[Lingtyp] Truc, machin and friends

Peter Austin pa2 at soas.ac.uk
Thu Mar 9 10:10:55 UTC 2023

Caro Rafaelle

Many Australian Aboriginal languages use a combination of an interrogative noun or pronoun plus a marker (affix or particle), typically indicating that the speaker is ignorant of the identity of the referent (what Anna Wierzbicka calls the 'ignorative'), for this kind of function. For example, Diyari (South Australia) has:

minha-ya what-IGNOR 'whatchamacallit' or 'thingamyjig' or 'something or other' (used for non-humans)
waranha-ya who-IGNOR 'what'shisname'

Note that the first of these can be causativised to created a transitive verb root:

minha-ya-nganka- what-IGNOR-CAUS 'to do something or other'

For more details and examples see sections 3.2.7, 3.3.3 in the latest version of my Diyari grammar at http://www.peterkaustin.com/docs/Austin_2021_Diyari_grammar.pdf

For Jiwarli and other Mantharta languages (Western Australia) the relevant forms consist of the interrogative plus the particle ngulha 'IGNORative', as in:

nhaanha ngulha what IGNOR 'something or other'
ngana ngulha who IGNOR 'someone or other'
wantharta ngulha when IGNOR 'sometime or other'
wanthala ngulha where IGNOR 'somewhere or other'

Note that for English the term 'dude' is used in American English (and by hipsters elsewhere) while in UK and Australia 'bloke' or 'fellow' or 'chap' would be more regularly used. (e.g. this bloke came in and was well out of order).

Best wishes,

From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> On Behalf Of Raffaele Simone
Sent: 08 March 2023 18:08
To: LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: [Lingtyp] Truc, machin and friends

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?

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<https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Funiroma3.academia.edu%2FRaffaeleSimone&data=05%7C01%7Cpa2%40mysoas.onmicrosoft.com%7Ceb65325767024b303fb608db2075836d%7C674dd0a1ae6242c7a39f69ee199537a8%7C0%7C0%7C638139461469053559%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=Hr%2Fj57IQ4c5gLB56i5X7FI8aIZgjzTBFFkLFN1SQP4E%3D&reserved=0>

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