WW #35: Optative Shenanigans

      No Comments on WW #35: Optative Shenanigans

These four consecutive sentences from the Syntax Test Cases are phrased quite differently in English:

  • Let’s go!
  • You should go.
  • I will be happy to go.
  • He will arrive soon.

But their Muipidan translations all use a structure called the optative:

Kanda u-hube!

[ˈka.ⁿda
ka-nda
OPT1p
ʊˈhu.bə]
u=hube
ACC=go
Let’s go!

Ka u-hube.

[ka
ka-Ø
OPT2s
ʊˈhu.bə]
u=hube
ACC=go
You should go.

Kan u-hube ï-hmulla.

[kan
ka-n
OPT1s
ʊˈhu.bə
u=hube
ACC=go
ɨˈm̥ul.la]
ï=hmulla
INS=smile
I will be happy to go.

Imis mï-sindide w-ode.

[ˈɪ.mɪs
imi-s
OPT3s
mɨˈzɪ.ⁿdɪ.də
mï=si-ndi-de
LOC=soon-FLEXDEF
ˈwo.də]
w=ode
ACC=come
He will arrive soon.
Gloss provided by Gloss My Gloss

The optative is used for future statements that one views positively (as in “I will be happy to go” and “He will arrive soon”) and for polite requests (as in “You should go” and “Let’s go!”).

Note that the even though the last sentence uses a different auxiliary verb (imis rather than kas), this is still an example of the optative. Different main verbs use different optative auxiliaries: hubïs “go” uses kas, while odïs “come” uses imis. While there’s a tendency for kas to be used with verbs describing prolonged actions or states (like “sleep”, “build”, and “grow”) and imis to be used with abrupt actions (like “fall”, “die”, and “slap”), sometimes the difference is arbitrary and just has to be memorized.

There’s one new word in these sentences: hmulla “smile”, also “happiness, joy”. The existing word for “happy”, muy, doesn’t work in this context because it refers to a generally happy disposition, rather than being happy in the moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *