LINGUIST List 10.720

Tue May 11 1999

Qs: Proximate/obviative, Reference, Language games

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  1. Wayles Browne, Proximate/obviative
  2. NANCY MAE ANTRIM, M. Phinney article
  3. Lynne Murphy, Syntactic/semantic games

Message 1: Proximate/obviative

Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 11:11:24 -0400
From: Wayles Browne <>
Subject: Proximate/obviative

A European colleague inquires:

As is well known, some languages, notably some American Indian
languages, discriminate two kinds of verbal third person, namely the
proximate and the obviative. One can compare the Latin iste vir and
ille vir 'that man'.

A constructed Latin example would be iste vir curri-X versus ille vir
curri-Y, for 'that man run-s', where X and Y represent different
desinences on the finite verb.

What happens if the proximate and the obviative are coordinated within
the subject NP? Does the finite verb take the desinence corresponding
to the proximate or to the obviative? I refer again to the theoretical
Latin example: iste vir et ille vir curri-Z; what shape does -Z take?

What category wins if the subject contains the proximate/obviative AND
the first or the second person? Latin: iste vir et ego curri-Z; ille
vir et tu curri-Z.

Is the proximate or the obviative the less marked category of the two?

Please answer me directly at and I will pass answers
on (and summarize them for the list, should there be enough).

Wayles Browne, Assoc. Prof. of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics
Morrill Hall 321, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853, U.S.A.

tel. 607-255-0712 (o), 607-273-3009 (h)
fax 607-255-2044 (write FOR W. BROWNE)
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Message 2: M. Phinney article

Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 10:54:43 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: M. Phinney article

Can anyone help me with the complete bibliographic reference for an
article by M. Phinney entitled Resetting the parameter: acquiring
Spanish as L2. I have a copy of the article, but there is no
indication of where it came from. I believe it was published in the
mid 80s and it may have been in a conference proceedings.

Thank you,
Nancy Mae Antrim

Nancy Mae Antrim
Dept. of Languages and Linguistics
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas 79968-0531
Tel: (915) 747-7045
Fax: (915) 747-5292
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Message 3: Syntactic/semantic games

Date: Thu, 06 May 1999 17:34:59 +0000
From: Lynne Murphy <>
Subject: Syntactic/semantic games

This list has seen several discussions of language games, but they
typically concern language games exploiting the phonological resources
of a language (e.g., play languages, like Pig Latin). There are also
lots of games for English that involve the spelling system (crossword
games, word ladders, etc.). I'm interested in learning the rules of
games that take advantage of the morphological, syntactic, or semantic
resources of a language. Obvious candidates are things like the
"dictionary game" (in which people bluff definitions for an uncommon
word in the dictionary), punning games (although I'm not sure I know
of any particular rules for any), and the question game played by the
characters in _Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead_. On the
morphological side, I was recently at a party where we played a
"prefix" game, in which we'd take a Latinate word with a prefix and
then subsitute other prefixes and make silly definitions for them:
e.g, we started with "pretentious" and made up words like
"hypertentious"--having high blood pressure, and "supertentious"--of
or relating to a big top (circus tent).

I'd appreciate any references, game rules, or ideas--I'm teaching a
continuing ed course on word games next semester, and would like to
approach it as "what we can learn about language by playing games with

Lynne Murphy

M. Lynne Murphy
Assistant Professor in Linguistics
Department of English
Baylor University
PO Box 97404
Waco, TX 76798
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