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Re: OT: The semantics of "Guns don't kill people" (was Re: OT: Helen Keller & Whorf-Sapir)

From:Jim Henry <jimhenry@...>
Date:Monday, August 16, 2004, 21:43
Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...> wrote:
> Jim Henry wrote: > > In gjax-zym-byn, which uses a variety of > > case-postpositions > > for agent, patient, state, topic, cause,
> > (In neither sentence is there any verb; > > I don't think I need any when the postpositions are > > so clear. Generally any sentence involving > > "be", "become", "render" or "have" is translated > > into gzb without any verb. Re: another thread -
> Quite interesting. Clearly, if the sentence is > analyzed as: > "Guns are not cause of people becoming dead" (=Guns do > not make people becoming dead) > then "are" is kind of a copula, and doesn't need to be > expressed. The important word is "cause". This would > be one of the many possible functions of the so-called > verbs (I don't believe in verbs, I think it's just a > lumber of different concepts syntactically treated the > same way out of convention).
"Verb" is a meaningful category in many particular languages, but possibly not in general. That is, the "verb" in English and the "verbe" in French are similar enough we can pretend they're the same, but more generally there is no particular reason to suppose that the same concepts will be described with the same parts of speech in any two languages.
> But can the word "kill" be reduced to the cold, > analytic meaning of "to be cause of somebody becoming > dead" ? I think "kill" is much stronger, harsher, > especially if a gun or a knife is implied (poison > seems softer).
In English, "kill" can mean simply "cause to become dead"; it's used in non-agentive sentences like "He was killed when he fell from a moving train." "Murder" does have more conceptual baggage attached, of intentionality and immoral purpose; "execute" adds the notions of intentionality and (at least purported) legal authority. Etc. But in gjaz-zym-byn I think I would express "murder" and "execute" by using a verb for kill (maybe {fxaxl-zox}, to suddenly change, with "dead" as an adjective followed by {jax-o} (becoming); or changing "dead" into a verb with the causative suffix {-fwa}, either way putting {max} "person" into the patient case) and using adverb(s) to express the additional conditions, rather than inventing a new root word.
> > I generally use verbal nouns as roots > > and derive other things from them, so:
> > fix'hqax-ha bullets (stuff used for shooting) > > fix'hqax-pxa result of shooting: bullets in > > motion? bullet wounds? dead people?
> Also: what is the result of shooting ? I think one > should consider, not "to shoot", but "to shoot at". > So, if the result of "to break" is "something broken", > then the result of "to shoot at" is "something / > somebody shot at". You can shoot in the air, that > means you shoot at nothing, thus: no result. Except > expelling a bullet and deafening the neighbours.
My other uses of {-pxa} name things that come into existence of change their state as a result of some action. So {kxaxrm} coughing, {kxaxrm-pxa} mucus expectorated; {laxrm} weeping, {laxrm-pxa} tears; {kriq} writing, composing; {kriq-pxa} a composition. So {fix'hqax-pxa} should probably be either the squished or shattered bullets or (more probably) the bullet wounds.
>"To > shoot at" seems a compound of the concept of "to > shoot".
> BTW, I think that guns can cause people to become > dead. Accidents happen.
Yes. I was trying to translate the NRA slogan, because Jo:rg had said it was tied to sloppy properties of English grammar and couldn't be meaningfully translated into languages that mark instrumental, agent, etc. more explicity. That doesn't mean I agree with it. Maybe I need to make {gaxn} more specific ("immediate cause"?) and come up with more root words for other causes. But even in case of an accident the gun is not the immediate cause of death; rather it's the gun firing due to carelessness. The careless placement of the gun would be the first part of the cause chain; then the presence of the gun; then the careless handling of it; then the firing, the motion of the bullet, the puncture, the fatal trauma. I'm not sure I am capable of coming up with a set of words for "cause" that name all the parts of that causal chain clearly and are extensible to all kinds of other causal situations, but one word {gaxn} is clearly inadequate. - Jim Henry