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Ordinal (and other numerical) adverbs

From:Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 23:44
When I was originally developing gjâ-zym-byn,
I gave it a couple of different ordinal suffixes:
{-pa} is the general ordinal suffix, and {-gla}
is a time-ordinal that most commonly means
"o'clock" but can also refer to a year, month, day,
minute or second depending on context.

I've recently realized, re-reading some old journal
entries from last year, that I've been using {-pa}
ordinals polysemously with verbs.  Sometimes
they mean "for the Nth time" (absolutely or more
commonly within a given temporal context,
e.g. eating or doing respiratory treatment for
the Nth time on certain day), and sometimes
they mean "Nthly", i.e. as the Nth action in a
series of miscellaneous actions.  So a sentence

mrân-zô    dâ-pa.
eat-V.ACT  three-ORD

could be ambiguous between "I ate for the third
time" (on the day in context, I suppose) and
"The third thing I did was eat" (after unloading
the car and changing clothes, perhaps, those
being the first and second actions in the sequence).

I'd like to fix this ambiguity and I see three possible
ways to do it.  I'd like your feedback on which seems
best and whether you see any fourth or fifth ways
to do it.

1. Add another suffix to mean "for the Nth time".

mrân-zô dâ-saw.
I ate for the third time.

2. Let sentence-scope ordinal adverbs (at the
beginning of the sentence) have one of
those meanings and verb-scope ordinal adverbs
(right after the verb) have the other.  E.g.,

mrân-zô dâ-pa.
I ate for the third time.

dâ-pa mrân-zô.
The third thing I did was eat.

3. Require the "for the Nth time" sense to be
expressed with a postpositional phrase.

nu   dâ-pa     i  mrân-zô.
time three-ORD at eat-V.ACT

#3 requires the least change to the existing
grammar, but it's also most verbose.  #2
extends a precedent set by evidentiality
and attitudinal adverbs (which are so far
the only adverbs that can go at the beginning
of the sentence).

Are there other con- or natlangs that have distinct
ordinal derivations for these senses?  Or other
interesting derivations from numbers that
might be relevant here?  Volapük has a
-na suffix, if I remember right, meaning "N times":

Banolöd velna.
Bathe seven times.

-- and it can combine that with its basic -id ordinal
suffix to say "for the Nth time":

Äfidob kilidna.
I ate for the third time.

At present I express "N times" with a plain number-adjective
in adverbial position:

šyj-ť-ca       fy-bô        mwe.
clean-2-V.REFL seven-ADJ at IMP
Bathe seven times.

I don't see any ambiguity there or any need for a separate

Esperanto expresses these senses as follows,

Mi manĝis trie.
I ate thirdly. = eating was the third in my seq. of actions

Mi manĝis trifoje.
I ate three times.

Mi manĝis triafoje.
I ate for the third time.

Jim Henry


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Carsten Becker <carbeck@...>