Yet another areal feature in SA languages?

jonathan silk at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 1 13:29:24 UTC 1999

Since this now has nothing to do with Indology, I'll make this the last:

>Regarding the Japanese -te shimau connection, it is to be noted that the
>completive aspect of this construction applies throughout *all* tenses
>and forms, and is not limited to the past.

yes, this is correct.
>The feature of undesirability however is characteristic for the past
>tense -te shimatta, and even then it is not always present. As an
>example, the grammar book cites "boku wa osake o nonde shimatta" which
>could mean, depending on the situation, (a) I finished drinking sake,
>(b) I drank sake (which I shouldn't have done).

Neither I nor Birgit (nor Michael Witzel, I may add) are native speakers of
Japanese. But according to my wife, who is a native speaker, there
certainly *is* a negative connotation in this expression; my wife says it
may also mean, in addition to "oops... I really should not have drank
this", "unwillingly or without intending to, I drank the sake." Therefore
the English (a) is not correct. Perhaps "undesirability" is the wrong
word... The point to be stressed is that the outcome is not desirable (or
the speaker wishes to convey the impression that he thinks/should think it
undesirable; I drank all the sake, so there's none left for you! (there's
only beer left) = boku wa osake o nonde shimatta; biiru shika nokote inai.
Whether that's really undesirable depends on the friendship with the

>As should become obvious from these examples, it is not really
>meaningful to analyze features such as the (un)desirability of an
>action/state under the heading of verb *aspect*; they are better treated
>in the domain of pragmatics, i.e. as situation-dependent attitudes on
>the part of speakers/hearers.

Perhaps this is so in general, but at least with this particular
construction, aspect seems fine.  We need the comments of a Japanese
linguist, I think...  But privately I think.

Jonathan SILK at

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