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The far West of Southeast Asia: ‘Give’ and ‘get’ in the languages of Myanmar


Jenny, Mathias (2015). The far West of Southeast Asia: ‘Give’ and ‘get’ in the languages of Myanmar. In: Enfield, Nick J; Comrie, Bernard. Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton, 155-208.

Abstract

One common construction type found across the languages of Mainland SEA (and South Asia) is the use of secondary verbs as verbal modifiers. In most, if not all languages, of the area, two of these secondary verbs stand out with special and related functions. In these constructions, the lexical verbs ‘give’ and ‘get’ occur in different grammatical functions, depending in most languages on the position before or after the main verb (Enfield 2003). Both ‘get’ and ‘give’ typically describe a ‘transfer of control over an object’, though from different perspectives, namely the goal and source of the transfer, respectively. In postverbal position, ‘get’ describes a possibility or ability, and ‘give’ is used to express benefactive notions. These functions can easily be explained as originating in the semantic values of these verbs and iconic syntactic arrangement, namely ‘V and get/achieve (what one tries to get/achieve)’ and ‘V and give (the resulting object to someone)’. Later extensions to more abstract contexts probably have lead to the generalized ‘possibility/ability’ and ‘benefactive’ notions now associated with these V2s. Of special interest are the preverbal functions of these two lexemes. In many languages of SEA, preverbal ‘give’ is used to indicate a (permissive or jussive) causative notion, while preverbal ‘get’ indicates that the event described by the main verb is “the result of a prior event” (Enfield 2003). As these constructions are found in almost identical form and function all over Mainland SEA, not much can be said about their development or spread. The situation changes if one moves further west into Myanmar and beyond. Here less languages make use of these constructions, and the functions often don’t show a complete overlap with the languages further east. Many languages of Myanmar have rather consistent verb-final constituent order, and secondary verbs usually follow the main verb. In spite of this superficial collapse of the distinctions made in the verb-medial languages, the functions of pre- and postverbal ‘get’ are kept apart in Burmese and other languages. The case is different in the causative use of ‘give’. Postverbal ‘give’ seems to be mainly used as benefactive marker. In some languages, ‘give’ occurs in the unusual preverbal position with permissive, rarely jussive, causative function.

One common construction type found across the languages of Mainland SEA (and South Asia) is the use of secondary verbs as verbal modifiers. In most, if not all languages, of the area, two of these secondary verbs stand out with special and related functions. In these constructions, the lexical verbs ‘give’ and ‘get’ occur in different grammatical functions, depending in most languages on the position before or after the main verb (Enfield 2003). Both ‘get’ and ‘give’ typically describe a ‘transfer of control over an object’, though from different perspectives, namely the goal and source of the transfer, respectively. In postverbal position, ‘get’ describes a possibility or ability, and ‘give’ is used to express benefactive notions. These functions can easily be explained as originating in the semantic values of these verbs and iconic syntactic arrangement, namely ‘V and get/achieve (what one tries to get/achieve)’ and ‘V and give (the resulting object to someone)’. Later extensions to more abstract contexts probably have lead to the generalized ‘possibility/ability’ and ‘benefactive’ notions now associated with these V2s. Of special interest are the preverbal functions of these two lexemes. In many languages of SEA, preverbal ‘give’ is used to indicate a (permissive or jussive) causative notion, while preverbal ‘get’ indicates that the event described by the main verb is “the result of a prior event” (Enfield 2003). As these constructions are found in almost identical form and function all over Mainland SEA, not much can be said about their development or spread. The situation changes if one moves further west into Myanmar and beyond. Here less languages make use of these constructions, and the functions often don’t show a complete overlap with the languages further east. Many languages of Myanmar have rather consistent verb-final constituent order, and secondary verbs usually follow the main verb. In spite of this superficial collapse of the distinctions made in the verb-medial languages, the functions of pre- and postverbal ‘get’ are kept apart in Burmese and other languages. The case is different in the causative use of ‘give’. Postverbal ‘give’ seems to be mainly used as benefactive marker. In some languages, ‘give’ occurs in the unusual preverbal position with permissive, rarely jussive, causative function.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Language:English
Date:March 2015
Deposited On:01 Apr 2015 14:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:12
Publisher:de Gruyter Mouton
ISBN:9781501501685
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/9781501501685-006
Related URLs:http://www.degruyter.com/view/books/9781501501685/9781501501685-006/9781501501685-006.xml

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