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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Query Details

Query Subject:   Sarcastic imperatives
Author:   Kevin R Gregg
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  General Linguistics

Query:   Japanese has a couple of fixed phrases, non-polite imperatives whose
illocutionary force is the reverse of the literal meaning: *baka ie!*
(lit., 'say something stupid!', i.e. don't talk nonsense), *uso o
tuke!/ie!* (lit., 'tell a lie!', i.e. nonsense! etc.). These seem to
be restricted to the non-polite imperative form (you don't say 'baka
iinasai!') and non-productive (you don't say, e.g. 'Make up an
excuse!') A colleague has asked me if English has similar sorts of
expressions; the best I can come up with is, 'Tell me about it,' and
'Pull the other one (it's got bells on)'. My native-speaker
intuitions have decayed over the years; am I missing any obvious
examples? Yiddish has *frayg mir* ('ask me' i.e., don't ask me; how
should I know?). Are there similar expressions (fixed or productive)
in other languages?

Kevin R. Gregg
Momoyama Gakuin University
(St. Andrew's University)
1-1 Manabino, Izumi
Osaka 594-1198 Japan
tel.no. 0725-54-3131 (ext. 3622)
fax. 0725-54-3202
LL Issue: 10.727
Date posted: 12-May-1999


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