[Lingtyp] common background particles

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Tue Dec 4 16:39:45 UTC 2018

Dear Vladimir,

Malay/Indonesian has such particles.

In Riau Indonesian, Jakarta Indonesian, and several other varieties, 
your S2 would be rendered as

(1) /K//an hari minggu/
     PRT day Sunday

in which /kan/ has exactly the function that you describe. In other 
contexts, the same particle /kan/ has additonal functions, including 
that of a yes/no tag.  Its origin is in a reduced form of the negator 

In Papuan Malay, your S2 would be rendered as

(2) /Hari minggu to
/    day Sunday PRT

where the same function is borne by the particle /to/.  I have heard at 
least two proposed etymologies for /to/:  (a) the Dutch particle /toch 
/(which I am skeptical about), and (b) the Malay word /tau/ 'know'.  I 
also have my own idea, namely that it comes from the Malay/indonesian 
word /atau/ 'or' (ultimately from Sanskrit) — but I'm still not sure 
which of the etymologies is the best ...


On 05/12/2018 00:03, Vladimir Panov wrote:
> Dear collegues,
> In some languages of Europe (e.g. Russian and German) there are 
> special markers ("particles") that have among their core functions the 
> one of "reminding" the hearer of some common background information 
> that s/he is expected to share with the speaker.
> Russian:
> S1: Magazin zakryt.
>       shop      closed
>       The shop is closed
> S2: Konečno, segodnia /že/    voskresen'je
>       of.course  today      PRT  Sunday
>       Of course, (you know that) today is Sunday.
> In Russian, /že/ has some other prominent functions as well. A very 
> similar meaning is also provided by the sentence-initial /ved'/ 
> ("common ground" is its core meaning). For German, the particles /ja 
> /and, to a certain extent, /doch/ are often descirbed in similar 
> terms. For both German and Russian, these particles have been 
> extensively studied.
> Markers having this meaning as at least one of the prominent ones are 
> found in many languages the Circum-Baltic region, Eastern and Northern 
> Europe, Finno-Ugric languages of the European part of Russia. However, 
> they seem to be rare or even absent in Romance languages (but are 
> present in Latin), the rest of West Germanic languages and in the 
> Balkans. Arguably, the overt marking of this meaning may be considered 
> an areal feature of this particular macroregion.
> I would like to ask if anyone is aware of languages beyond Europe that 
> have this type of markers. I am mostly interested in the rest of 
> Eurasia, but not only.
> Thank you,
> Vladimir Panov
> (Vilnius University / Russian Academy of Sciences)
> _______________________________________________
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David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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