ‘do’ verbs as well as additional uses attested cross-linguistically, e.g. with translation equivalents of ‘happen’, ‘feel’, and ‘exhibit property’. That is, verbs like these do not have the semantic component of agentivity and control associated with ‘do’ verbs in an SAE perspective (and consequently with a primitive predicate ‘DO’ in various decompositional semantic frameworks!) but rather encode that a participant manifests an event, a state change, a quality or a condition which corresponds to an inherent property of this participant. (Cf. Levin & Rappaport Hovav’s (1995: 91) definition of internally caused eventualities as “conceptualised as arising from inherent properties of their arguments”, applied by them to English verbs like tremble or glitter).

In Jaminjung, the inchoative use of the verb is indeed restricted to internally caused state changes, e.g. ‘become big’ = ‘grow’, ‘become night’, or ‘turn into a devil’ (see ex. below). State changes like ‘break’ or ‘open’ – corresponding to what Levin & Rappaport Hovav (1995) term ‘externally caused state changes’ – are encoded in Jaminjung by complex verbs which are formed with a different verb, ‑ijga ‘go’. This is the pattern I would predict for other languages with a ‘do’ / ‘become’ “polysemy” (without valency change), but I would be interested to learn otherwise.

Examples from Jaminjung are below. The same verb functions as a generalised action verb and a speech framing verb with quotations (a polysemy widespread in Australian languages), an inchoative verb which encodes the transition into a state or class, as well as a light verb with predicates of internal motion, light/sound emission, and physical or emotional condition. (It does not function as a verb of creation (‘make’) though):

  2.      yurru-wu-yu

do.what=now? 1PL.INCL>3SG-POT-do

‘what are we going to do?’

wurrguru nganthu-wu-yu

devil 2SG>3SG-POT-do

‘you will turn into a devil’

  1.  nga-yunggu-m

itchy / sad 1SG>3SG-do-PRS

‘I am/feel itchy/sad’ (lit.: ‘I do itchy / sad’)

Jaminjung also uses the ‘give’ verb to form the reflexive/reciprocal of ‘say’ since the ‘say/do’ verb is defective in this respect (details also in Schultze-Berndt 2000).

Foley, William A. (1991). The Yimas language of New Guinea. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav (1994). 'A preliminary analysis of causative verbs in English'. Lingua, 92, 35-77.

Levin, Beth and Malka Rappaport Hovav (1995). Unaccusativity: at the syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mosel, Ulrike & Even Hovdhaugen (1992). Samoan Reference Grammar. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.

Schultze-Berndt, Eva (2000). Simple and complex verbs in Jaminjung: A study of event categorisation in an Australian language. (PhD), University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen.

Schultze-Berndt, Eva (2008). 'What do “do” verbs do? The semantic diversity of generalised action verbs', in Elisabeth Verhoeven, Stavros Skopeteas, Yong-Min Shin, Yoko Nishina and Johannes Helmbrecht (eds.), Studies on Grammaticalization. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter,  185-208.



Eva Schultze-Berndt
Professor of Linguistics
Linguistics and English Language
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
The University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL
Manchester, UK
E-mail: eva.schultze-berndt at manchester.ac.uk
Office (summer 2015): S1.09b, Samuel Alexander Building

From: Lingtyp [lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] on behalf of Lewis Lawyer [lclawyer at ucdavis.edu]
Sent: 04 July 2015 00:37
To: LingTyp
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] "become"

Dear David,
Another example for you---not a historical source so much as a synchronic derivation:
In Patwin (Wintuan family, Penutian "superfamily", of California) the verb lelu 'make' can be reflexivized to express the meaning 'become'.  Similar to Dr. Dryer's Walman example, but with 'make' rather than 'do' (lelu never means 'do' in Patwin).  Also perhaps more agentive than prototypical 'become', though sometimes translated that way.

(1)  ču   pi        depi   no:p    lelu-nana-t'i.
      I     DECL  also   deer    make-REFL-FUT
     'I'm going to turn into a deer too.'  (Whistler 1977:169)

(2)  k'učiʔa-ro         p'o:rma-ro    bo:     win          lelu-nan-mu            [...]
      small-PTCP     bad-PTCP   be      person     make-REFL-SBJV
     (He) made himself a small and ugly person.  (Radin MS:103)

Whistler, Kenneth W.  1977.  Deer and Bear Children.  Speakers: Nora Lowell and Harry Lorenzo.  In Northern California Texts, edited by Victor Golla and Shirley Silver, 158-179. International Journal of American Linguistics Native American Texts Series 2(2).  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Radin, Paul.  MS.  Patwin Texts.  Collected 1932, from speaker Anderson Lowell.  In the American Council of Learned Societies Committee on Native American Languages, American Philosophical Society.  Call number: 497.3 B63c P4b6-7.



Lewis C. Lawyer
PhD Candidate in Linguistics
University of California, Davis
lclawyer at ucdavis.edu<mailto:lclawyer at ucdavis.edu>
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