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LINGUIST List 22.1768

Wed Apr 20 2011

Sum: Final Supplement - Semantics: Sometimes vs. Maybe

Editor for this issue: Danielle St. Jean <daniellelinguistlist.org>


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        1.     George Huttar , Final Supplement - Semantics: Sometimes vs. Maybe

Message 1: Final Supplement - Semantics: Sometimes vs. Maybe
Date: 14-Apr-2011
From: George Huttar <gukageorgegmail.com>
Subject: Final Supplement - Semantics: Sometimes vs. Maybe
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Query for this summary posted in LINGUIST Issue: 22.438

Since my summary of responses (LINGUIST List 22.739, Feb. 13,
found here: http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-739.html) to my query
(22.438, Jan. 25, 2011) about expressions for 'sometimes' being used
for possibility ('maybe'), I have received additional responses that I
believe merit this supplementary posting:

First, my thanks to Johan van der Auwera, Bittor Hidalgo, Torsten
Leuschner, Liliane Haegeman, Martin Mangei, and Joanna Zaleska for
their responses.

Hidalgo reported that while 'sometimes' is not used for 'maybe' in
Basque, an expression for 'somewhere' is used for 'maybe' and even
stronger possibility, represented by English 'probably' and 'apparently'.

Zaleska and Van der Auwera gave the common use of Polish czasem
'sometimes' in the sense of 'maybe', at least in polar interrogatives.
Zaleska cited a Polish-English dictionary giving "1. sometimes; now and
then" and "by any chance" as two senses of czasem. Examples for the
second include a polar interrogative, but also a warning reminder: nie
zgub czasem tych pieniędzy 'mind (or be careful) you don't lose that
money'. Van der Auwera sent me his "From temporal adverb to modal
particle - Some comparative remarks on Polish 'czasem'", Papers and
studies in contrastive linguistics, 18.91-99 (1984), to which I refer
interested readers for many of the points in the suggested explanations
I have received, as well as further data (including Ukrainian) and
discussion.

Leuschner and Haegeman provided additional examples of Dutch and
Flemish soms 'sometimes' used to express possibility, with helpful
details of its limitation to conditionals and certain types of
interrogatives, as well as of interspeaker variation. Leuschner
described the function of soms as most of all the pragmatic one of
mitigation or hedging.

Finally, Mangei suggested a parallel with known extension of deontic
modals to epistemic uses: thus analogous to 'he is allowed to do that ->
maybe he's doing it (now)' and 'he is obligated to do it ->
probably/certainly he is doing it (now)', there might be a similar
implication 'sometimes he does it' -> 'maybe he's doing it (now)'.

George Huttar
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

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