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CONLANG  February 2015, Week 1

CONLANG February 2015, Week 1

Subject:

Re: Reversed polarity

From:

Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 3 Feb 2015 16:34:05 +0100

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On 3 February 2015 at 16:04, James Campbell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> My lack of linguistics training is showing again as I attempt to write the
> definitive grammar of Jameld. Here's the thing: there are certain
> expressions that, in English, have the speaker as the subject, but in some
> other languages the speaker (agent??) is the object. For instance:
>
> EN: I'm sorry.
>
> NL: Het spijt me. (lit. It sorrows me)
>
> EN: I like the book.
>
> IT: Mi piace il libro./Il libro mi piace. (lit. The book pleases me)
>
> I'm at a loss for the right terminology for this phenomenon: agent
> switching? Polarity reversal? Maybe I'm just looking at it from a too
> Anglocentric viewpoint.
>
>
Actually, as you showed above even in English there is at least one pair of
verbs whose main difference is the "polarity": "to like" vs. "to please"
:). As with Spanish "gustar" or French "plaire", I think people would have
less difficulties with these verbs if they were correctly translated as "to
please" rather than doing contortions to make them fit the "to like"
pattern.


> How would one describe these verbs, spijten and piacere?
>
>
Very good question. And given that Moten is full of verbs like that (most
verbs of mental activities in Moten are like that for instance), I should
have a way to describe it :).

But to be honest, they are just *verbs*, i.e. they are not special in the
languages where they are used. They are not anomalous, irregular, or
anything. The only thing that puts them apart from other verbs is that they
happen to have a different argument structure than the most common
equivalent verbs in English. So when I describe those types of verbs as
they appear in Moten, I usually just say that they are like their English
equivalents in meaning, but with a "different argument orientation". I
don't know if there's a linguistic way to describe them, but this one works
for me.
Another way I use to describe them is simply to gloss them with passive
forms in English. It makes the argument orientation clear from the get go
:).

By the way, here are a few examples of such verbs in Moten:
- _jelojmaj_: "to be thought of by" (i.e. "to think");
- _jelojmastu|l_: "to be remembered by" (i.e. "to remember");
- _iteo|l_: "to please, to be liked by";
- _idibaj_: "to be considered by, to be believed by, to be thought by"
(i.e. "to think", when stating an opinion);

There are more, but those are the most common ones :).
-- 
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
President of the Language Creation Society (http://conlang.org/)

Personal Website: http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
Personal Tumblr: http://christophoronomicon.tumblr.com/

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