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Descriptive vs. functional verbs?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by ThomasK, Dec 24, 2012.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    In Dutch one can say/write both 'een brief sturen aan' and 'een brief sturen naar' (sending a letter to). I now realize that the first one refers to the functional act, the speech (well...) act, if that is a correct description, the other one to the physical act, and that the distinction explains the difference in prepositions.

    It reminds me of speech acts. But it seems to me there is something similar with paying and buying: paying is a factual description of the process, buying is the functional-cultural interpretation of that process. Or that is what I think. There might be something similar with shooting and defending/ attacking, shooting and hunting, etc.

    But is that a accepted distinction? Are those existing categories? Do they have a separate syntax, in some respects at least? Do they 'behave' in different ways? Could the distinction be useful, didactically speaking?
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2012
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Before we start philosophizing, I'd like to clarify a point: Would you use een brief sturen naar also with a person or only with a location? I ask because this is the distinction in German: senden an+person vs. senden nach+location.
     
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting: we can send a letter aan and naar a person, but it seems to me that there is some difference the way I said, due to the fact that in one case the person is more like an indication of the physical destination.

    I sincerely wonder if there is more to this distinction (and other similar ones) than I know right now. Thanks in advance.
     
  4. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Ok, then it is in principle the same as in German: aan indicates a recipient and naar a physical destination. The difference is just that a person can be regarded as both. I.e. the difference is only in the preposition not in the verb.
     
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I agree, but the verb refers to some other semantic content, I think: physical or functional. Don't you think? Is that a distinction that is made in linguistics?
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I honestly don't. The verbs are the same, the pronomial complements simply express different aspects of the action. If Franz lives in München you could say Ich sende einen Brief an Franz nach München to express both, recipient and destination.
     
  7. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Another desillusion then - but of course, that happens regularly, with me ;-)... Yet, we cannot combine the two the way you do in German: it is either aan or naar, we cannot combine them into one sentence. I am inclined to think that verbs with a different 'valentie/ Valenz' have some different meaning: with us either the sending as such, the other as turning to, addressing someone. In reality it might all boil down to the same thing, but not necessarily - in Dutch, or that is my feeling.

    But how about paying and buying? One is a money transaction, which might mean different things, whereas the other is acquiring. Would there be some way to categorize them differently?
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2012
  8. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Sure. The practice shows that there is always a way to categorise something differently; it's just a matter of choosing a different point of categorisation… For example, paying is an incomplete action in respect to the expected result, while buying is a complete one. That is, you could pay money and not have anything in return, as it happens sometimes, while buying means both having paid money and having acquired the thing.

    You could find very interesting this site on the account of word categorisation (the site is about Ithkuil, which is not only a constructed language, but also a philosophy behind it, which expresses itself in extensive categorisation).
     
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting viewpoint: incomplete vs. complete. I think there is something below that, but your reference to the result reminds me of the 'felicitous conditions' of speech acts... Thanks.

    As for the site: where in particular do you see the link? Some things remind me of case grammar, etc., semantic grammar, but do you see a clear link with my observation?
     
  10. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    I know in english this very much distinction exists, between physical and mind - learn vs study. you learn to ride a bike but you study for a test; though its not completely tied to what you asked.

    are you asking about dutch only or in general?
     
  11. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    No, I just see a lot of categorisation in the approach that the author chose; he classifies everything starting from the concepts in the vocabulary (see the introduction for details, as an example) and ending by his approach to morphology, in which, again, a lot of concepts is classified out, so that these concepts are obligatory to be expressed. No direct link to your specific observation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  12. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    No, Arielipi, trying to be general, very general. Both studying and learning might be descriptive, but something learning [to do something] may not work, I realize, along e2-e4 X's lines.
     
  13. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    I don't think that paying is necesarilly incomplete and buying is complete. They simply mean two different things, even if it's normally true that the buying includes also the paying. Exaggerating a bit, we could also say that eating is incomplete but living is complete because it includes the eating as well ...

    I have the feeling that if we wanted to be extremely precise in categorization then we should arrive to the conclusion that all verbs belong to so many categories that practically each verb represents a unique category per se.
     
  14. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    You can also learn new words for the test. :D
     
  15. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks for the addition, but it reminds me very much of what e2-e4 suggested. I do realize that verbs can be categorised in so many ways, but starting from the Dutch een brief sturen naar/ aan, I thought there might be a substantial difference 'behind' them: as between speaking and promising, baptizing, warning (the so-called speech acts). It reminds me of literal (naar = direction) vs. figurative (aan = addressing). I think eating is basically literal, concrete (descriptive) whereas living in the broad sense is figurative, I think. That seems almost too simple now though... ;-(
     
  16. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    That's what I meant. Moreover, we can categorise verbs in so many ways, including very bizarre ones, that the question arises, which way is the true one, and the natural answer looks like, no one way is.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  17. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    Well, english is too easy for this, sure that many words fall in the same category, but if we look at it as a scale, each word takes a place on that scale.
    hideous ugly neutral pretty charming, and so forth and backwards, if you say something is pretty its less than charming.

    going to verbs: tell vs talk, the way i see it - talk is more equal level while tell suggests that the one telling is above the told person.

    in hebrew this very thing exists in any word-category; perhaps i did not understand what exactly youre asking, if you could translate or explain the difference between the two dutch sentences itll help.
     
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I must say I have not thought of the same phenomenon in another word category, wish to focus on verbs, but so far my idea is that this lit./fig. distinction might be of help in Dutch. Just like zich richten naar/ tot [to turn to]: they are not quite the same in that naar is a literal direction, but does not imply addressing anyone. The tot does.

    So that is a difference in meaning, that one could also refer to as descriptive vs. functional. However, I don't know whether something of this kind might be found - and be relevant - in other languages: do verbs behave differently depending on their 'status'??? .
     
  19. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    I still dont understand the difference,perhaps if you give a more concrete, full example.
    Tamar, could you elaborate here in hebrew a second?
     
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Do you see the difference between me turning to you and me addressing you? The first seems to be required in order to perform the other, but it is not the same. In Dutch there is a difference of preposition, based on the literal (turning to X) and the figurative sense (addressing you, with a particular message).
     
  21. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    what do you mean by turning to x?
     
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    X = someone. that is: turning one's face, one's body, to him --- but that might just be because s/he heard a noise, not because s/he wanted to address that person, to tell him something.
     
  23. mataripis Senior Member

    you mean say vs write? In Tagalog, say is "Sabihan mo" while write is "Sulatan mo". Both have messages but the first one might have many ways. (by phone/face to face etc.)
     
  24. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That reminds me: there is saying, speaking and telling. The first two can be described objectively, whereas the essence of what happens in telling is hard to describe. Can you make the distinction?

    In some way one might say one tells something in a letter, which shows that it is the function we express, not the means we use.
     
  25. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Hi ThomasK,
    I've seen that in German and Dutch the verb for "study" is similar to lern-, does it mean both "study" and "learn"?

    In my Chinese dialect, there is no distinction between see and look, between hear and listen, between say and speak and tell.

    In Italian there's no difference between say and tell. To say "tell somebody" you say "say to somebody" (dire a qualcuno). But there is a specific word for "telling a story" (raccontare una storia).
     
  26. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I would not say they are similar. Their meaning is similar, but strictly speaking people can be studying but not learning a thing (because they don't understand for example). Can you make that distinction?

    Say/ tell: people say a lot, but they tell very little. Can(not) you make that distinction? And can you apply the distinction to listening and not hearing, watching and not seeing???

    I am looking forward !
     
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Naar in that construct reminds me of the English word near (I'm guessing it's not a cognate of German nach, in spite of the possible syntactical similarity...) Do you think its meaning resembles that of chez or vers in French?
     
  28. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Yes, I do distinguish the two meaning.
    I was asking for Dutch, because my cousin from Holland always puts "leren" (or something like that) on MSN status when she is studying.

    Italian only distinguish between say and speak/talk. I translate it as: la gente parla un sacco, ma dice poco. (people talk a lot, but say very little)
    Unless, you want people telling stories or anedoctes, then you could also say: la gente dice un sacco, ma racconta poco. (raccontare = tell, as in tell a story)

    Mandarin Chinese has the word 告诉 that is similar to the English tell, so I think you can use it to translate this sentence: 人们说很多,但告诉很少。
    My dialect doesn't distinguish between speak, talk, say and tell; so you have to rephrase it in a different way. For example: 伊俫人讲很多话,但是有用的话讲少显。(these people "say" a lot, but "say" very few useful things).

    In Mandarin the distinction exists. Seeing is 见. Then you add 见 to listening and watching and form the other two verbs:
    看 watching/looking + 见 = 看见 seeing*
    听 listening + 见 = 听见 hearing

    *So there is a doublet for seeing: 见 or 看见. Compare Chinese pidgin English look-see = to see, which is a direct calque from Chinese.

    You can also add 到 and form 看到 seeing (lit. get to look) and 听到 hearing (lit. get to listen).

    In my dialect "hearing" is rendered as 听着 (lit. get to listen), and "seeing" is rendered as 看着 (lit. get to look).

    In Chinese see and hear are not distinct verbs, but are formed by look / listen + sort of preposition.

    Happy new year!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    It certainly resembles vers, but not chez,I'd say, because vers refers to direction, whereas chez refers to location, I think... (Thanks and a happy New Year full of discoveries)
     
  30. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see, so there is a lexical addition explaining the other meaning...

    But then: what is the meaning of 见 ? It cannot really be seeing, I think, because you can combne it with listening. Could it not be understanding rather? Like: listen = hearing + understanding, see = watching + understanding. The other one is perfectly clear: adding a perfective aspect (get to) to the verb.

    But can you also use either of those prepositions/... in other cases? That might be quite interesting !!! Happy - and creative, healthy - New Year to you too !
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  31. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    见 alone means already "to see". Although it's used more often in the meaning "to meet someone", or in phrases such as "refer to the table/see page 4".
    Compound words in Chinese don't always have a logic. Most often two synonyms are put together to form a third synonim.
    I forgot to say that you can also say 见到 for "to see".
    I would say that there isn't much difference between 看见/看到/见到,or between 听见/听到.
    The only sfumature is that the forms with 到 put more emphasis on "manage to see/manage to hear".
     
  32. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    The distinction you suggest is probably more confusing than helpful. I am not sure how flexible the Dutch verb 'sturen' is, but the English verb 'send' can be used in various ways:
    send money (transfer)
    send for someone (to request that someone come to you)
    send a letter
    send an email (would that be different from sending a letter?)
    send flowers (order flowers from a shop and have them delivered somewhere)

    What is physical and what is functional here?
     
  33. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    At least I do not wish to make things more confusing than helpful.

    In this case 'to send for someone' is the only functional one here, as the rest refer to physical actions the function of which can be guessed whereas it is not unambiguous... I think I am looking for a parallel with speech acts, which must meet 'felicity conditions' for example in order to work.
     
  34. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Hi Thomas, you didn't answer my question by the way ;)
    How do you say "study" and "learn" in Dutch?
     
  35. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    ThomasK,
    I can kind of understand what you mean when you claim that een brief sturen aan is 'functional' in that it involves a recipient (the whole letter sending frame is opened: sending, receiving, opening, reading) while the other is physical. I could easily send a letter to Amsterdam, a purely physical location with no recipient. But I have to say, I really don't see how the meaning of the verb changes. berndf is right when he says that it's the preposition that changes the whole thing. Didactically speaking, it's probably a lot easier to deal with sturen aan + person and sturen naar + place rather than some abstract concept of functional vs physical.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  36. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    @Youngfun: please forgive me, I read your answer, but did not have the time to answer. Give me another 12 hours please... ;-(

    @Myslenka: my point is didactic, you know --- in the long run! ;-) I found out that some prepositions imply a figurative interpretation, which seems to be 'functional' at the same time. And so I am now exploring whether this distinction has been made already and/or whether this distinction might account for certain syntactic and other phenomena, which I have not discovered (!). It must be a matter of (semantic) pragmatics, I guess; just like speech acts.

    The background is: this distinction (fig./ lit.) helps learners of Dutch, but I was hoping/ supposing/... the distinction might prove useful in more ways...
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  37. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Is it a distinction that is used when teaching Dutch?

    I can construct similar examples in Norwegian, but the choice of prepositon is context-specific so there is no straightforward way to classify prepositions as this or that. I suspect the same is true for Dutch.
     
  38. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    It is not a straightforward way perhaps, but this difference between schrijven naar/ aan seems fairly 'regular', the one between zich richten naar/ tot also. So I think it might be useful, whereas it is not one that is being used as far as I know --- but it would be more interesting if that distinction proved useful in other ways. So I am just exploring that hypothesis, seeing whether something useful can come out of that... (One of my starting points was that learners of Dutch find prepositions difficult - and so I do some research...)
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  39. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Adpositions are difficult in all languages and people have probably tried to make a system in the chaos already without succeeding. It seems that you are merely inventing new labels for very generalized meanings. Learners of Dutch will still have to memorize the difference between schrijven naar/aan and zich richten naar/tot, and they will probably have to do so on a verb-to-verb basis where this kind of alternation applies because different prepositions are involved.

    You also wondered if this distinction, whatever it's basis is, could account for syntactic phenomena too. I personally don't think you find a special syntax related to this. They probably work like any other Preposition Phrase.
     
  40. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, at least it helps students to understand the meaning of aan/tot after/behind a verb, and I also tell them that lots of verbs with aan/toe-prefix have a Latin ad-equivalent (toegang/ access, toegeven/ admit, etc.). So that is certainly useful, but my underlying hypothesis might not work, quite possible -- too bad then.

    Syntax : I was not thinking of just PNPs, but also about the aspects of the verbs used, etc. --- but it might all turn out to be 'straw', too bad for me then, again.
     
  41. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I wondered:
    - Seeing is very broad here, very much like the English ‘to see’
    - I still wonder about the fact that to hear can get the seeing ideogramme – or does it refer to managing to… ? Or is that what you are hinting at (not always a logic)?
    - The complex seeing 见到is probably the ‘true’, simple seeing (I see you here)
    - The managing might be a very important element, and reminds me of felicity conditions of speech acts.
     
  42. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Why do you think it is illogical? Seeing is the main kind of perception, so this affix might just refer to the perception as a whole when used as an affix. Maybe to the result of generic perception. This seems to be a very natural logic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  43. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I understand what you mean, but I was surprised. , and that is why I ask for more information...
     
  44. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Modern Chinese has just too many irregulaties and idyosincracies, that it's not a very logical language.*
    While 见 has "to see" as the primary meaning, it has an extended meaning of "perceive, realize, find out, etc.".
    More rarely, it can also be used with other sensorial verbs, such as 闻见* "to smell" (I don't know if English makes a distinction for smelling, similar to watching/seeing) and 摸见 "to touch and feel, to feel with tact".

    *Classical Chinese was more logical on this aspect.
    There is a crystalized phrase from Classical Chinese: "视而不见,听而不闻" = "watching and not seeing, listening and not hearing".

    To increase the confusion... 闻/闻见 means "to hear" in Classical Chinese, but "to smell" in Modern Chinese.
     
  45. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That is all very interesting, and now I understand better. Thanks !
     
  46. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    The interesting thing is how verbs describing physical activities are often the basis of other verbs, often derivations, ..., referring to abstract things. And Germanic languages, to some extent also other INdo-European languages, seem to use that characteristic very frequently. But I guess all languages do that to some extent: I guess the physical verbs are about always the basis of 'abstract verbs'. [By using italics, I am indicating that I am not so sure that is the best term. Feel free to correct.]

    I think that is didactically interesting. Should anyone know of how that insight (basically Lakoff/ Johnson, I think) can be used, further explored, please tell me.
     

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