LINGUIST List 11.1774

Thu Aug 17 2000

Qs: Nabokov Word Play, Performativity/Slavic Langs

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  1. Johnny Thomsen, Nabokov word play
  2. Igor �. �agar, Performativity in Slavic Languages

Message 1: Nabokov word play

Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 17:47:17 +0100
From: Johnny Thomsen <>
Subject: Nabokov word play

In Vladimir Nabokov's short story "Oblako, ozero, bashnya", F. 
Tyutchev's famous line "Mysl' izrechennaya est' lozh'" ('"A spoken 
thought is a lie") is quoted as "My sliz. Rechennaya est' lozh'" ("We 
are slime." The latter part of the line does not seem to make any 
sense), i.e. exactly the same sequence, but divided so it gives quite 
different words with a very different meaning.
What is the technical term for this kind of word play?

J. Thomsen
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Message 2: Performativity in Slavic Languages

Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2000 11:18:03 +0200
From: Igor �. �agar <>
Subject: Performativity in Slavic Languages


Dear Colleagues,

I'm writing a paper on the relation between time, tense and
aspect, and I was wondering about the following (problem).

In Slovenian, almost all verbs have two forms, the
perfective one (PF) and the imperfective one (IF), within
every tense. Hence one can, for example, promise in two
ways, either by saying:

"Obljubljam ..."
 (I promise (IF) ... /I am promising ...)
"Obljubim ..."
 (I promise (PF) ...).

Curiously, in institutional settings (swearing in in the
parliament, swearing in of the judges ...) only the
imperfective form is used as performative (i.e. understood
as performative), while in everyday life both forms may be
used (so it seems).
Neverthless, some verbs (mostly verbs that at least IMPLY
institutional or hierarchical settings) can only be used as
performatives in their imperfective form. Thus one can say:

"Ukazujem vam, da zaprete vrata!"
 (I order (IF)/I am ordering you to close the door)
"Ukazem vam, da zaprete vrata"
 (I order (PF) you to close the door)

would be understood by a native speaker not only as
non-performative, but even as non-gramatical.

I was wondering whether this phenomenon occurs in other
Slavic languages as well. I'm particulary interested in
Check, Slovak, Polish, Russian, Bulgarian and Macedonian.
I'm also interested in performativity as related to aspect
in two non-Slavic languages that are (heavily) surrounded
by Slavic languages, namely Hungarian and Romanian. I'll
appreciate any answer (and, of course, I'll post a summary
if there is enough interest). 


Igor Z. Zagar

Igor Z. Zagar
Associate Professor
Educational Research Institute
Gerbiceva 62
SI-1000 Ljubljana
Phone: (+386 1) 4201- 265
Fax: (+386 61) 4201- 266
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