Sunday, February 3, 2019

What a day!

As I was walking down the street this week on an unseasonably warm morning, I found myself trying to say "What a warm day!" in Koa. This turned out to be a much more complicated proposition than I had initially expected. My first instinct was a calque on broadly Indo-European and particularly Romance structures, something like

pai lami kea sa!
day warm what FOC
"what kind of warm day is it!"

or

ke pai lami sa!
INT day warm FOC
"which warm day is it!"

Clearly these structures is entirely arbitrary, though, and as such feels pretty un-Koa-like; or more to the point, they're assuming that we can use question words for affective value (NB apparent questions with explanation points at the end), which I'm not at all sure is true. I really want something solidly, natively Koa to express a concept like this. So what is a statement like "What a warm day!" really saying?

I'm pretty sure that there are two things going on here from a Koa standpoint: we're pointing something out (presentative - vo), and we're expressing that that thing is unexpected (mirative - ho). How exactly to combine these into a sentence, though? If it were a complete clause, somehow it would feel simpler:

vo ta ho lalu kali!
PRES 3SG MIR sing beautiful
"how beautifully she sings!"

Literally this is something like "Whoa, look, she sings beautifully!" ...which sounds pretty much perfect for my warm day: "Whoa, look, it's a warm day!" So I'm happy with that. But again, how exactly to say it? There's a parallel structure to the preceding example:

vo ti pai i ho lami!
PRES DEM day FIN MIR warm
"my, but this day is warm!"

...and that's fine, but it's so much wordier, so much more...syntaxful...than the English expression and, I think, than the emotional situation requires or suggests. And after all we can say things like

vo ka ávale se
PRES DEF key 2SG
"here's your keys"

with no verb in sight. So what if we combine the relevant particles into a compound that's tailor-made for this specific affective situation: voho?

voho pai lami!
PRES-MIR day warm
"what a warm day!"

We could potentially even use this for clauses with a finite verb, I think, maybe?

voho ta lalu kali!
PRES-MIR 3SG sing beautiful
"how beautifully she sings!"

and even

voho ti pai i lami!
PRES-MIR DEM day FIN warm
"my, but this day is warm!"

This also gives us a lovely new exclamatory word which is satisfyingly deeply rooted in the particle system, voho! "whoa!" I wonder if this could even be a predicate, meaning...what, exactly? Unexpected? Noteworthy? Noteworthily unexpected? Unexpectedly noteworthy? I think I may like it!

to pai i lami mo voho
DEM day FIN warm SIM noteworthy
"it was an unexpectedly warm day"

I mean, if we don't do that then voho ends up having to mean something else, and we potentially encounter sentences like

voho voho púano
PRES-MIR fashion-sense bad.AUG
"what dreadful taste"

which would clearly be much too silly...beyond which I'm all for accidentally creating predicates that end up being both useful and internally motivated. So there it is!

(Okay, no, I know, "taste" wouldn't be expressed monomorphemically like that, it was just a joke. It would be something like...hm...kopavapíta, if pita meant "like" or "appreciate": "quality of that which is habitually liked!")


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