Chapter published in:Give Constructions across Languages
Edited by Myriam Bouveret
[Constructional Approaches to Language 29] 2021
► pp. 175–193
The semantics of the verb give in Tibetan
The development of the transfer construction and the honorific domain
This paper aims to examine the behaviour of the equivalents of ‘give’ in Lhasa Tibetan in order to confirm, qualify or invalidate the universal tendencies that previous cross-linguistic research has unveiled (Newman 1996, Ed., 1997). We will first explore the semantic relations between the various forms that can express ‘give’ in Tibetan: SPRAD, BTANG, GNANG and PHUL, on the basis of previous lexicographic and descriptive research on Lhasa Tibetan, as well as a corpus of spoken Lhasa Tibetan (TSC). We will see that the most basic term (SPRAD) has not developed much beyond its literal meaning, whereas the hypernymic BTANG is used as a light verb whose constructions can be divided into several categories of meaning. GNANG is the honorific form of SPRAD, and PHUL is its humilific form. While SPRAD is not used as a light verb, its honorific and humilific counterparts are very productive light verbs. To explain this phenomenon, we will explore the honorific domain, and its systematisation in Lhasa Tibetan (Hajime, 1975; Rdorje et al., 1993; DeLancey, 1998; Tournadre & Sangda Dorje, 1998; Dorje & Lhazom, 2002). We will see that the humilific plane is not the symmetrical opposite of the honorific plane. We will also explore the productivity of GNANG and PHUL, which can be explained by the fact that giving is one of the most basic interpersonal actions of the human behavioural repertoire. It therefore establishes a link between two humans, which is essential in order for the honorific and humilific notions to emerge.
Keywords: give, Tibetan, light verbs, honorific, humilific
Published online: 10 March 2021
Das, S. C.
Goldstein, M. C., & Kashi, T. D.
Mélac, E., Robin, F. and Simon, C.
Rdorje, b., blo bstan, dpal ldan, yang ‘dzoms & ‘phrin las
The Tibetan and Himalayan Library
Oxford English dictionary online
coca: Davies, Mark (2008) The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA): 520 million words, 1990-present. Available online at http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/.
tsc: Mélac, Eric (2010–2011) The Tibet Student Corpus (TSC): 4 hours 9 min.
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