[Lingtyp] common background particles

Randy J. LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Wed Dec 5 00:51:03 UTC 2018

Dear Vladimir,
In Mandarin Chinese there is a final particle ma (嘛, not the same as the question marking final particle mā 吗) that is often used when reminding or telling someone information that should be obvious or known already.

………………………women dou shi    ren     ma………………………………………………….
			   1pl       all   COP human MA
The heart-felt words of a man: Ai (sigh), we are all people (ma), you(F) will be afraid to be alone, I of course also will be afraid, it is just that I have not said it, that's all.
(http://womany.net/read/article/3804 <http://womany.net/read/article/3804>)

Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
Professor of Linguistics, with courtesy appointment in Chinese, School of Humanities 
Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
Most recent books:
The Sino-Tibetan Languages, 2nd Edition (2017)
https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324 <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
Sino-Tibetan Linguistics (2018)
https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397 <https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397>

> On 5 Dec 2018, at 12:39 AM, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:
> Dear Vladimir,
> Malay/Indonesian has such particles.
> In Riau Indonesian, Jakarta Indonesian, and several other varieties, your S2 would be rendered as
> (1) Kan 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 bukan.
> 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 ...
> David
> 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 <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
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