Saturday, December 10, 2011

I love you very much

This evening Amelia was trying to get a handle on the basics of Koa syntax by throwing some example sentences back and forth with me, and she innocently brought up "I love you very much." I was shocked and dismayed to discover that there didn't appear to be any good way to do it.

I realized that heretofore all my adverbial thought experiments had, embarrassingly, involved only intransitive verbs. As such, there was no problem with clauses like ta ipo poli "she drinks a lot." What on Earth happens when there's a direct object, though?

Ni loha poli se? Clearly not. This strategy would reach absurdity with a sentence of the slightest complexity.

Ni loha se poli? Feels natural to me as an English speaker, but poli is stranded out there with no particle pointing out its function, something that Koa generally doesn't allow.

Ni loha se mo poli? Well, there's no doubt we're dealing with an adverb this way, but the semantics seem weird: if we don't allow a standard IE interpretation, wouldn't this be something like "I love you in the manner of one that is much?" Or...something anomalous, anyway.

Ni lóhano se? Okay, sort of, but this really means "I adore you." Maybe that's the same as "I love you very much," but maybe it's not. Really lóhano is a different word than loha; I wouldn't want to positively require derivation just to express this simple concept.

Ni *ve loha se, where *ve is an intensifier along the lines of ce in early Koa? Amelia was enthusiastic about this possibility, but it has the same problems now as it did way back when: why should this be the use to which one of my precious few remaining particles is put? And shouldn't such a stressable word be, well, a word rather than a particle, which is in principle unstressable?

At this point I ran out of ideas, and was feeling pretty glum about this major gap I had somehow managed to leave in Koa syntax. While walking the dog, though, a couple things occurred to me:

First of all, there's no need for a ve intensifier even if I wanted to go that route, because I already have ia. They would end up being basically the same thing: a ia/ve kane "a real man," for instance. Thus Ni ia loha se is one good way of rendering this, depending on the desired meaning -- it matches well with English "I really love you," which is pretty semantically similar.

Secondly, I discovered when I started trying to think of other verbs in English that could enter into this kind of construction besides "love," which turned out to be rather harder than I expected, that the particular wording of the English clause is deceptive. I was predisposed to thinking of it as relating to quantity because we use the word "much," but semantically the effect on the verb is actually the same as in the sentence "I tried really hard" which has no notion of quantity at all.

In reality, then, what we're looking at is intensification, pure and simple, and we have a well-established way of handling that: reduplication. Thus the closest translation of the English phrase would have to be Ni loha loha se. I think that's something we can live with.

Incidentally, about mo poli, I think the problem with the sample sentence above becomes clear when we use this in a place that really calls for it: ni ipo sahi mo poli "I drink wine a lot," for instance. Ni loha se mo poli would end up having more of the sense of "I love you frequently," which is nowhere close to the intended meaning.

One last unrelated note: I quite like Amelia's coinage ka palóha ka koéla ni "the love of my life."

1 comment:

Dedalvs said...

If you replace "very much" with "a lot", you'll find a lot of verbs it works with. Also, there's a reason that quantity plays into these expressions more often than not. I was looking for anything in your vocabulary related to "heap" or "pile", but I couldn't find anything. Anyway, that'd be where I'd go.