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5 IL modale deontico. A pantelleria si dice


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5.4. Il modale deontico.
A Pantelleria si dice


  1. stu múru si voli autigghiari “questo muro deve essere alzato”

Questo uso di “volere” come modale esprimente la necessità, è proprio –oltre che del siciliano- del salentino, del calabrese, e poi del campidanese e del logudorese, da dove è passato all’italiano regionale sardo:

(20) campid. sa domu boliri pagara; kustu boli fattu

ital. sardo la casa vuole pagata; questo vuole fatto (Loi Corvetto 1983:155sg., 218)1


Secondo Brincat (in stampa) si tratta di un costrutto semitico diffusosi nel siciliano pantesco:

  1. malt. dan il-ħajt irid jogħla

questo il-muro vuole alzato.
Che un verbo esprimente volontà giunga –specialmente alla terza persona singolare- ad indicare necessità, obbligo è un fatto attestato in molte tradizioni linguistiche.2

1 Engl. Transl.: There exists also the kérrere (< QAERERE) construction: kusta kamisa keret lavata “this shirt asks (i.e. needs to be) washed”. Cp. JONES 1988: 340. In Chiapas (South Mex.) one can say : este carro quiere lavado “this car has to be washed” and quiere3Sg ! que vayas tu mismo “you have to go yourself”. Antonio Grangera (cf. note 2) observes that the quiere que vayas-type «[is] not completely unfamiliar to me» , it may be found also «in Peninsular Spanish». According to Volker Gast (cf. note 2) this construction is a borrowing from Tzotzil or Zoque: Tzotzil sk’an ti cha’abteje litter. “it wants that you work” i.e. “you have to work”, Zoque shunba wa’y mangu tyu’nisu litter. “it wants that go(AUX) he sees her” i.e. “he has to go and see her”[check diacritics!].

Finally Elisa Roma (p.c.) tells me that the “want” construction is present also in the Italian variety of Modena (Emilia). This seems to allude to a diffusion even beyond the southern Italian dialects.



2 Engl. Transl. I got very interesting answers to a question I posted in the LINGTYP e-mail: the question was

<in the substandard variety of Sardinian Italian the following construction is used:

 la casa vuole pagata; questo vuole fatto , litt. "the house wants paid" i.e. "the house has to be/must be paid". This is the italianization of  a Sardinian dialect construction: Campidanese sa domu boliri pagara "the house has to be/must be paid"; kustu boli fattu "this has to be done".

A parallel construct is attested in Pantelleria (Sicilian dialect):stu múru si voli autigghiari "this wall has to be/must be  elevated"

 It has been suggested  that this deontic use of the verb "will,want" is of Arabic origin: Malti . dan il-hajt irid joghla (diacritics omitted) "this the-wall wants elevated".

               Is it a particular feature of some Mediterranean languages or does anyone  know of other  instances of this use of  "will"?

                Many thanks for your suggestions.>>
Roger Lass, Paul Hopper, Dan Everett, Scott DeLancey, James Gair e Andrei Spencer point to the exactly parallel Engl. construct: The shirts want washed; he wants his head examined «for people who do stupid things» (R.Lass); in particular this construct is typical of Scottish Engl. and of some USA regions (Pennsylvania, Oregon etc.): the house wants painted. The type mentioned by Östen Dahl the house wants painting seems to be a bit different, since painting might be an NP object (cf. your hair wants cutting), as in Danish: huset trænger til maling litter. “house-the needs towards ( i.e. “of”) color/paint” (Hartmut Haberland’s ex.). [Addendum:This might be the case also for the Chiapas Span. quoted fn.1 if, as maintained by Enrique L.Palancar, lavado is a deverbal noun –cf. Este carro quiere/necesita un lavado] (As for “want” + preposition Jan Terje Faarlund quotes the following ex. from East Norw. dialects: dæ vill tel my tømmer åt denni hytten “it will to [tel] much timber for this cabin”, i.e. “it takes much timber to build this cabin”; the deontic/necessity meaning of ville is clear.) Urmas Sutrop has furnished the following Eston. ex. maja[Nom.Sg] tahab[3Sg] värvimist[nomen actionis, partitive], litter. “house wants of painting”, while in Latv. and Livon. “the verb for ‘want’ can be combined with inanimate subjects and the lexical verb in the form of a passive p r e s e n t participle to express necessitive modality” : Bernhard Wälchli, who mentions also Germ. Die Diele will gewaschen werden ; he thinks that possibly Latv. and Livon. have been influenced by Germ.: Latv. nauda gribas[3PRES.REFL] skaitama[PART.PASSV.PRES.F.SG] “das Geld will gezählt werden”; cf. Lit. pinigai[money:PL.M] (prašosi[demand:PRES3REFL]) skaičiuojami [PART.PASSV. PRES.PL.M]. “For the Lith. ex. is relevant that it has almost the same meaning with and without the peuso-modal verb. So it becomes clear that the modal meaning is fully expressed by the participle itself”, Wälchli. Concerning the Slavonic languages: Mirjam Fried mentions the Tchech verb chtit “want” in sentences as To chce3SgPRES vymalovatINF litter. “it wants (to) paint”, i.e. ‘a paint job is needed’ (trans. verb without compl.), To chce novouACC pračkuACC “it needs (a) new washingmachine”, i.e. “a new washingmachine is needed”.

An extra-Europ. parallel is suggested by Annie Montaut: in bazari Hindi, a pidginized variety of Hindi spoken by migrants in big cities’ bazars and particularly in Bombay, the verb meaning in standard Hindi “want” is used for expressing obligation.

Clearly, a systematic research should be done with a representative language sample. Nevertheless, even from the answers I got in a totally non systematic manner it is clear that the construction under scrutiny is fairly wide-spread. Joan Bybee writes that “it is not unusual for a verb meaning ‘need’ to change its meaning to one of volition” and she quotes an amusing ‘witticism’ between Oxford and Cambridge reported by Nicholas Ostler (on George I’s donation of the Bishop of Ely’s library to Cambridge): The King observing with judicious eyes / The state of both his universities / To Oxford sent a troop of horse. For why? / That learned body wanted loyalty./ To Cambridge books as very well discerning / How much that loyal body wanted learning.

Concerning finally the Mediterranean languages one has to recall with Hartmut Haberland the ModGk construction: to spíti théli[3Sg.PRES !] vápsimo [SN oggetto], litter. “the house wants paintNP.OBJl”. As I said above, the Eston. and Greek constructions, as well as the Engl. -ing constructions, are not exactly of the same kind as (19)-(23), but it is nevertheless worth noticing that still another Mediterranean language has “want” for expressing necessity, obligation.




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