Complete sentences comprised of only a noun

Mauricet

Senior Member
French - France
In Malay/Indonesian a single noun such as hujan (rain) may be a full sentence, a predicate of existence of the thing represented by the noun: It is raining. Similarly, a noun phrase such as Bukan pasar malam (title of a novel by Pramoedya Ananta Toer), literally Not a night market, was translated in French as La vie n'est pas une foire nocturne ("Life is not a night market"), i.e. a complete sentence again. Probably another of Pram's novels, Korupsi, is understood as "There is corruption" rather than just "About corruption" or "A story of corruption".

Which other languages have this feature ? Other types of one-word-sentences exist very generally, but this one ?
 
  • jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I can only thing of Fire! and its translation in other languages (Portuguese fogo, Spanish fuego, Italian fuoco, French feu, etc.) to mean there is a fire somewhere.
     

    sakvaka

    Senior Member
    I can only thing of Fire! and its translation in other languages (Portuguese fogo, Spanish fuego, Italian fuoco, French feu, etc.) to mean there is a fire somewhere.

    ...well, not in Finnish. Tulta! is a command to shoot, but if you want to tell that the house is burning, you say tuli on irti ("the fire is loose").

    The grammar doesn't usually allow one-word sentences that don't include a verb (happy birthday). Titles of books are exceptions, because they're not complete sentences. I can't explain why they were translated differently in your case. Perhaps the translators wanted to make them more informative.
     

    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    In French, Feu ! is a command to shoot. When there is a fire, you shout Au feu !

    Yes, usually grammars do not allow one word sentences without a verb, because they would not be complete sentences, usually. But Indonesian (or Malay, essentially the same language) does have such complete sentences: translators of novels know that and translate Bukan pasar malam with a complete French or English sentence because it is a complete sentence in the original ! I guess some Asian languages might allow such sentences too, but which ones ?
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    In Japanese you need です to complete a noun-type sentence: 火事だ! ("It's a fire!"). In Cantonese, we say "火燭呀!" (fire+particle). In Arabic you can just shout out حريق "fire!"

    But honestly I don't think it's easy to define what a "one-noun sentence" is, even we exclude "emergency shouting".

    -What do you want? Apple or orange?
    - Apple. (Do you count this as a sentence?)
     
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    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I don't think it's easy to define what a "one-noun sentence" is.

    -What do you want? Apple or orange?
    -Apple. (Do you count this as a sentence?)
    It is a sentence, but not of the kind I'm talking about, because it assumes a context. The Malay sentence made of one noun (or noun phrase) makes sense in isolation, as a complete utterance, meaning the concrete existence of the thing named: a predicate of existence (?).
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    ... because it assumes a context.
    Yes, you're right, that assumes a "verbal context" (to answer a question etc) (forgive my nitpicking, but every utterence has a context after all, though not necessarily verbal).

    It has been suggested that in Nahuatl a noun can function as a full predicative sentence. You may want to check out relevant information.:)
     

    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Thank you Ghabi, Nahuatl seems to be a good example: it is said that any noun or verb may be a full predicative sentence ("omnipredicativity"), a property shared by few languages. The French wikipedia article on Nahuatl even argues that nouns and verbs are not clearly characterised: this is a difference with Indonesian, where nouns are negated with bukan while verbs and adjectives are with tidak.
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    I'm glad that interested you.:D

    Since I've the book by hand, I might as well quote from James Lockhart's Nahuatl as Written:

    Nahuatl nouns have subjects. Each noun in an utterence is at least potentially a complete equative sentence in itself. The word for "house" in its dictionary form, calli, has a third person subject and by itself means "it's a house", or since in many cases no distinction exists between singular and plural, "they are houses".
    Is it the same in Malay?
     

    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Maybe I misunderstood what I read about Nahuatl. "Equative sentences" comprised of only a noun in Nahuatl mean "this is X", while in Indonesian the noun X alone may mean "there is X", which can be said also using a copula: Ada korupsi = "there is corruption". The copula ada is available but not required.
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    I've re-read the original question, and got some new questions::confused::D

    In Malay/Indonesian a single noun such as hujan (rain) may be a full sentence, a predicate of existence of the thing represented by the noun: It is raining.
    I've checked an Indonesian dictionary, where hujan is glossed as both "rain (noun)" and "to rain (noun)". So could we take hujan as a one-verb sentence, instead of a one-noun sentence? Could we have some examples of one-word sentence which is undoubtedly a noun?

    ... another of Pram's novels, Korupsi, is understood as "There is corruption" rather than just "About corruption" or "A story of corruption".
    Must we understand it as "there's corruption"? That is, grammatically we must understand it as so, and it's not an interpretation according to the content of the novel?

    Following are four ways of expressing "it's raining" in different languages, for a comparision:

    1. with "rain" as the subject
    Japanese: 雨が降ってます ame (rain) ga (subject marker) futtemasu (is falling)

    2. with "the world" as the subject
    Egyptian Arabic: الدنيا بتمطّر id-dunya (the world [feminine], usually omitted, but understood) bitmaTTar (is raining, 3rd-person feminine conjugation, agreeing with the suject)

    3. with impersonal pronoun as the subject
    French: il pleut

    4. with no suject at all
    Cantonese: 落雨呀 lok2 jy13 (raining) aː3 (affirmative particle), when I say this, there's no subject/agent at all in my mind, just an action
     

    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Hujan is categorised as a noun only, in each of three dictionaries: Labrousse's "dictionnaire de poche indonésien français", the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia, and a free online Indonesian-English dictionary. So I guess it is the one-word sentence we are discussing which gets some other dictionaries classify it as possibly a verb. I am not sure how they say It does not rain. I believe it should be Tidak ada hujan, not *Tidak hujan.

    For Korupsi, as a novel title it is not necessarily understood as a full sentence, but it may be, which I believe produces an effect. The fact that the title Bukan pasar malam is translated This is not a night market or La vie n'est pas une foire nocturne ("Life is not a night fair/market") points to the same direction, I think.
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    So I guess it is the one-word sentence we are discussing which gets some other dictionaries classify it as possibly a verb.
    Yes, I guess so.:)

    I am not sure how they say It does not rain. I believe it should be Tidak ada hujan, not *Tidak hujan.
    um um, but you said in a previous post that a noun is negated by bukan. Have I missed something?:confused:
     

    Mauricet

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Good point. Bukan hujan could be an answer to "is it rain or snow ?": not rain. But It does not rain negates (Ada) hujan and the copula ada is negated using tidak: so I think they would say Tiada hujan (tiada is contraction of tidak ada): literally there-is-not rain. What makes things not so clear is that tiada is sometimes used instead of tidak ! One more reason why some nouns would sometimes be classified as verbs !

    To sum up, my question could be rephrased as follows: which langages have a copula meaning there is, that can be omitted when stating the existence of something ?
     

    Drakonica

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Polish verbs:
    pada - [it's] raining
    słychać - [it] can be heard
    widać - [it] can be seen
    czuć - [it] can be felt

    Polish adverbs:
    zimno - [it's] cold
    gorąco - [it's] hot
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Arabic:
    النجدة! (literally, “the rescue”) = Help!

    Polish verbs:
    pada - [it's] raining
    słychać - [it] can be heard
    widać - [it] can be seen
    czuć - [it] can be felt

    Polish adverbs:
    zimno - [it's] cold
    gorąco - [it's] hot
    Not nouns. ;)
     

    Drakonica

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Arabic:
    النجدة! (literally, “the rescue”) = Help!


    Not nouns. ;)
    You're right.
    So nouns:

    pomoc (nominative) just help
    pomocy! - (genitive) Help!

    woda (nominative) just water
    but:
    Wody! - (genitive) I need water! / Give me water!
    Wodą. - (instrumental) Do it with water.
    Wodę. - (accusative) Water, please. Give me water. (In shop for example).

    kot (nominative) just a cat
    Kotu - (dative) For the cat. Give it to the cat.

    Gennerally you can use these four cases in this way with any noun, if only it makes sense with it.

    Dupa! - (ass, arse) It is wrong! / It doesn't work! / The final result of our actions is nothing but ass.
    Bryndza - (a kind of cheese) I / We are in a bad situation.
    Hańba! - (shame) Shame on you!
    Morda! - (a mug) Shut up your mug!
    Gleba! - (soil) Lay on the ground!
     
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    You're right.
    So nouns:

    pomoc (nominative) just water
    pomocy! - (genitive) Help!

    woda (nominative) just water
    but:
    Wody! - (genitive) I need water! / Give me water!
    Wodą. - (instrumental) Do it with water.
    Wodę. - (accusative) Water, please. Give me water. (In shop for example).

    kot (nominative) just a cat
    Kotu - (dative) For the cat. Give it to the cat.

    Gennerally you can use these four cases in this way with any noun, if only it make sense with it.

    Dupa! - (ass, arse) It is wrong! / It doesn't work! / The final result of our actions is nothing but ass.
    Bryndza - (a kind of cheese) I / We are in a bad situation.
    Hańba! - (shame) Shame on you!
    Morda! - (a mug) Shut up your mug!
    Gleba! - (soil) Lay on the ground!
    Out of all these, in Greek one can hear «νερό!» [ne̞.ˈɾo̞] --> (I want) water!, the accusative of the neuter noun «νερό» [ne̞.ˈɾo̞] (idem), or «γάτα!/σκύλος!» [ˈɣa.t̠a] (fem.)/[ˈs̠ci.lo̞s̠] (masc.) --> (look a) cat!/dog!, especially when the animal suddenly crosses our way while we're walking or driving a car
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The Polish list made me think that there's one or two more Russian features to exploit.
    E.g. жарковато (zharkováto) - "[it's] a little bit [too] hot (somewhere)".
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    In Catalan, as in most other languages mentioned here, nouns for whole sentences are used when the sentence is understood from the context, but not as a grammar feature.

    Foc! ["Fire!" - In a fire, or when a firing squad shoots]
    Aigua! ["Water!" = Give me water, I'm thirsty!]
    Socors!, Auxili!, Ajuda! ["Help!"]
    Cotxe! ["Car!", as in warning someone a car is going to run over you]

    Obviously, with insults, although then nouns are actually functioning as adjectives:
    Ruc! ("Ass!" = Idiot!),​
    Gallina! ("Hen!" = Coward!)​
    etc​

    Generally speaking, though, they're nouns that either become adjectivized or almost interjections rather than real sentences.
     

    Drakonica

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Skucha! - (informally: a mistake) You've made a mistake in the game.
    Rozkaz! - (an order) I understand your orders. I will execute them.
    Uwaga! - (an attention) Be careful.
    Baczność! - (an attention) Stand in a basic position!
    Cisza! - (a silence) Quiet!
    Rączki. - (little hands) Stretch out your hands, I'll handcuff you.
    Odjazd! - (a departure) Drive away!
    Wypad! - (an excursion) Go away!
    Czołem! - (with a forehead) Hi! / Cheerio!
    Chodu! - (of a walk) Let's run away!
     
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