LINGUIST List 5.883

Fri 12 Aug 1994

Sum: Lexeme for 'Two Hands', Who Is Your Name?, Question-answers

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  1. , Lexeme Meaning 'Two Hands'
  2. , Summary: Who Is Your Name?
  3. Mike Dickey, Sum: question-answering

Message 1: Lexeme Meaning 'Two Hands'

Date: Sat, 6 Aug 94 22:39:17 EDTLexeme Meaning 'Two Hands'
From: <>
Subject: Lexeme Meaning 'Two Hands'

In my response for examples of lexemes meaning 'the two hands together',
I received only one example. Blaine Erickson mentions Japanese
ryoo-te and moro-te, but these are both apparently transparent
compounds. Redei's Uralisches Etymologisches Worterbuch gives
data for this in some Uralic languages, and it is my conjecture that
such a word also existed in Proto-Indo-European, and this is the
word from which the IE numeral for '10' (and the related forms
meaning '20' and '100') will one day be recognized as being derived

Alexis Manaster Ramer
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Message 2: Summary: Who Is Your Name?

Date: Sat, 6 Aug 94 22:34:04 EDTSummary: Who Is Your Name?
From: <>
Subject: Summary: Who Is Your Name?

My query about languages which say 'who is your name', 'who are you
called', or the like, was prompted by my reading a Sumerian grammar
in which an example of this is given and then apparently taken as
evidence that the scribe who wrote the text in question (in the Old
Babylonian period) was confused about the proper usage of Sumerian
words for 'who' and 'what'. It occurs to me, on the other hand,
that this is a perfectly normal usage in many languages, and as
such, it could serve to indicate exactly the opposite, namely, that
the scribe in question was using Sumerian exactly right, and that
the problem was rather than the European (and Semitic) languages
typically known to Sumerologists do not use these constructions
(although I have a feeling, which I have not verified, that
Classical Greek may have used it). Anyway, here is the list of
examples I obtained, for which I am grateful. Any additional data
will also be appreciated. Great thanks to the contributors,
although in some cases, I regret that I only know them by their
email address or first name. [Please, guys, tell who all are your

Indonesian (,,
David Gil):

 Siapa namamu? or Namanya siapa?
 who name+2nd p part.

Javanese (,
 jenenge sapa?
 name + def. particle /sapa = who

Maaori (Laurie Bauer):

 Ko wai to ingoa?
 equative-particle + who? +
 singular-second-person-neutral-class-possessive-pronoun + name
 "What is your name?"

Maaori-influenced English in New Zealand (Laurie Bauer):

 Primary school children in NZ regularly ask Who is your name?
 This is usually attributed to Maaori interference, and it is
 certainly part of the English of people who are influenced by
 Maaori; but it is also heard from people who have no obvious
 direct influence from Maaori (such as my own white
 middle-class children, at one stage).

Swahili (Ralf Grosserhode, Chet Creider, Karen Peterson)

 Jina lako nani? - Who is your name?
 Unaitwa nani? - Who are you called?

Sakao, a.k.a. Sakau, spoken in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu (J. Guy):

 aase-n hi? name-his who? (Port-Olry dialect)
 nwase-n hi? (Lowerie dialect)

Tolomako, also spoken in Espiritu Santo (J. Guy):

 na gise-na i sei? <art.> name-his <art.> who?

(Sakao /e/ = [e], Tolomako /g/ = <gamma>)

Marrithiyel, Marramaninjsji, Marringarr (of the Western Daly
 sub-group), Ngan'gityemerri (of the Southern Daly sub-group),
 and possibly other languages of the Daly River region,
 Northern Australia (Ian Green):

 e.g. Marrithiyel
 nginimba fuma nanj
 who name 2sPronoun(=Possessive)
 "What" is your name ?

 e.g. Ngan'gityemerri
 piwarri nyinyi kene
 name 2sPro who
 "What" is your name ?


Green, Ian 1989 Marrithiyel: a language of the Daly River region of
Australia's Northern Territory. Unpublished PhD thesis, ANU.

Reid, Nicholas John 1990 Ngan'gityemerri: a language of the Daly
River region of the Northern Territory of Australia. Unpublished
PhD thesis, ANU.

Kiribati (=Gilbertese, Kiribatese (Martin Silverman, Shelly ??):

 antai arana? what is his name?
 who name-3s

Also thanks to Raymond Tang and Randy Harris for writing in on this
subject, and a special acknowledgement to Joanne Sher Grumet for
the (to me) truly surprising usage in the Romany dialect Kalderash:

 Kasko san? "Whose [sic] are you."

Reference: Gjerdman and Ljungberg "The Language of the Swedish
Coppersmith Gipsy Johan Dimitri Taikon" Lundequista/Uppsala (1963).
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Message 3: Sum: question-answering

Date: Wed, 10 Aug 1994 13:40:26 Sum: question-answering
From: Mike Dickey <>
Subject: Sum: question-answering

My apologies that this summary has taken a little while; reponses have
petered out only in the last couple of days. Many thanks to all those
who responded: Stavros Macrakis, Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, Angus
Grieve-Smith, Paul Black, Don Churma, Dave Wharton, Shanley Allen,
Shabani Ramazani, Christopher Bader, Bruce Boling, Herb Stahlke, Thierry
van Steenberghe, Michal Starke, George Halliday, Kate Kearns, Bob
Rothstein, Margagret Winters, Marc Picard, Dorine Houston, and Bart Peeters.

I realized moments after I'd posted my query that I should have said
"languages other than French and English" rather than just "other than
English." Most of the respondents at least mentioned
French, noting that "moi" was the only answer possible in this case.
Angus Grieve-Smith and Dave Wharton both related a joke in which a
clerk in an English-speaking country responds to a French customer's
query of "Who here speaks French?" with the ungrammatical "je."

People disagreed about just *why* "moi" was the only possible response,
however, and about why "me" was ok and "I" was out in English. Several
people objected to labelling "je" and "moi" nominative and
non-nominative/accusative, preferring "emphatic" for "moi" and
"unemphatic" for "je." Bert Peeters and Bruce Boling used
"conjunctive/disjunctive," and Michal Starke referred to the
distinction as "strong/weak." Several respondents noted that "je" was
basically a clitic which appears only directly before the verb, leaving
"moi" as the only possible free-standing response. Bruce Boling grouped
French, English, Irish, and Scots Gaelic as "conjunctive/disjunctive"
languages, which organize their pronominal systems around a
conjunctive/disjunctive opposition. In these languages, when a pronoun is
directly attached to a verb, it is in the conjunctive form. When it is not,
it is in the disjunctive form. So in French, the 1st person singular object
pronoun and the free-standing 1st person sing. pronoun (neither of which is
attached to the verb) have the same form, the disjunctive "moi," which
serves as the answer to a question. Michal
Starke argued that English and French subject pronouns are weak while
their object pronouns are strong, with the weak pronouns unable to stand
on their own in answer to a question. He reported that Northern
Italian dialects behave in the same way. As for English, Herb Stahlke
referred to his CLS 20 paper, where he argues that "me" is possible
and "I" is out as an answer for pragmatic reasons: "I" occurs only in very
specific discourse contexts, with "me" appearing elsewhere.

As for languages other than English and French, Paul Black reported that in
some Cushitic languages -- namely Konso and Gidole -- the object
pronoun form is used in answering a question rather than the subject form,
much like French. He noted that this is also true of Oromo (a.k.a. Galla) and
possibly Somali. Shabami Ramanazi noted that the same is true for
Swahili: only the object pronoun can be used in answer to a question.
Both "I" and "I do" are out. Don Churma reported that in Hausa, to answer a
question with a pronoun, one would use the independent form of the pronoun
with a "stabilizer," e.g., "Nii (1st sg. pro) cee (stabilizer)." In other
cases, the pronoun is fused with/attached to a tense or aspect marker.
Shanley Allen said that in Inuktitut, there is only one form of the pronoun,
which serves for subject, object, and possessives. This would be the form
used for answering questions. George Halliday noted that in Scots
Gaelic, the form used to answer a question is the "emphatic" form, which
is the same for object and subject.

The question of why these these facts hold is open. The
conjunctive/disjunctive contrast explains the difference between French
and Spanish nicely. In French, the object pronoun is the only possible
free-standing answer to a question, while in Spanish, it is the subject
pronoun. The conjunctive form (the form attached to the verb) is the
subject in French but the object in Spanish: French subject pronouns are
clitics only, and Spanish object pronouns are clitics only. Therefore, the
disjunctive form (the form that can stand alone) is the object pronoun in
French and the subject pronoun in Spanish. This also works nicely for
English: in colloquial English, "I" appears only directly before verbs.

 Bob and I left.
 Me and Bob left.
 *I and Bob left.

This makes it look much like a conjunctive form. That leaves "me" as the
disjunctive form, explaining why "me" is good but "I" is out as an answer
to a question. "I do" is ok, since here "I" is directly adjacent to
"do." This explanation would also hold if we take "I" to be a weak,
clitic-like pronoun, which must be attached to a verbal element. (This
might be another way of looking at the conjunctive/disjunctive contrast.)
The reason that English permits "I do" as an answer to a question would then
stem from the fact that English has "do" support (and whatever reasons
underlie that). But this would leave unexplained the fact that Swahili
allows "me" but not "I do," assuming that Swahili has either "do" support
or some equivalent. It might explain why Hausa has to have a stabilizer
with its free-standing pronoun, however: maybe its free-standing pronoun
is weak and clitic-like, just like "I." This would also explain why the
pronoun is usually fused with tense/aspect markers.

Thanks again to everybody who responded. If anyone has any comments or
further insight or data, please send it along.

-- Mike
Mike Dickey
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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