Thursday, 13 November 2014

Moten Words for the Day

|li|n /ʎiɲ/, verb: “to know (by instinct), to be aware of”

jolnesi /jo̞lne̞si/, verb: “to be an expert in, to know (by heart)”

Well, I actually do. I mean, if I’m not an expert on the subject of Moten, then who could ever be?

So, here we are looking at how to indicate that you know something. In English it’s relatively simple: you use the verb “to know” and you’re done. It’s used with people, things, skills, etc. (although with skills it’s common to use “can” instead, as in “I can swim”). Not all languages are that straightforward though. French, for instance, has not one but two counterparts to “to know”, and confusing them will result in nonsense sentences. One is “savoir”, which basically means “to have knowledge of”. It’s used mostly with skills (“je sais nager”: “I can swim”), and when the object is an entire clause (“je sais où il est”: “I know where he is”). The other is “connaître”, which means “to be familiar with”, and is used mostly with people (“je connais Jean”: “I know John”) but also with things (“je connais bien Paris”: “I know Paris well”). And other languages are quite similar to French in that respect (Dutch, for instance, has “weten” and “kennen”, in a similar, if not identical, distribution as French).

Moten is similar to French for not having a single straightforward counterpart to “to know”, but that’s where the similarity ends. In fact, Moten completely lacks verbs that indicate simple knowledge. The closest ones are the verbs mentioned above in this post, and they are very specialised:

  • |Li|n indicates instinctive knowledge, i.e. knowledge that’s innate or so deeply ingrained you forgot how you came to know it. Instinctive skills (like seeing or hearing) can be described by |li|n. Speaking cannot, as it’s known that it’s something that is acquired later in life. Walking cannot be described by |li|n when referring to humans (as it’s an acquired skill), but it can be described that way with animals that manage to get up within a few hours of their births. |Li|n can also used to mark plain awareness, i.e. when you know of something rather than know something, although only when you can’t remember how you came to that awareness.
  • Jolnesi indicates expert knowledge, i.e. intimate familiarity with a subject due to years of training, research, education, companionship (when used with people as an objet), or simply because you invented the damn thing! :) It shouldn’t be used lightly: if you claim to know maths using this verb, the listener will assume you have at least a college degree in maths. So it’s not used often.

So, if the only two verbs anywhere close to “to know” have such narrow semantics, how does a Moten speaker indicate simple knowledge of a person, thing or issue? It’s actually pretty simple: they simply indicate by which process they came to become aware of that person, thing or issue, and put that sentence in the perfect aspect, which marks a present situation that is the consequence of a past action.

For most skills, for instance (including languages), you can indicate that you know them by simply saying that you've learned them (e.g. motenku|ledun vajaguz ito: “I know Moten”, literally “(I) have learned Moten”, with the verb ivajagi: “to learn, to study, to teach”). With people, you can simply say that you've met them (usually eksaz ito, from jeksaj: “to touch, to hit, to run into, to meet by chance” or pe|laz ito, from ipe|laj: “to see, to watch, to meet”), at least if that’s the way you actually came to know them (nothing prevents you from lying, of course ;) ). With a book, you can say that you've read it (oknestuluz ito, from joknestu|l: “to read, to peruse”). And with an event, you could have experienced it directly, learned about it, or simply heard about it.

In any case, this is how it works in Moten: “to know something” is simply seen as the state resulting from the action of learning about that something before, and is indicated accordingly.


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