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On 17 March 2017 at 14:47, kechpaja <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> In my idiolect, "a certain" is almost always used
> sarcastically/ironically, in situations where the speaker expects the
> listener to be able to infer who or what they are talking about, but
> wants to be sarcastic by using a term that one would expect to be used
> when the listener wasn't supposed to be able to identify the referent.
> It is usually emphesized. So, for instance:
>
> I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when *a certain cat*
> came and stole a piece of meat right off my plate!
>
> I can't imagine this sentence being used in a situation where the
> speaker didn't expect the listener to know exactly which cat they were
> talking about.
>

I of course recognize the usage, and although your own idiolect might
countenance no other usage, in that you would not utter "a certain" in any
other context, I think this reveals a general insufficiency of the notion
'idiolect', for it seems likely to me that if you google the phrase you
will find many usages that differ from the one you describe but you do not
find remarkable or outre or perplexing, even if you would not utter them
yourself. I use the term 'perilect' to describe the family of lects that an
individual is inured to, is intimately acquainted with, even if the
individual's own usage excludes or precludes some of those lects (so for
instance my perilect includes "I were" and "we was", but my idiolect
excludes them). I'd be surprised, then, if the wider range of usages of "a
certain" weren't within your perilect.

Regarding the idea that "a certain" is specific, an idea that I myself have
been happy to propound, it would be more accurate to describe it as a
wide-scope existential quantifier. Consider the following example (just
googled up):

"Now, define a method called findFather () that finds the father of a
certain person."

This is plainly not specific in any usual sense, yet is a natural usage
(the usage is within my perilect, tho I myself would prefer "a given
person"). "A certain" indicates here that rather than a narrow-scope
reading "method that makes it the case that there is a person whose father
is known" the intended reading is "method such every case in which there is
a person is a case in which there is a person such that the method makes it
the case that the father of the person is known" or, slightly less
unidiomatically, "method such that whenever there is a person, the method
finds the person's father".

The specific reading is (IMO) one particular instance of the wide scope
existential quantifier, where the quantifier has scope over an
illocutionary operator. For example, "a certain cat came and stole a piece
of meat" means "there is a cat such that I hereby-tell you that it came and
stole a piece of meat".

--And.



>
>  - kechpaja -
>
> On Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 10:31:29AM -0400, Amanda Babcock Furrow wrote:
> > ...at the risk of running out of posts-to-Conlang for the day, I want to
> > also note that "a certain" is sort of the opposite of a definiteness
> > marker: it marks information that the speaker is pretty sure the listener
> > can *not* identify.  It introduces new information but immediately
> > backgrounds it to the topic rather than the focus.
> >
> > I think "identifiable to the speaker" is specificity rather than
> > definiteness.  Calling "a certain" a specificity marker feels almost
> > tautological :)
> >
> > tylakèhlpë'fö,
> > Amanda
> >
> > On Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 10:22:13AM -0400, Amanda Babcock Furrow wrote:
> > > I think I guessed right on all counts!  Check out footnote 16 in
> > > http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/reiko/Topics_in_Japanese-Sept08.pdf
> > >
> > > I wasn't aware that "certain" was considered to be a meaning of "aru"
> > > when used to modify a noun (when used as a main verb, it means
> "exists"),
> > > but in that footnote they straight-up gloss "aru" as "certain", *and*
> > > they say that's a topic-introduction strategy.
> > >
> > > In my lect of English, "a certain X" is rare but does also function to
> > > introduce topics, to the point that whenever I consider making a
> conlang
> > > with heavy dependence on an obviative person (normal 3rd person being
> > > reserved for the more topical actor), I tend to mentally gloss my
> topic-
> > > identification marker as either "certain" or, if I'm feeling
> colloquial,
> > > as "so this guy...".
> > >
> > > Japanese is strongly organized around topic/focus, so the translators
> > > need to work a little harder at reframing things to make them sound
> > > natural to us.
> > >
> > > tylakèhlpë'fö,
> > > Amanda
> > >
> > > On Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 09:03:38AM -0500, Aidan Aannestad wrote:
> > > > I've found that 'a certain X' is almost always a translation of
> (と)あるX
> > > > ((to) aru X). This is a bit of an annoying phrase to me, since I've
> never
> > > > seen it translated to English as anything other than 'a certain X', a
> > > > phrase that doesn't exist in my idiolect and I have only the vaguest
> idea
> > > > of what means.
> > > >
> > > > On 17 Mar 2017 08:50, "Amanda Babcock Furrow" <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> > > >
> > > > > I would be very interested in an example where this happens, so I
> could
> > > > > look up the original Japanese that they're translating from.  I
> have a
> > > > > hunch that they may be taking too literally some
> not-yet-grammaticalized
> > > > > definiteness marking that doesn't come across as definiteness
> marking,
> > > > > perhaps of the "aru mono" variety (literally "existing thing", but
> much
> > > > > more
> > > > > common in Japanese than "existing thing" would be in English).
> > > > >
> > > > > tylakèhlpë'fö,
> > > > > Amanda
> > > > >
> > > > > On Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 11:33:04AM +0100, taliesin the storyteller
> wrote:
> > > > > > Reading the "Definiteness" thread reminded me of something I
> react to in
> > > > > > subbed anime, the use of "a certain" everywhere. Example "Our
> story
> > > > > > takes place at a certain high school". It is grating. Is this
> due to
> > > > > > translating some definiteness-marking or other from Japanese?
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > t.
> > > > >
> >
>