Topic: Notes on Pirah?
Everett's Whether a pair of items are quantifiers or not depends firstly on the theoretic assumptions made. There is no way to say whether b?aiso and g?i?i are real quantifiers or not just by giving examples in a non-theoretic fashion. In any case, it is not uncommon to find words that appear in different positions both as nouns and nominal modifiers. That is a common fact of languages around the world and not any special or unique feature of Pirah?.
Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirah?: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language Page 10
However, there are two words, usually occurring in reference to an amount eaten or desired, which by their closest translation equivalents, 'whole' b?aiso and 'part' g?i?i might seem to be quantifiers:
(19) a. t?ob?hai hi b? -a -i -so kohoai-s?og -ab -aga?
child 3 touch -causative -connective -nominalizer 'whole' eat -desiderative -stay -thus
'The child wanted/s to eat the whole thing.'
(lit: 'Child muchness/fullness eat is desiring.')
b. t?ob?hai hi g?i -?i kohoai-s?og-ab -aga?
child 3 that -there eat -desiderative 'part' (in the appropriate context) -stay -thus
'The child wanted/s to eat a piece of the thing.'
(lit: 'Child that there eat is desiring.')
In (19) b?aiso and g?i?i are used as nouns. But they can also appear as
(20) a. t?ob?hai hi pooga?hia? b?aiso kohoai-s?og -ab -aga?
child 3 banana whole eat- desiderative -stay -thus
'The child wanted/s to eat the whole banana.'
(lit: 'Child banana muchness/fullness eat is desiring.')
b. t?ob?hai hi pooga?hia? g?i?i kohoai-s?og-ab -aga?
child 3 banana piece eat -desiderative -stay -thus
'The child wanted/s to eat part of the banana.'
(lit: 'Child banana piece eat is desiring.')
Aside from their literal meanings, there are important reasons for not interpreting these two words as quantifiers. First, their Truth Conditions are not equivalent to those of real quantifiers. This is tricky. A sentence may be true or false in a given situation/world, but it cannot be assumed that speakers will produce only true sentences in a given context. False sentences, which are completely grammatical, may be and often are produced.
For example, consider the contrast in (21) vs. (22): Page 11 However in (21b) the term b?aiso is not used alone. 7ogi?, he term for bigness, as Everett calls it, is present as well. This suggests that a literal translation of (21b) would be Yes, he bought a majority of the whole thing, regardless of whether the sentence is true or false in the context where it is uttered. The expression a majority of the whole exists in English and other languages and means a part (the larger part) and not the whole.
Context: Someone has just killed an anaconda. Upon seeing it, (21a) below is uttered. Someone takes a piece of it. After the purchase of the remainder, the content of (21a) is reaffirmed as (21b):
(21) a. 7?o?i hi pa?hoa7a? 7iso? b?aiso 7oaboi -ha?
foreigner 3 anaconda skin 'whole' buy -relative certainty
'The foreigner will likely buy the entire anaconda skin.'
b. 7ai? hi b?aiso 7oaob -?h?; hi 7ogi? 7oaob -?h?
affirmative 3 whole buy -complete certainty 3 bigness buy complete certainty
'Yes, he bought the whole thing.'
Now, compare this with the English equivalent, where the same context is
(22) a. STATEMENT: He will likely buy the whole anaconda skin.
b. OCCURRENCE: Piece is removed (in full view of interlocutors).
c. STATEMENT: %He bought the whole anaconda skin.
It simply would be dishonest and a violation of the meaning of 'whole' to utter it
in (22b). But this is not the case in Pirah?, (21b).
Posted by Tony Marmo
at 14:29 BST
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 14:31 BST