[Lingtyp] Affectionate or sympathy marking

Åshild Næss ashild.nass at iln.uio.no
Mon Jan 16 10:05:39 UTC 2023

Well, this is extremely interesting, thanks everyone!  Äiwoo (Oceanic) has a form which I've not got around to thinking about much, but which clearly has this kind of function. It's person-marked, so it's technically either a verb or a directly possessed noun, I guess, though I’m not sure from my limited examples how best to categorise it. When directed at someone, it always (although my examples are few) seems to take 1+2MIN ('you and I') marking, and was variously translated by my consultant as either 'my dear' or 'poor you', so indicating either affection or sympathy: gonyibe-ji, where -ji is the 1+2MIN suffix. Then there are some 3MIN and 3AUG forms: gonyibä 'poor man/woman', gonyibäi 'poor people', and a single example with 1+2AUG marking gonyibe-de which was translated as 'we're very sorry' (in the context of a narrative involving a young child dying). It also seems to be possible to use it as a general exclamation: gonyibee (for which I’m not sure of the morphological structure) was translated as ‘Oh my goodness’. No clues whatsoever as to the etymology …

Something to think more about, thanks for drawing my attention to this!



Fra: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> På vegne av Guillaume Jacques
Sendt: søndag 15. januar 2023 17:58
Til: Maia Ponsonnet <maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au>
Kopi: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Emne: Re: [Lingtyp] Affectionate or sympathy marking

Dear Christian et al,

Another example: the Sepik language Awtuw has a suffix -yaen which Feldman (1986:66) calls "emotive", and which is used "when the speaker wants to elicit sympathy for the referent of the suffixed pronoun".


Le dim. 15 janv. 2023 à 09:08, Maia Ponsonnet <maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au<mailto:maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au>> a écrit :
Hi Christian, and others,

Thank you so much for prompting this thread, and thanks for all the answers  - very relevant to me too!

I ended up archiving the contents (I obviously won't use them without explicit authorization). I've attached what I retrieved in case this is helpful.

Since the thread hinted at the link between interjections and evaluative morphology, and has mentioned Australian languages, I'm attaching two more publications:

Ponsonnet, Maïa. In press. Interjections, in Bowern,C. ed., Oxford Guide to Australian languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
(Section 5 on expressive interjections has something on compassion.

Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2018. Do linguistic properties influence expressive potential? The case of two Australian diminutives (Gunwinyguan family). Anthropological Linguistics 60(2):157-190.
(Which compares the Dalabon diminutive clitic =wurd with the Rembarrnga diminutive suffix / interjection (-)kanja(ng)h. The morphonological status of the items is is focus.)

And you can also look at references to compassionate interjections in Dalabon in Ponsonnet 2014 and and in Kriol in Ponsonnet 2020 here:



Sorry to inundate you with publications, but please do not hesitate to ask specific questions  - this is very close to my own interests.

Cheers and kind regards to you and every one,


Maïa Ponsonnet

Chargée de Recherche HDR @ CNRS Dynamique Du Langage

14, avenue Berthelot, 69007 Lyon, FRANCE  -- +33 4 72 72 65 46

Adjunct @ University of Western Australia

+ + + + +

Co-rédactrice en chef du Journal de la Société des Océanistes


De : Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>> de la part de Christian Döhler <christian.doehler at posteo.de<mailto:christian.doehler at posteo.de>>
Envoyé : jeudi 12 janvier 2023 11:10
À : lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Objet : [Lingtyp] Affectionate or sympathy marking

Dear colleagues,

I am looking for publications that address the difference between (1) and (2). In (2), the English adjective poor is used to signal the speaker's sympathy or affection towards the dog.

  1.  The dog is waiting for its owner.
  2.  The poor dog is waiting for its owner.
While English (and my native German) does this by extending the meaning of the adjective poor (and arm in German), other languages have special words with only that meaning. For example, Komnzo bana is a postposed adjective that only conveys sympathy.

    ni bananzo namnzr karen.
    ni           bana=nzo        na\m/nzr                       kar=en
    1NSG    SYMP=only     1PL:NPST:IPFV/stay    village=LOC
    'Only we poor guys stay behind in the village' (subtext: 'while the others are going to the celebration in the neighbouring village')
    (NSG = non-singular, SYMP = sympathy marker, NPST = nonpast)

Yet other languages seem to have special verb morphology for this. Van Tongeren describes this for Suki (her PhD grammar will probably be available later this year).

Pointers to more examples and publications of this are most welcome. I was googling this with keywords like "sympathy", "empathy", "affection", but with not much luck. So there might be a whole literature on this phenomenon under different terminology. If that's the case, then please excuse my ignorance.

Very Best,


Dr. Christian Döhler

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)

Schützenstraße 18

10117 Berlin

Raum: 445

Tel.: +49 30 20192 412

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Guillaume Jacques

Directeur de recherches
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