Author Topic: Negation and Modal Verbs  (Read 562 times)

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Offline tsyili

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Negation and Modal Verbs
« on: July 23, 2019, 08:15:11 pm »
While working on my book project, I found something I wanted to say that I was not sure was okay. I went to negate a verb in a sentence that had a modal verb, instead of negating the modal verb and leaving the other without negation. Curious about whether that was a valid construction I looked but did not find an answer in support or denial of it anywhere in our resources, so an email was sent. This was the response back. :)

Kaltxì ma Pawl!


We have never seen anything from you like “pefya tsun nga ke stivawm aylì’uti oeyä?”, but I wonder, is it possible?
Similarly, as a parallel to zenke, does tsunke exist?
More generally, in a modal construction, is it possible to negate the second verb, or are we only allowed to negate the modal verb?

I ask this because I suspect that there might be a difference between ke tsun yivom and tsun ke yivom:  Not able to eat [lack of food, physical inability?] vs. able to not eat [willpowered fasting during a feast?]

Irayo nìli, I hope all is well!

Quote from: Pawl
When you have a modal and a negative together, the question is, which one has the wider scope? Take “must,” for example. Using the verb “go,” there are two possibilities:
1.    NEG  [MUST go]   To use clumsy English, this means we’re negating the idea of obligatory going. So MUST falls within the scope of NEG. In other words, you don’t have to go, it’s not necessary to go, it’s not obligatory to go.

In Na’vi, of course, that’s ke zene kivä.

2.    MUST  [NEG go]  Here we’re saying the idea of not going is obligatory. So NEG falls within the scope of MUST. In other words, it’s obligatory that you not go: you must not go.

In Na’vi, this was originally *zene ke kivä, but since this construction occurs so frequently (people are always saying, “You must not do this”!), zene and the immediately following ke have coalesced over time into zenke.

As you’ve noted, though, the wider issue is, what happens with the other modals like tsun, new, and var?
3.    Po ke tsun yivom.
4.    Po tsun ke yivom.
You’re right that we haven’t seen 4 yet. I have to admit that when I first looked at it, and also at your “Pefya tsun nga ke stivawm aylì’uti oeyä?” sentence, they seemed wrong. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that that structure should be OK. After all, if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have *zene ke kivä as the source of zenke kivä, right?

The next question is, is there a semantic difference between 3 and 4? Yes, there is, as your examples show very clearly.
The final question is, would tsun ke in 4 coalesce into *tsunke? I think the answer here is no, since tsun ke occurs much less frequently than zene ke. (How often do people say, “I’m able not to do X”?)
5.    Po ke new kivä.
6.    Po new ke kivä.
As before, we should consider 6 OK grammatically.
The semantic difference between 5 and 6, though, isn’t as clear. Is there a distinction between “He doesn’t want to go” and “He wants not to go”? (I know the second sentence sounds awkward, but the structure is perfectly possible. If you google “wants not to,” you’ll find things like “What if Britain wants not to change?” and “She wants not to be herself.”) Do you see a difference in meaning between 5 and 6? I confess I tried to pin down a difference just now but wound up deleting what I had written, since I didn’t find it completely convincing.
I’d be interested in any thoughts you might have about this.
In any event, we should allow both 5 and 6 grammatically. And I doubt new ke would have developed into *newke.
7.    Po ke var yivom.
8.    Po var ke yivom.
Again, both are grammatical. Here, I think, there’s more of a clear semantic distinction. In 7, she was eating, but she stopped: She didn’t continue to eat. In 8, she hasn’t been eating, and she’s kept it up: She continues not to eat. As before, I wouldn’t expect var ke to have developed into *varke.
Eywa ngahu,
ta Pawl

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Re: Negation and Modal Verbs
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2019, 08:51:16 pm »
Irayo ma Tsyili sì Karyu Pawl
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Offline Plumps

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Re: Negation and Modal Verbs
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2019, 11:46:30 pm »
That’s amazing news! Thanks ma Tsyili for asking!

… interesting that after all these years we still find things noone has ever thought of (or dared to ask) before ;)

Offline Toliman

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Re: Negation and Modal Verbs
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2019, 05:56:39 am »
Eltur tìtxen si :) Irayo for interesting idea!

Offline Wllìm

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Re: Negation and Modal Verbs
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2019, 09:50:49 am »
Wou, this is very cool! Thanks for asking (and thanks Pawl for answering :) )
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Re: Negation and Modal Verbs
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2019, 03:50:12 am »
Irayo nìtxan! :D

That's indeed cool. Yay for more language details. :)

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