Sunday, September 09, 2007
Many readers will recall Everett's argument that Pirahã had no universal quantifier because statements featuring what he had originally translated as "all" would generally be considered true even if a small part of the original had to be excepted. I'm not sure the conclusion follows (universal quantification could still be its prototypical meaning, for example), but if it does, then it could equally well be argued to be true of Darja; a lot of statements about "all" that I hear made here are ones which the speaker is perfectly aware (and accepting) of the existence of exceptions to, and it took me a while to go against my mathematical training and realise that when they said "all", they didn't mean it in the logicians' sense. Actually, I suspect the same is true of many idiolects of English. This was brought to mind by a little example I heard yesterday: hađa ybi` kŭll ħaja, bəṣṣəħħ əlfṭayəs ma ybi`š هذا يبيع كُلّ حاجة، بصّح الفطايس ما يبيعش "This guy sells everything, but hammers he doesn't sell."