[Lingtyp] ‘Ostensive’ use of a goal case

Joanna Bialek jbialek108 at gmail.com
Tue Mar 1 09:06:53 UTC 2022

Dear Marius,

The development you're looking at went most probably like that: 
goal/benefactive > topic > ostensive (if you want to call it like that). 
The topic function of =la is well-known in Classical Tibetan:

de=la pha spreɣu byaṅ čhub sems dpaɣi rigs=su gyur=pa=ni (GLR 23v5–6)

that=DAT father monkey bodhisattva:GEN lineage=TERM become(PRF)=NR=TOP

"concerning that (de=la), those who became the lineage of the father, 
the bodhisattva-monkey [were ...]"

This is an NP, not a finite clause. It follows immediately after the 
sentence: "In that way, because these people, the inhabitants of the 
snow-clad Tibet, had descended from both a father-monkey and a mother 
rock-ogress, [they] have divided into two kinds."

The examples I know require the la-constituent to be fronted, which 
fact, I think, might have triggered further changes.

With best wishes,


On 2022-03-01 09:32, zemp marius wrote:
> Dear Riccardo, dear others,
> thanks for your valuable input. It allows me to specify what I’m 
> interested in<#_msocom_1>. In the Written Tibetan examples presented 
> in my previous email, as well as in the following example from modern 
> Central Tibetan,
> /sem kjo-wa-laa/
> mindsad-nlzr-ost
> ‘How sad!’
> -/la(a)/ points to a clear manifestation or a great example of the 
> property denoted by the nominalized verb.
> Which is why I think ‘ostensive’ might be a good label – While in 
> ostensive definitions, one defines something by pointing to a good 
> example, Tibetan -/la/ points to a good or even great example of what 
> one is talking about.<#_msocom_2>
> What distinguishes the ‘ostensive’ use of Tibetan -/la/ from most of 
> the uses of goal cases you mentioned is that this -/la/ here could be 
> analyzed as finite, as it completes a sentence. While pointing to a 
> state of affairs exemplifying the property denoted by the nominalized 
> verb, -/la/ also implies that this state of affairs currently applies, 
> or is at least currently experienced.
> Come to think of it, you could also analyze this use of the Tibetan 
> goal case as an instance of insubordination. For instance, you could 
> assume that someone using it in this way actually means ‘look at (the 
> property denoted by the nominalized verb)!’ However, even if we can 
> think of such a matrix sentence<#_msocom_3>(‘look at [VN-/la/]!’, or 
> perhaps also ‘feel [VN-/la/]!’ or ‘consider [VN-/la/]!’) as being 
> elided here, I would not assume that the meaning of the ostensive 
> construction /equals/ that facilitated by any of these matrix sentences.
> In short, I’m actually looking for cross-linguistic parallels for the 
> /finite/ or /predicative/ use of a goal case.
> Best,
> Marius
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Dr. Joanna Bialek
Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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