>> There is a distinction between 'how do you say X in LANGUAGE' and 'what
>> does this word mean'. It looks like you are asking for the latter. The
>> former would be expressed in French by (I think) 'comment se dit X' as in
>> 'comment se dit 'refrigerator' en français?' rather than 'qu'est-ce que le
>> mot 'frigo' veut dire en anglais?'.
> Quick correction: "How do you say X in LANGUAGE?" in French would be
> "Comment est-ce qu'on dit X en LANGUE ?", with the impersonal "on" rather
> than a reflexive. The reflexive sounds nearly like X is trying to say
> itself!

I have always been taught 'comment se dit X'. I think Spanish also uses a reflexive construction, 'como se dice'. Your way sounds quite formal, although I'm not fluent though so I am probably wrong.

Come to think of, 'qu'est-ce que le mot X veut dire en LANGUE' sounds a bit formal as well, maybe 'que veut dire X en LANGUE' might be more conversational.


> On 30 May 2013 23:17, Jyri Lehtinen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> These are all different case forms of the language name, but you can add
>> adpositional examples to the list equally as well. For example "in English"
>> and "auf Deutsch" are similar but not completely identical to each other.
> French uses the preposition "en": "en français". Interestingly, "en" has an
> instrumental meaning when used with vehicles: "en vélo": "by bike", "en
> voiture": "by car".
> Dutch is somewhat weird, in that it simply uses the preposition "in", as in
> English, but requires the neuter article in front of the language name: "in
> het Nederlands".
>> You didn't ask it but an interesting side point is how to deal with
>> language names in the sentence "I speak X", where it's semantically an
>> object rather than an adverbial. Both Finnic and Saamic treat the language
>> name as a regular direct object (as does English).
> And French.
>> This means that in North
>> Saami you use the accusative case ("Mun human sámegiela", "giela" =
>> language.ACC) and in Finnish and Estonian the partitive case ("Puhun
>> suomea", "suome-a" = Finnish-PART / "Ma räägin eesti keelt", "keel-t" =
>> language-PART). In the Permic languages, however, you keep the language
>> name in the instrumental case even though it acts as a direct object of the
>> verb (Komi: "Сёрнита комиӧн", "коми-ӧн" = Komi-INSTR). Mari works the same
>> way but quite unusually uses its so called comparative case ("Марла попем",
>> "мар-ла" = Mari-COMPA). The basic use of this case is to indicate
>> similarity of action or state.
> Be careful however not to claim that "I speak X" is semantically transitive
> in *all* languages. In Basque for instance, the equivalent of "to speak" is
> the expression "hitz egin": "to make word". Since the object slot is
> already taken by "hitz", the resulting expression has to be semantically
> intransitive. And indeed, the language spoken in such a sentence is once
> again in the instrumental: "euskaraz hitz egin dut": "I speak Basque"
> (literally: "I make word in Basque").
> ObConlang: in my Moten, the equivalent of "to speak" is the verb _igebezi_,
> which is strictly intransitive (Moten verbs are strict when it comes to
> transitivity, and cannot change willy-nilly like English verbs). As in
> Basque, the expression "I speak X" requires the instrumental form of the
> language name: _komotenku|leju igebezi ito_: "(I) speak Moten".
> -- 
> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.