Diachronics of demonstratives

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The Hanged Man
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Diachronics of demonstratives

Post by The Hanged Man »

Do you know any attested examples of creation of new demonstrative pronouns? What were their diachronic sources?

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Post by Etherman »

I can't think of any attested examples off-hand, but I'm pretty sure that they can come from verbs of motion.

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Post by Dewrad »

Or verbs of perception. One could imagine a demonstrative coming from a verb meaning "behold!" (q.v. the Romance demonstratives from L. ecce "behold". Not a verb, admittedly, but it's in the same ballpark.)
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Post by Echobeats »

Swedish has innovated den här and den där, which literally mean "the here" and "the there" (den originally itself meant "that", but it's been weakened to a definite article used when an element precedes the noun within the DP, such as an adjective). The equivalents den her and den der are not used in (formal) Norwegian or Danish, AFAIK.

Gaelic has done the same thing, except I get the impression this is older.

an "the"
seo "here"
sin "there"
an X seo "this X"
an Y sin "that Y"
anseo "this" (standalone)
ansin "that" (standalone)
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Post by Ulrike Meinhof »

Echobeats wrote:Swedish has innovated den här and den där, which literally mean "the here" and "the there" (den originally itself meant "that", but it's been weakened to a definite article used when an element precedes the noun within the DP, such as an adjective).

Den is still also a demonstrative meaning "that", apart from its use as a definite article. So we get three levels of deixis: den här "this", den där "that", and den "that"; I'm not sure how to describe the difference between the last two.
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Post by Magb »

Echobeats wrote:Swedish has innovated den här and den där, which literally mean "the here" and "the there" (den originally itself meant "that", but it's been weakened to a definite article used when an element precedes the noun within the DP, such as an adjective). The equivalents den her and den der are not used in (formal) Norwegian or Danish, AFAIK.

You don't see it much in writing, but it's very commonly used by many Norwegians as well. I use "den her" etc. almost exclusively.

An interesting thing, which is quite relevant to the OP's question, is the fact that I'll sometimes leave out the "den", leaving just "her"/"der". E.g. Ser du bilen der? ("Do you see the car there?"), Bilen her er ny. ("The car here is new.") This process reminds me a lot of how French has gone from ne va to ne va pas to va pas. The noun must still be inflected for definiteness, but that's usually done with the more formal deictics in Norwegian anyway, i.e. denne bilen ("this the car"). Note also how, unlike Swedish, in Norwegian the den and her usually go on either side of the NP (like in Gaelic, apparently), so it's usually den bilen her, while in Swedish den här bil(en) is more common. That's why when the den is omitted, the her must always go after the NP. *her bilen is impossible.

I googled for bilen her er ("the car here is"), and to my mild surprise I got mostly Danish hits: http://www.google.com/search?q=%22bilen ... rt=30&sa=N For example hit number three: Bilen her er købt hos vinderup-rc, but also many others on later pages. Looks like this is quite common in Danish too.

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Post by Ulrike Meinhof »

Magb wrote:An interesting thing, which is quite relevant to the OP's question, is the fact that I'll sometimes leave out the "den", leaving just "her"/"der".

This happens quite often in Swedish as well.

while in Swedish den här bil(en) is more common. That's why when the den is omitted, the her must always go after the NP. *her bilen is impossible.

In Swedish, the only possible construction is den här bilen. However, when den is "omitted", the result is, as in Norwegian, bilen här. Which makes me suspect that what is going on - in both languages, since this construction probably has a common origin in all of Scandinavian - is not actually any omission of the article, but merely that it's replaced by an adverb specifying its place.

In Swedish you can also say, for example, bilen där borta, bilen i skogen, bilen på andra sidan vägen; surely this is possible in Norwegian too? It's the same construction: a postposed adverbial.
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Post by Travis B. »

Dingbats wrote:
Magb wrote:An interesting thing, which is quite relevant to the OP's question, is the fact that I'll sometimes leave out the "den", leaving just "her"/"der".

This happens quite often in Swedish as well.

while in Swedish den här bil(en) is more common. That's why when the den is omitted, the her must always go after the NP. *her bilen is impossible.

In Swedish, the only possible construction is den här bilen. However, when den is "omitted", the result is, as in Norwegian, bilen här. Which makes me suspect that what is going on - in both languages, since this construction probably has a common origin in all of Scandinavian - is not actually any omission of the article, but merely that it's replaced by an adverb specifying its place.

In Swedish you can also say, for example, bilen där borta, bilen i skogen, bilen på andra sidan vägen; surely this is possible in Norwegian too? It's the same construction: a postposed adverbial.

This construction sounds awfully like what I am used to using when speaking informally in English, where this and that have become so semantically bleached that when using them to express place they are normally combined with a postposed here, there or over there, which are optional when another form expressing place is used. Without them, in informal speech for me, this and that only express some sort of semantic distance and not actually place.

Note that this contrasts with formal English for me, where this and that much more strongly express place without needing an accompanying here, there, or over there.

To elaborate:

I would normally informally use, when referring to place, this car here, that car there, or that car over there. Likewise, while I would use this car in the street or that car in the street, the forms this car here in the street, that car there in the street, and that car over there in the street and the forms this car in the street here, that car in the street there, and that car in the street over there are also grammatical and put more emphasis on place.

Conversely, while I do say this car and that car, they do not actually say anything about place in informal speech, and indeed may differentiate two cars of equal, unspecified, or unclear physical distance from one without indicating anything about where they are. They only indicate anything about where the cars are in formal speech.
Last edited by Travis B. on Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by linguoboy »

Echobeats wrote:Gaelic has done the same thing, except I get the impression this is older.

an "the"
seo "here"
sin "there"
an X seo "this X"
an Y sin "that Y"
anseo "this" (standalone)
ansin "that" (standalone)

Perhaps you're thinking of Welsh? Because in Goidelic languages, sin and seo are demonstratives, e.g. "Sin mo theach" "That's my house." It's the compound forms anseo and ansin which mean respectively "here" and "there".

In modern Welsh, by contrast, yma is "here" and yr X 'ma is "this X". Though there's also an exact parallel to anseo in fan'yn (< (yn) y fan hyn "(in) the place this").

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Post by Magb »

Dingbats wrote:In Swedish, the only possible construction is den här bilen. However, when den is "omitted", the result is, as in Norwegian, bilen här. Which makes me suspect that what is going on - in both languages, since this construction probably has a common origin in all of Scandinavian - is not actually any omission of the article, but merely that it's replaced by an adverb specifying its place.

In Swedish you can also say, for example, bilen där borta, bilen i skogen, bilen på andra sidan vägen; surely this is possible in Norwegian too? It's the same construction: a postposed adverbial.

Sure, that sounds plausible. You could be right that bilen der isn't derived from den bilen der. Though it's worth noting that, at least for me, bilen der borte and den bilen der borte differ slightly in meaning, kind of like the difference between den and den der, respectively. The difference between den der and den, to me, feels partly like a difference between seen/unseen, in that den der is more likely to be used for something you're pointing at, while den can be more abstract about the location of the thing, although there's a lot of usage overlap. Meanwhile, bilen der and den bilen der seem to me to differ only in register, with bilen der being more colloquial. For me, it kind of mirrors the situation where the definite article den can be omitted before NPs with adjectives in them: Ser du (den) grønne bilen?, and such. Omitting the den is more colloquial.

Anyway, it's probably a stretch to say that the her in bilen her is a demonstrative, but it's kind of... demonstrativeish. Denne bilen and bilen her are pretty similar in meaning.

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Post by TaylorS »

Travis B. wrote:
Dingbats wrote:
Magb wrote:An interesting thing, which is quite relevant to the OP's question, is the fact that I'll sometimes leave out the "den", leaving just "her"/"der".

This happens quite often in Swedish as well.

while in Swedish den här bil(en) is more common. That's why when the den is omitted, the her must always go after the NP. *her bilen is impossible.

In Swedish, the only possible construction is den här bilen. However, when den is "omitted", the result is, as in Norwegian, bilen här. Which makes me suspect that what is going on - in both languages, since this construction probably has a common origin in all of Scandinavian - is not actually any omission of the article, but merely that it's replaced by an adverb specifying its place.

In Swedish you can also say, for example, bilen där borta, bilen i skogen, bilen på andra sidan vägen; surely this is possible in Norwegian too? It's the same construction: a postposed adverbial.

This construction sounds awfully like what I am used to using when speaking informally in English, where this and that have become so semantically bleached that when using them to express place they are normally combined with a postposed here, there or over there, which are optional when another form expressing place is used. Without them, in informal speech for me, this and that only express some sort of semantic distance and not actually place.

Note that this contrasts with formal English for me, where this and that much more strongly express place without needing an accompanying here, there, or over there.

To elaborate:

I would normally informally use, when referring to place, this car here, that car there, or that car over there. Likewise, while I would use this car in the street or that car in the street, the forms this car here in the street, that car there in the street, and that car over there in the street and the forms this car in the street here, that car in the street there, and that car in the street over there are also grammatical and put more emphasis on place.

Conversely, while I do say this car and that car, they do not actually say anything about place in informal speech, and indeed may differentiate two cars of equal, unspecified, or unclear physical distance from one without indicating anything about where they are. They only indicate anything about where the cars are in formal speech.


I use "this here" and "that there" only emphatically. Overuse of them reminds me of jocular mockery of rural Midland and Southern speech.

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Post by Travis B. »

TaylorS wrote:I use "this here" and "that there" only emphatically. Overuse of them reminds me of jocular mockery of rural Midland and Southern speech.

When used for mockery, I am used to this here and that there both coming before the noun, as in *this here car and *that there car, which is simply ungrammatical to me; this contrasts to the circumposed forms this car here and that car there and the use of this here and that there alone, which are very natural to me.

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Post by Radius Solis »

Demonstratives may also, very conceivably, arise from third-person pronouns. Though my sole example is limited, it seems plausible since the reverse direction (demonstratives becoming third person pronouns) is a common diachronic path.

My one limited example is from English, in which "them" can be used as a demonstrative. A very folksy-sounding one, but it does pop up in places:
- How do you like them apples?
- Them bones, them bones, them dry bones
- There's gold in them thar hills.



All idioms, but it can be productive, despite sounding extremely rural. "Them crows done 'et up my corn!"

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Post by Yng »

Interestingly, although it sounds rural in America, around here, and I think all the way up into Scouseland, it's a sign of town people.

Edit: also, in the colloquial language, Welsh has replaced its demonstrative adjectives with 'the... there', alongside demonstrative locatives which use the pattern 'the place... here':

'Y peth 'ma' - this thing/the thing here
'Y peth 'na' - that thing/the thing there
'Y peth 'cw' - yonder thing/the thing over there
'(y) fan 'ma' - here/this spot
'fan 'na' - there/that spot
'fan 'cw' - yonder/yonder spot
كان يا ما كان / يا صمت العشية / قمري هاجر في الصبح بعيدا / في العيون العسلية

tà yi póbo tsùtsùr ciivà dè!

short texts in Cuhbi

Risha Cuhbi grammar

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Post by Travis B. »

Radius Solis wrote:Demonstratives may also, very conceivably, arise from third-person pronouns. Though my sole example is limited, it seems plausible since the reverse direction (demonstratives becoming third person pronouns) is a common diachronic path.

My one limited example is from English, in which "them" can be used as a demonstrative. A very folksy-sounding one, but it does pop up in places:
- How do you like them apples?
- Them bones, them bones, them dry bones
- There's gold in them thar hills.



All idioms, but it can be productive, despite sounding extremely rural. "Them crows done 'et up my corn!"

Them as a demonstrative actually is used quite frequently back in Wisconsin, including in Milwaukee dialect, but it is very heavily marked for social class, being typically not used by middle or upper-class people there. I myself do not use it at all except jocularly, unlike this ... here, that ... there, and that ... over there.

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Post by nebula wind phone »

You know, I'll sometimes start a sentence fragment with a relative pronoun. (Which is admittedly a pretty colloquial thing to do, but I still do it.)

And you could imagine that relative pronoun turning into a demonstrative over time. (After which, these parenthetical comments would stop sounding like fragments and start sounding like complete sentences.)

In fact, I like this idea enough that I wish I could incorporate it into a conlang. (Which is something I'm too busy to actually do, but it's a nice thought.)

But maybe it will inspire one of the other ZBBers. (Who are, after all, usually pretty good at taking ideas like this and running with them.)
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Post by Echobeats »

linguoboy wrote:
Echobeats wrote:Gaelic has done the same thing, except I get the impression this is older.

an "the"
seo "here"
sin "there"
an X seo "this X"
an Y sin "that Y"
anseo "this" (standalone)
ansin "that" (standalone)

Perhaps you're thinking of Welsh? Because in Goidelic languages, sin and seo are demonstratives, e.g. "Sin mo theach" "That's my house." It's the compound forms anseo and ansin which mean respectively "here" and "there".

In modern Welsh, by contrast, yma is "here" and yr X 'ma is "this X". Though there's also an exact parallel to anseo in fan'yn (< (yn) y fan hyn "(in) the place this").


Unlikely, as I don't know Welsh. I may have just got it wrong...
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Post by Boşkoventi »

Echobeats wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Echobeats wrote:Gaelic has done the same thing, except I get the impression this is older.

an "the"
seo "here"
sin "there"
an X seo "this X"
an Y sin "that Y"
anseo "this" (standalone)
ansin "that" (standalone)

Perhaps you're thinking of Welsh? Because in Goidelic languages, sin and seo are demonstratives, e.g. "Sin mo theach" "That's my house." It's the compound forms anseo and ansin which mean respectively "here" and "there".

In modern Welsh, by contrast, yma is "here" and yr X 'ma is "this X". Though there's also an exact parallel to anseo in fan'yn (< (yn) y fan hyn "(in) the place this").


Unlikely, as I don't know Welsh. I may have just got it wrong...

I'm pretty sure I've heard of the construction Echobeats is talking about, and Wikipedia supports that. From here:

Tá an fear sin beag.
"That man is small."

There's another sentence in that article, which uses anseo:

A Sheáin, tar anseo!
"Seán, come here!"

So it looks like ansin and anseo are adverbs, while an X sin and an X seo modify nouns.

EDIT: Could one say something like "Tá sin theach beag"? That is, can sin directly modify something, or is it a pronoun?
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Post by Boşkoventi »

On another note, I've been thinking of deriving (new) locatinoal adverbs / demonstratives in some dialects of Old Gzho from locatives of personal pronouns, e.g. 1PS.LOC "by me" > "here", "that X by me" > "this X"; 2PS.LOC "by you" > "there", "that X by you" > "that X", etc. It seems perfectly reasonable, and is similar to what (allegedly) happens in Irish, but is it attested in any natlangs?
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Post by The Hanged Man »

@Boskobènet, I wanted to make it, too, because I wanted to transform two-way distance oriented demonstrative contrast in my conlang into three-way person-oriented one. I don't have any ideas how it would emerge in an other way... However, I've never found a language with 3-way person oriented demonstratives similar to personal pronouns.

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Post by linguoboy »

Boskobènet wrote:I'm pretty sure I've heard of the construction Echobeats is talking about, and Wikipedia supports that. From here:

Tá an fear sin beag.
"That man is small."

I'm not disputing that the construction exists, only the syntactic interpretation. There's simply no context I know of in which sin is an adverb meaning "there".

EDIT: Could one say something like "Tá sin theach beag"? That is, can sin directly modify something, or is it a pronoun?

As far as I know, such a use of sin is impossible. Since Irish has a distinct copulative particle (i.e. is) the only interpretation I can find for this sentence would be "That, a small house, is..."

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Post by Boşkoventi »

linguoboy wrote:
Boskobènet wrote:I'm pretty sure I've heard of the construction Echobeats is talking about, and Wikipedia supports that. From here:

Tá an fear sin beag.
"That man is small."

I'm not disputing that the construction exists, only the syntactic interpretation. There's simply no context I know of in which sin is an adverb meaning "there".

EDIT: Could one say something like "Tá sin theach beag"? That is, can sin directly modify something, or is it a pronoun?

As far as I know, such a use of sin is impossible. Since Irish has a distinct copulative particle (i.e. is) the only interpretation I can find for this sentence would be "That, a small house, is..."

Ah, so sin and seo are strictly pronouns meaning "this" and "that", and an fear sin is more like "the that man" than "the man here". Strange though, that ansin and anseo would be the adverbs "here" and "there", given their (superficial, at least) resemblance to an X sin / seo. Could it originally have been "the this/that (place)", with "place" later being dropped?
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Post by linguoboy »

Boskobènet wrote:Ah, so sin and seo are strictly pronouns meaning "this" and "that", and an fear sin is more like "the that man" than "the man here". Strange though, that ansin and anseo would be the adverbs "here" and "there", given their (superficial, at least) resemblance to an X sin / seo. Could it originally have been "the this/that (place)", with "place" later being dropped?

Beware the small words in Irish, for homophones abound. (The worst example is a, which has more than a half dozen unrelated meanings.)

Etymologically, the an in these compounds is equivalent to ann "in him/it", the 3S.masc form of the preposition i "in". Thus, the most literal translation for anseo would be "in this" and for ansin "in that". (Although in Modern Irish these would be spelled ann seo and ann sin, respectively; cf. inti seo "in this (fem.)" and inti sin "in that (fem.)).

Ann by itself can have generic reference in certain contexts, e.g. Tá teach beag ann "There's a small house." [Omission of ann makes the statement ungrammatical.] Perhaps the original anaphor was a masculine noun for place such as log. (The usual word for "place" in Modern Irish is feminine, i.e. áit.) But I don't know enough about earlier stages of the language to say for sure.

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Post by Travis B. »

Travis B. wrote:
TaylorS wrote:I use "this here" and "that there" only emphatically. Overuse of them reminds me of jocular mockery of rural Midland and Southern speech.

When used for mockery, I am used to this here and that there both coming before the noun, as in *this here car and *that there car, which is simply ungrammatical to me; this contrasts to the circumposed forms this car here and that car there and the use of this here and that there alone, which are very natural to me.

I had assumed that the frequent use of postposed here, there, and over there including when demonstratives or even (other) prepositional phrases marking place are used was just normal informal English. I did not really realize that it was even regionally marked.

Note that, to me at least, that is so semantically bleached that it is, in essence, an alternate third person singular inanimate pronoun in isolation and a stronger, more definite version of the when used within a noun phrase. It is not fully interchangeable with it or the, respectively, in many forms, but I am used to using it in many places in everyday speech where one would normally formally use it or the. I would assume that this is the case for informal English in general, but I could be wrong here.

On the other hand, this is much moreso an actual demonstrative in use to me, being far less semantically bleached and far less frequently used. It still does not have strong connotations of place for me in everyday speech , though, needing to often be matched with here if place is to be emphasized.

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