2006 | 30 | 251-259
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The Polish and Lithuanian Pronouns - Means of (Scope) Quantification

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The author discusses issues related to the study of precision/vagueness in natural languages. He also presents the benefits of applying contemporary theoretical confrontative research on precision/vagueness and identifies the obvious limitations of the traditional approach to precision/vagueness based on morphological categories. The article emphasises the advantages of theoretical contrastive studies which use the interlanguage as a common semantic platform of meanings for languages under comparison. The author briefly outlines the semantic category of precision/vagueness then continues with a discussion of selected Lithuanian pronouns which express vagueness: existentiality and generality. The pronouns are given an unambiguous quantifying interpretation and then juxtaposed with their Polish equivalents. The clearly visible difference between the Lithuanian and Polish expressions of vagueness is stressed. Namely, the Lithuanian forms ensure unequivocal expression of various quantifying meanings (existentiality presupposing oneness, existentiality proper, customary generality, and generality proper) while the Polish equivalents allow a quantifying understatement. For example, the Polish series of pronouns with the affix -s may express existentiality proper, for instance in this sentence: (a) Cos lezy na stole, zdejmij to. (There is something on the table, take it off). However, it may also express customary generality, as in this sentence: (b) Kup cos na obiad. (Go and buy something/anything for lunch). In the Lithuanian language the meanings discussed in (a) are delivered by a series of pronouns with the affix kaz- (Lithuanian: Kazkas yra ant stalo, nuimk.), while the meaning (b) is delivered by particle nors (Lithuanian Nupirk ka nors pietums.). In the author's opinion, the absence of simple Polish-Lithuanian equivalents is the cause of language mistakes (calques) in the speech of Poles who learn Lithuanian. This is illustrated with several sample sentences which may not only disrupt communication but are likely to lead to grotesque situations as well. .
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  • R. Roszko, Instytut Slawistyki PAN, ul. Bartoszewicza 1B, m. 17, 00-337 Warszawa, Poland
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