LINGUIST List 7.1577

Thu Nov 7 1996

Qs: Creols, Evaluative verbs, _impossible that..._

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. Charlie Rowe, Q: additional creolistics query
  2. Jeff Turley, Evaluative verbs
  3. hiro-t, Query: _impossible that..._

Message 1: Q: additional creolistics query

Date: Wed, 06 Nov 1996 09:36:37 EST
From: Charlie Rowe <>
Subject: Q: additional creolistics query

Thanks to those who responded to my query on 'creoloid' and the 'bent,
but not broken' status. I will make one additional query on this
topic, after which I will post a summary. My next question is the

with whom does the term 'fusion language' originate, and does it apply
strictly to Yiddish?

Charlie Rowe
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Message 2: Evaluative verbs

Date: Wed, 06 Nov 1996 17:54:50 MST
From: Jeff Turley <>
Subject: Evaluative verbs
I have stumbled across what I believe to be an interesting
universal class of verbs, and would like to know if this category
has been noticed before, or if existing semantic theories can
describe it more precisely than I will here.

The lexical category in question comprises verbs that evaluate
certain events and classify them as being of a certain type,
instead of describing a specific situation type themselves. This
classification does not follow from any property inherent in the
event or state. One of the clearer examples I can give is
"help". The verb alone communicates that the subject does
something that is beneficial to another being and nothing more.
How the subject brings about the beneficial effect must be
specified in the rest of the predicate or must be interpreted
from context.

These verbs--let's call them "evaluatives"--create
generalizations. For instance, saying that a friend helped me by
covering my shift at work effectively places the action (i.e.,
covering my work-shift) in a class of beneficial actions.
Although subordinate-level verbs (e.g., "murder" vs. the
basic-level "kill") are also evaluative ("murder" is a kind of
killing), I don't think evaluatives are simply equivalent to
subordinate level verbs, since the latter always describe the
same general situation type as their corresponding basic-level
counterpart, only with greater precision. But an evaluative verb
may depict more than one situation type, even totally different
situation types. If I am really hot, I could say "Would you help
me by pouring this bucket of cold water on my head?." But if I
was dressed up for a party and you poured water on my head, I
wouldn't say that you had helped me, unless of course I was going
to a party where everyone was supposed to wear wet party clothes.
What is considered helpful is relative to the context.

Other verbs that seem to be evaluative include use, harm, pamper,
care for, be careful, prepare, defend, neglect, ruin, discredit
and use.

I'd be happy to post a summary of any responses. 

Thank you.


Jeffrey S. Turley

Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Brigham Young University
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Message 3: Query: _impossible that..._

Date: Thu, 07 Nov 1996 12:30:50 +0200
From: hiro-t <>
Subject: Query: _impossible that..._

Dear Colleagues,

 My coleague and I are working on the problem the modal
adjective _impossible_ and _that_-clause in English. The tense
and modals within the _that_-clause are the simple tense(past or
present), _should_ and more often _could_. We would like you to
judge the acceptability of (1) and make comments on (2) and (3).

 Some if not all English speakers say that sentense (1) is not
acceptable. Is (1) below accpetable?

 (1) It is impossible that she knew about his success.

 One of the English speakers we asked about this problem points
out that (2) with _should_ is more acceptable than (1). What do
you think?

 (2) It is impossible that she should have known about his success.

We have a lot of examples where "It be impossible that
... "construction ocurs. We concluded that when _should_ as above
is used in _that_-clauses, the speaker entertains doubts about
the truth of _that_-clauses. Does the smae hol for the use of
_could_ as in (3) in _that_-caluses?

 (3) It is impossible that one man could cause so much damage.

In most of the example we found in American and British writings,
_could_ is more often used than _should_ and the simple tense.
We would like to know if (1) is acceptable, and if _should_ in
(2) and _could_ in (3) have the same function or not. We're
looking forward to your comments. Please e-mail me
( directly.

Best wishes,

Hiroaki Tanaka

Associate Professor,
1-1, Minamijousanjima-cho, Tokushima, 770, Japan
Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences,
Tokushima University, Japan
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