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Yes, and yes

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 12, 2003, 20:28
It has recently come to my attention that native speakers of Ebisedian do
not say "yes" the way I thought they did. The word usually translated as
"yes" is _ji'e_ ["dZi?&], which means "it is so", "this is true".

However, this isn't used in all places where you might expect it: if the
question is a true/false question, e.g.:
        a'ne cw'm3 lyy's jolu'r?
        "Did he go to the house?"

The answer would be, as expected,
        "Yes." (I.e., "it is so".)

But if the question is a yes/no answer, such as:
        a'ne cu'm0 milu'e eb3'?
        "Will you help me?"

The answer is, surprisingly, not _ji'e_, but _0so'_.

As some of you may know, _0so'_ is the strong optative marker, usually
used to indicate the speaker's opinion. For example:
        0so' mw't3m3 jhit0' tww'ma chi'du.
        "I think that she should not have spoken anything to him."
        Or, "my opinion is that she should not have spoken anything to

The closest English translation of _0so'_ is probably "ought to".

So why is it that _0so'_ would be used in this odd way as an answer to a
yes/no question, instead of the expected _ji'e_? As my informant explains
to me, one would not use _ji'e_ in questions like "will you help me?",
because _ji'e_ means "it is true", and it doesn't really answer the
question.  _0so'_ on the other hand, in this context, indicates that the
speaker is saying, "yes, I will help you as I *ought* to." In other words,
the speaker is replying, "I'm obligated to". _0so'_ after all is connected
with obligation (the speaker's opinion being what he feels others are
obligated to do---in this case, he would be applying the obligation to

This interesting feature having been cleared up, I then asked my informant
what would be the appropriate answer in the negative. It is,
unsurprisingly, _myso'_, a contraction of _my'e 0so'_ (it is not the case
that it ought to be). _my'e_, of course, would be an appropriate negative
answer for true/false questions.

However, there is another interesting side to _myso'_: if I was told a
false statement, I would object with a _my'e_, "that is not true". But I
could also reply _myso'_, which means, "it may be true, but I don't agree
with it!" So I can either acknowledge, deny, or acknowledge under protest.

Such fascinating shades of meaning that these Ebisedi lexicalise. Now in
an anticipation of impending anadewism, does any conlang/natlang exhibit
this interesting difference as well? :-)


What do you mean the Internet isn't filled with subliminal messages? What
about all those buttons marked "submit"??


Jan van Steenbergen <ijzeren_jan@...>