animal - who/what

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by rusita preciosa, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    When you see an animal (say, a mammal) and are not sure what kind of animal it is, would you ask what is it? or who is it? in your language?

    English: What is it?
    Russian: Кто это? /kto eto/ - Who is it?

    EDIT: I'm curious about the specific question What is it? rather than What kind of animal is it? / What animal is it?

    I want to see if in any language other than Russian "animal" is treated as an animate object.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  2. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    Alta Navarra
    Spanish: ¿Qué es? (What is it?)
  3. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Turkish: Bu ne? (What is it?)
  4. Orlin Banned

    В болгарском языке мы спрашиваем о животных "Какво е това (животно)?" ("Что это (за животное)?").
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:
    «Τι ζώο είναι;»
    Ti 'zoo 'ine?
    What animal is it?
  6. Maroseika Moderator

    In Russian we also would ask "What's animal is it?" (Что это за зверь?). But the question was about the phrase without the word "animal", because these are 2 different constructions (at least in Russian).
  7. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    In Swedish the construction would be: Vad är det (för djur)? What is that/it (for (an) animal)?

    It can never be vem (who). (Unless possibly in a situation in which the speaker knows a group of animals ("by name") and asks who (of them) is it? Obviously this requires the animals in question to be so familiar that they have gone from being animals to individuals.)
  8. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)

    O que é? (What is it?)
    O que é aquilo? (What is that?)
  9. Selyd Senior Member

    In Ukrainian:
    Що це за звір? Що воно за звір? - What's animal is it?
    Що воно таке? - What is it?
  10. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch: wat is het?

    Interesting observation, Rusita. Can you imagine other (syntactic/ semantic "patterns"/ word behaviours due to this status ?
  11. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    so, wat is inanimate (what)?

    I'm not sure about patterns, but in Russian animals are grammatically treated as animate objects. I was actually thinking how far "down the evolution" it goes and I think it stops somewhere at insects, e.g. a cat is a she (Russian has grammatical genders), a cockroach either an it or a he and an amoeba an it.

    So, if an animal destroyed a nest and we would like to know whether it was a raccoon, a fox or a cat, in Russian we would ask "who destroyed the nest?” (which in English sounds comical as I learned the hard way :D), and in English we would say “what destroyed the nest?”.

    Obviously in English we say “who” in certain situations, e.g. when I come to take horse riding lessons, I ask my instructor “who I am riding today?”, because all the horses in the stable are known by the name, sex and personality.
  12. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Oh but that reminds me: yes, we do say 'wat' (what, indeed), but we also use the pronouns you use. In that sense they're animate too - but then our pens, cars, ships, etc., all are animate as well - and that cannot (can hardly?) be considered true, can it? The so-called het-words are generally inanimate, for sure, but not of course members and children ('het lid', 'het kind');they are certainly animate too. That would be a bridge too far. Our gender indications are mainly grammatical.
    We'd use 'who' too, I guess, when it is a pet, etc.
  13. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    That's also a little comical, don't you find? :p
  14. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Not really. In English there are many situations where they say he/she/who about animals, e.g. if the nest was destroyed by one of the three house cats, the questions would be "who?", but it is a very specific context. Sometimes if you know the sex of the animal from the context (a mother with babies, a deer with antlers), they say he/she.

    But generally, it is it/what.
  15. er targyn Senior Member

    In Kazakh kim "who" can be applied only to humans, even what's your name is Atıŋ kim? = Your name who? :) And to children: Kimniŋ balasısıŋ? Whose child are you?
  16. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Really interesting! I think Russian is really unique in that case....unbeliavable.

    Hungarian: Mi ez? what
    Czech: Co je to? what
  17. arielipi Senior Member

    we do say what is it, but we mean in the absolute form - *what* it is.
    we do take it as an animated object, and we dont have 'it' system, only male and female, so we would ask about anything what it is.
    So maybe we do not differentiate between the two.
  18. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    like the majority,

    we use "who" only to ask about humans
    we don't have a gender-neutral pronoun like "it" in English, we usually use "this" which can be masculine or feminine and if we don't know the gender we use the masculine form.

    what is this?

    Standard Arabic: ما هذا؟ / hãthã?/
    Egyptian Arabic: إيه ده؟ /eih da?/
    Lebanese Arabic: شو هيدا؟ /sho hayda?/
    Palestinian Arabic: إيش هاد؟ /eish hãd?/
    Tunisian Arabic: شنوة هذا؟ /shnowwa hãthã?/
    Kuwaiti Arabic: شنو هذا /sheno hãthã?/
  19. Jeki Senior Member

    In Serbian, I would never say "Who is it?" (Ko je to?) neither "What is it?" (Šta je to?) to ask about some animal, but "Koja je to životnja?/Kakva je to životinja?" (What animal is it?).

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