A semantic test

Those who have done Icelandic studies may recollect the following pair of Modern Icelandic examples discussed in the 1990-ies. The autoreference (1st person singular present tense indicative) and the image of syntax as s stimulus of nausea are of course a joke: the examples come from a syntactician. Both 1a) and is 1b) are non-agreeing phrases, but in 1a) the oblique argument is marked with accusative, and in 1b) with dative.

(1a) Ice. Mig =1Prs Sg Acc velgir=3Sg við setningafræði =Acc prep Sg

‘I feel nauseous from syntax’.

(1b) Ice. Mér =1Prs Sg Dat býður=3Sg við setningafræði =Acc prep Sg

‘the same’ (???).

Two questions:

A. Do these sentence express the same meaning or two different ones?

B. If the meanings are different, which semantic apparatus can prove this intuition? Is there a better explanation than stating that ‘the verb in 1a) has a slightly different lexical meaning than the verb in 1b)’?

Modern Russian has a similar pair of examples. I am giving them below.

(2a) Ru. Меня=1Prs Sg Acc тошнит=3Sg от синтаксиса =Gen prep Sg.

(2b). Ru. Мне=1Prs Sg Dat тошно=3Sg от синтаксиса=Gen prep Sg.

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>

I have a formal explanation that (2a) and (2b) express two different meanings in Russian. Probably I’ll publish it on this website one day. But I first I would like to hear your reaction. Mind that both Modern Icelandic and Modern Russian can describe the denotative situation in (1ab) – (2ab) on a basis of different construction, with a dative argument and a nominative agreeing subject.

(3a) Ice. Mér =1PrsSgDat leiddist=3Sg setningafræði =NomSg ’I am tired of syntax’

(3b) Ru. Мне =1PrsSgDat надоел=3Sg /претит=3Sg синтаксис =NomSg.

‘I am tired (sick) of syntax/feel nauseous from syntax’.

I’ll specially appreciate examples from other languages than Icelandic and Russian.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: