[Lingtyp] Truc, machin and friends

Ian Maddieson ianm at berkeley.edu
Thu Mar 9 08:39:37 UTC 2023


Interesting issue. It seems that it might also be worthwhile to distinguish items that are explicitly vague 
(English ‘whatchamacallit’, ‘whatsisname”, German ‘Dings-da, etc) from words that are used in a generic
way but have a (somewhat) more specific reference, perhaps as well as a generically vague one (compare
English ’thing’ and ’thingy’ — the latter must be vague bit the first not necessarily)


> On Mar 8, 2023, at 11:08, Raffaele Simone <raffaele.simone at uniroma3.it> wrote:
> Dear friends and colleagues,
> I am preparing a paper on that group of general-generic words that are used to designate entities whose name you do not know or do not remember, or whose name you do not want to remember or that, simply, have no name in a language. 
> I’m referring to “nouns” like French "truc" and "machin", Italian "coso", "arnese", "aggeggio", or, for people, Italian "tizio", "tipo", Spanish "tío", “fulano”, English "dude" etc. They form apparently a special word class and implement a particular way of designating.
> The situation in the European languages I am familiar with seems very fragmented and discontinuous: some languages do have sets of dedicated or semidedicated words for that function, but most don’t, as far as I see.
> Does any of you have examples from other languages and, if any, bibliographic references?
> Thanks,
> Raffaele
> ==============
> Emeritus Professor, Università Roma Tre
> Hon C Lund University
> Membre de l'Académie Royale de Belgique
> Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France
> Accademico (corrispondente) della Crusca
> Prix de l'Institut de France-Fondation Bonnefous 2022
> ===============
> Attività e pubblicazioni // Activity and publications http://uniroma3.academia.edu/RaffaeleSimone
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Ian Maddieson

Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131-0001

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