LINGUIST List 12.1631

Wed Jun 20 2001

Sum: "Eat" as an Auxiliary

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Ashild Naess, "Eat" as auxiliary

Message 1: "Eat" as auxiliary

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 16:38:13 +0200
From: Ashild Naess <>
Subject: "Eat" as auxiliary

Dear linguists,

last week I posted a query on the list about languages using the verb "eat" 
as an auxiliary. I got quite a few responses and would like to thank 
everyone that took the time to reply. The responses are summarized below 
for those interested.

First of all, Miriam Butt pointed out that the Hindi-Urdu example I gave in 
my original posting is actually a case of an N-V complex predicate 
construction rather than an auxiliary in the strict sense of the word. She 
referred me to T.Mohanan 1994, "Argument Structure in Hindi", CSLI 
Publications for information on this construction type in Hindi and to the 
handout "The Status of Light Verbs in Historical Change" on her webpage for discussion on the 
distinction between light verbs and auxiliaries in Hindi-Urdu.

Mikael Parkvall and David Fertig referred me to the 1990 article "The 
grammaticization of passive morphology" by Martin Haspelmath, in Studies in 
Language 14 (1), 25-72. This article mentions the use of "eat" as a passive 
marker in Korean and the Munda languages Kharia and Juang.

Katsunobu Izutsu and Jee-Hong Kim also mentioned the construction in 
Korean, where "eat" seems to contribute a sense of adversativity or 
unexpectedness/accident, and provided examples. (Since this is becoming a 
long posting I will not quote any examples here, but I will be happy to 
provide them on request to anyone interested.)

Lance Eccles told me Chinese has a number of fixed expressions with "chi" 
(eat) + noun, such as "chi ku" (eat bitterness) = "suffer", "chi li" (eat 
surprise) "be surprised" and others. Hsieh Feng-fan said Middle colloquial 
Chinese used "chi" (eat) as a passive marker.

Gerjan van Schaaik told me about the use of the verb "yemek" (eat) in 
Turkish with the meaning of "undergo/get" and provided examples. Ivan A. 
Dershanski also mentioned Turkish as well as Persian and Bulgarian. I also 
got information on Persian from Lameen Souag, Ahmad R. Lotfi, and Johannes 

John Newman told me of the Tibeto-Burman language Chepang which has 
grammaticalized "je?" (eat) to a verbal suffix denoting either emotion with 
respect to situation, or completion/finality of the situation. Reference: 
Caughley, R.C. 1982. "The syntax and morphology of the verb in Chepang". 
Canberra: Australian National University. He also provided an example of 
Hausa "shaa" (drink) used as an auxiliary with "frequentive" meaning, 
quoting the following reference: Jagger, P. 1977. "The nature and function 
of auxiliary verbs in Hausa". In: P. Newman & R.M. Newman (eds.), "Studies 
in Chadic Linguistics", 57-87. Leiden: Afrika-Studiecentrum.

Brenda-Joyce Clark mentioned the use of "eat" as an auxiliary in the 
Australian language Mara, as noted briefly in Sharpe, M.C. 1976. "Alawa, 
Mara and Warndarang", in R.M.W. Dixon (ed.): "Grammatical categories in 
Australian languages", 708-734. Canberra: Australian Institute of 
Aboriginal Studies.

Finally, Mark Brand alerted me to the use of "eat" in English expressions 
such as "to eat humble pie" and "to eat one's hat", all involving various 
degrees of humiliation.

Thanks again to everyone who responded.

�shild N�ss

University of Nijmegen
Erasmusplein 1
6525 GG Nijmegen

+31 24 3616028 
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