irrealis-realis vs. indistinct-distinct?

From Lojban
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Just some side notes to the issue I'm struggling with (and especially since dealing with Dakota languages):

  1. In Lakota, the irrealis is expressed by use of the enclitic ktA added (A denotes a changeable vowel), e.g. winkte (hermaphrodite) <- win+ktA (about: "not really a female". If added to a whole sentence, it commonly is understood as future tense.
  2. There exist three forms for the number/"indefinite article": wanci (in counting), wan and wanji.
  3. I have to use wan when expressing e.g. the following (male) statement: "Htalehan sunkawakan wan owapetun welo" (Yesterday horse a I bought male-statement -> I bought a horse yesterday): Obviously, it is a fact (realis) that I bought a horse and that the one horse referred to is distinct from all other horses existing.
  4. I have to use wanji expressing e.g. Hihanni kin atewaye kin sunkawakan wanji opetun ktelo (morning the I-refer-to-as-father the horse the buy future-male-statement -> My father is going to buy a horse to-mP it is not a fact yet (irrealis) that my father buys a (one) horse, and the horse is still any horse of all existing ones (indistinct).
  5. Using wan in example 4) instead, would give a still different notion: "Hihanni kin atewaye kin sunkawakan wan opetun ktelo" (My father is going to buy a horse tomorrow, i.e. one horse already talked about or chosen out before) - hence: distinct! I'm not too sure about whether or not and in what degree the "irrealis" nature of future tense has to do with the issue. Maybe in this statement here, the fact that the object of intended buying is already distinct, kind of adds a "realis" flavour to the action albeit lying still in the future(??)
  6. In commands or questions, one always(?) has to use wanji - yet for exactly what reason? (Maybe, just a rhethorical question)
    E.g.: "Waskuyeca eya bluha" - "Wanji icu wo!" (I've some candies - Take one!) I'm wondering if it would make any difference in the following example:
    "Waskuyeca wan lila waste ca bluha" - "Wanji(??) yacin hwo?" (I have a/one really good candy) Do you like the(!) one?
    What I'm wanting to ask your opinions/comments for: are irrealis-realis and indistinct-distinct related in some way or another? I think this question is not restricted to Dakota language but to human thinking generally and somehow expressed in language.
    As for distinct-indistinct, I'm still biting on how different languages deal with this differentiation; there seem to be - at least - the following possibilities:

a) "I need a doctor!" (any doctor)

German: "Ich brauche einen Arzt!"

Lakota: "Pejutawicasa (wanji) wacin yelo!" (Pxejutawichasha...) - here, not unlike Russian or Hebrew, there's no article used.

b) "Yesterday, I met a doctor, (his name's Miller)" (one of all doctors, yet distinct from them and able to have a name tagged on him)

German: "Ich traf gestern einen Arzt, (und er heisst Dr. Mueller)"

Lakota: "Htalehan pejutawicasa wan awakipe (na Miller eciyapelo)"

c) "I am a doctor." (Same meaning like b), in English, also same construction: I'm one of all doctors existing, and my name is...)

German: "Ich bin Arzt." (Here, - in good High German - the article is dropped, since only the quality of being physician is important, hence stressed.)

Lakota: "Pejutawicasa hemaca yelo." (Here one of the many stative verbs for 'to be' is used: heca is special for "to be a such..." )

d) "I am the doctor!" (here in the village or the one you called on the phone - and no other physician!)

German: "Ich bin der Arzt." (hier im Dorf oder derjenige der angerufen wurde - und kein anderer Arzt!)

Lakota: "Pejutawicasa (kin) miyelo!" (here, another special stative verb for 'to be' is used: iye - "to be the one...", e.g. "he Paul e yelo" - this is Paul. The word kin, a topic marker rather than a definite article, is not necessary here.

  • .aulun.:
    • IMHO, I'd dare say that the idea/contrast of distinct-indistinct seems to be the main criterion, and that this may be influenced by different flavours of "reality". Mhmm?
  • pc:
    • The stock logical answer to the first set is that it depends upon the domain being quantified into and each day has a new domain, though typically pastward inclusive, and that is determined by the relative positions of quantifier and tense. So, "There is a horse (in the today domain) that it will be the case tomorrow my father buys" is specific in the relevant sense and realis. Similarly, "There is a horse, such that yesterday I bought it" quantifies into the today domain, which includes the yesterday one, and so is the same as "Yesterday there is a horse I bought," quantifiying into the yesterday domain (included in today). But "Tomorrow there is a horse my father buys" quantifies into the tomorrow domain, which is not part of the today one, and so is inspecific (i.e. can't be specified today) and irrealis. Imperatives are clearly irrealis, since as it were the event is not yet real -- and may never be. I suppose that questions are similar (they are after all commands of a sort).

"I need a doctor" is a classic intensional context (not that tenses and imperatives are not, but they have gotten less logical treatment): the Lojban solution has been to take it as "I need that there be a doctor to do something for me," then "a" again being quantification inside a (hidden) alternate domain.

"Yesterday I met a doctor" on the other hand quantifies into either the Yesterday domain, which is in the Today domain, or directly into the Today domain but can now be specified.

"I am a doctor" is, as the German suggests, just a part of the peculiarity of how English expresses predication: Doctor (I).

"I am the doctor" suggests that "the doctor" has a fixed reference somehow -- usually in real cases circumstantially -- and I am claiming to be that referent. Fixed referents are automatically specific.


are irrealis-realis and indistinct-distinct related in some way or another?

Wow, interesting question. Actually the word "irrealis" is new to me (and I cannot even find it on -W Online!)... I think "irrealis/realis" and "indistinct/distinct" are different kinds of divisions, because in symbolic logic "indistinct" nouns can be expressed in first-order logic alone, but "irrealis" nouns require higher-order logic. (Alas I am a student of maths, so I tend to write in mathematical terms. :-( )

Specifically, a noun is "irrealis" if it corresponds to a term occurring in a predicate which is itself a term of another predicate, gobbledygook and the term cannot be referenced outside the predicate.

A noun is "indistinct" if it corresponds to a term which is not 'tied' to (unified with) any other term, however this former term can appear as an argument in a `top-level' predicate (which makes it also "realis").

As pc has mentioned above, an added complication is that "Yesterday I met a doctor" may refer to either an "irrealis" or "realis" noun, depending on whether "a doctor" is understood as "a doctor of now" or "a doctor of yesterday" (though it is definitely a non-specific noun).

-- User:[email protected]


>Similarly, "There is a horse, such that yesterday I bought it" quantifies into the today domain, which includes the yesterday one, and so is the same as "Yesterday there is a horse I bought," quantifiying into the yesterday domain (included in today).<<

  • .aulun.:
    • Didn't know this logic yet, but it's kind of amazing to compare it with Dakota grammar: past - present - future seem to be devided in realis (past tense, ie. a verb's general tense!) and irrealis (future tense - indicated by the enclitic ktA). The present seems to be regarded as something 'volatile', hence grammatically not really expressed - kind of 'Schnittstelle' (interface) between irrealis and realis.
  • pc:
    • What would a Lakota use for "I am buying a horse right now"?
  • .aulun.:
    • Wanna sunkawakan (wan) owapetun yelo. (waNna' shuN'kawakxaN' waN owa'phetxuN). It's also possible to attach a suffix -han (haN) to the verb (which here is active). (I think that "present" is nothing but a fiction: e.g. from a legal point of view, the "buying" is a "logische Sekunde" (logic second), then, it is in the past already, whereas before this, it's still in the future and has not yet happened. Before this point of time, you cannot claim the horse to be bought, hence yours).
    • pc:
      • This works in English as well: notice how the irrealis involves many of the same words that are used for future (though the system has gotten garbled over the years).

Here's another question arising from my studies of the Dakota language: Hokahe! - Le anpetu kin mat'e kin waste ktelo!