[Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

Jess Tauber tetrahedralpt at gmail.com
Sat Jul 2 10:36:32 UTC 2022

In Yahgan (recently extinct genetic isolate from Tierra del Fuego), suffix
-apisiu: (colon marks tenseness of the vowel preceding it) means 'without,
not having, so for example simapisiu: ('there is no water' sima potable
(fresh) water''. apitvpa (v schwa) is glossed as 'having no things, poor'.
The compiler of the dictionary, the British missionary Thomas Bridges,
defines this as based on api 'body' and -tvpan 'only', but my own sense is
that *ap(i) here is more at 'have'. But 'need(s)' is variously ta:pvna,
ta:pu:ku:, where ta:pvna is more at 'needs to survive' (as a child its
mother's milk, or a person water), while ta:pu:ku: means 'to need but be
too afraid, hesitant, or reluctant to try to get'.  It is my belief that
these forms are derivatives of the same underlying root shared with
-a:pisiu: (-iu: by itself was a productive suffix meaning 'not yet' when
appended to verb stems. There are other words along the 'needs/wants'
spectrum, more usually dealing with intentions, planning, and such, desire,
liking and love, etc. For example, tama:na means 'be hesitant, reluctant to
do, careful'. But there is no sense of 'need' in the gloss laid out in the
dictionary. kuru: is 'want, like, desire' generally, and has also found (in
addition to the free lexeme) grammaticalized as an enclitic present tense
form kush as a desiderative.

Jess Tauber


On Sat, Jul 2, 2022 at 5:51 AM Volker Gast <volker.gast at uni-jena.de> wrote:

> Dear Christian,
> I think a central question here is whether 'lack' is a predicate with
> in-built negation, assigning a possessor role to its higher argument and
> negating the Possessor relation, or whether it is a predicate that assigns
> the role of a non-Possessor (or would-be-Possessor) to that argument.
> As far as I know, 'lack' licenses NPIs, e.g.:
> (1) He lacks any sense of humour.
> That seems to show that 'lack' essentially means 'not have', just like
> 'being dead' means 'not being alive'.
> I do not think that 'need' implies 'not have':
> (2) I can't lend you my computer, I need it.
> I would still maintain that this means "in the best of all worlds, I have
> a computer".
> Perhaps Sebastian is right and the modal always has wide scope, i.e., 'I
> need a computer' simply means 'I need to have a computer' (though the
> feeling of not actually having a computer seems to be stronger in the
> latter case).
> I wonder if evaluations should be factored into semantic roles. They seem
> to be located at a different level of interpretation. A semantic role is a
> relation between an event and a participant. An evaluation is a relation
> between an evaluator (the speaker or a participant) and a proposition.
> There are certainly predicates that encode both semantic relations and some
> type of evaluation; but then I would rather say that a predicate encodes
> some type of semantic role and, in addition, some type of evaluation
> (rather than including the evaluation in the semantic role).
> I think those problems have been discussed in the context of the
> adversative passive in Japaneses and related constructions (e.g. external
> possessors in European languages). For instance, 'Du stehst mir auf dem
> Fuß' also implies some negative evaluation, as opposed to 'Du stehst auf
> meinem Fuß'.
> Best,
> Volker
> On 02.07.22 10:05, Christian Lehmann wrote:
> Dear everybody,
> many thanks for your help. At least some of the discussion seems to
> converge on the following points:
> Fillmore-style semantic roles (i.e. semantic relations between a referent
> and a situation core, conceived at a level of generality that can cover
> different situation cores [coded by different verbs]) are best analyzed in
> terms of primitive predicates. (I could have known this; s.:
> Lehmann, Christian 2006, “Les rôles sémantiques comme prédicats”. *Bulletin
> de la Société de Linguistique de Paris* 101/1:67-88.[télécharger
> <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251003441_Les_roles_semantiques_comme_predicats>
> ])
> Then the meaning of 'X *lacks* Y' may boil down to 'X does not have Y'.
> The meaning of 'X *needs* Y' would include this proposition and another
> one like 'for X not to have Y affects X negatively' or alternatively 'for X
> to have Y would be positive for X' (with obvious choices for more
> formalization). This would encompass Volker's notion of 'modalized
> possessor'.
> Now assuming that *lack* has the meaning indicated, then 'for X not to
> have Y affects X negatively' may be a conversational implicature. On this
> basis, a language (maybe Yankunytjatjara) may have 'lack' and lack 'need'.
> On the other hand, there are languages like German and Cabecar which have
> 'need', but lack 'lack'.
> Returning to semantic roles: Given 'X does not have Y', X clearly has the
> possessor role. However, 'X does not have Y' is not the "point" in the
> meaning of 'need'; the point is that it would be better for X to have Y.
> Then the question remains whether there is any semantic role (already
> known) which covers this relation of X. Randy argues that the case is
> analogous to 'love', so the role is experiencer. It is also true that the
> role of X in 'X needs Y' is often coded as some sort of dative dependent,
> which would fit the experiencer interpretation. However, it also fits the
> possessor interpretation, so this may not be decisive. On the basis of
> Jürgen's paraphrase, X would be affected. This would be covered by the role
> of patient. However, no data have been adduced where X in 'X needs Y' would
> be in some kind of undergoer role.
> Maybe the affectation of X here is not the immediate affectation of a
> patient, but rather the mediate affectation undergone by the participant
> bearing a benefactive role. Then the role of X in 'Z is (not) good for X'
> would be the malefactive role; if it is converted into 'it would be good
> for X if Z were the case', it is the benefactive role. This would again be
> compatible with the dative often associated with 'need'.
> It remains to say that the experiencer and the benefactive roles are not
> entirely disjunct, as far as definitions known to me go.
> Christian
> --
> Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
> Rudolfstr. 4
> 99092 Erfurt
> Deutschland
> Tel.: +49/361/2113417
> E-Post: christianw_lehmann at arcor.de
> Web: https://www.christianlehmann.eu
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