I was aware of Chukchi jokes, and I was aware that (to quote that Wikipedia article) “A propensity for constantly saying ‘odnako‘ — equivalent to ‘however’ depending on context — is a staple of Chukcha jokes,” but I was surprised to read this at the end of Asya Pereltsvaig’s post on Chukchis and their history:

Curiously, these Russian jokes fairly accurately reflect certain linguistic peculiarities of the Chukchi language, such as its reliance on evidential particles (cf. Aikhenvald & Dixon, Studies in evidentiality, p. 300). Such particles indicate whether something is known via direct visual evidence, via hearsay, or via indirect inference. This peculiarity of the Chukchi language translates into the jokelore Chukchi’s overuse of the Russian word odnako, meaning literally ‘however’, but used in contexts where this Russian word makes no sense as such.

It is not evident to me how a word meaning ‘however’ could represent evidential particles; does anyone know more about this? (The Aikhenvald & Dixon reference just says “Evidentiality is in general expressed by particles in Chukchi”; it sheds no light on the jokes.)


  1. There’s a joke-meme floating around the Chinese internet about every Korean sentence ending in 斯密达/simida. Obviously, those three characters are chosen purely for their sound, approximating the sound of whatever Korean word young Chinese have decided ends every Korean sentence.
    Guess-by-analogy: Could it be that odnako just happens to sound roughly similar to one of the more common Chukchi evidential particles?

  2. The English “whatever”, as used by teenagers (and people old enough to know better) at the end of almost any kind statement, has a kind of dumb-bunny evidential force. Tacked on to what has just been said – a claim, a guess, an expression of belief about something – “whatever” suggests that the speaker doesn’t care whether she expressed herself clearly, nor whether any evidence exists in support of what she said, nor wherein such evidence might consist.
    “Whatever” used in this way is evidence that the speaker doesn’t intend to burden herself or you with clarity, evidence or plausibility. Brief, unintelligible remarks, each of which is followed by “Know what I mean ?”, have the same purpose. They put you on notice that a self-satisfied, cozily human one-man-show is in progress, so don’t rock the boat.

  3. KWillets says:

    “A stereotypical Chukchi relies heavily on the word odnako (pronounced [adn’aka], which in Russian means ‘nevertherless’, but is used in anekdot-Chukchi speech as an evidential marker — such evidential markers are very frequent in Chukchi.”
    Perhaps it’s a marker used to introduce new information.

  4. KWillets says:

    The keyword is apparently “mirativity”. I found a note in here that mentions a Chukchi particle for unexpected information, or a contrast with normal expectations:
    Variations on polysynthesis: the Eskaleut languages
    By Marc-Antoine Mahieu, Nicole Tersi
    (It’s online in Google books.)
    This would seem to fit the idea of an anti-inferential, ie if an evidential is used to indicate inference, another might be needed to indicate a lack of inference or unexpectedness.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    Mirativity: see Wikipedia on “mirative”, which quotes linguist Scott DeLancey (who I believe invented the term).
    “Evidentials” are not just about the reliability, etc of the information in the sentence, but about the speaker’s reaction to this information. They are rarely emotionally neutral.
    The quotations in Wiki about the mirative concern information that is not only unexpected but surprising, probably causing not only a reaction but a change of attitude on the part of the speaker. For instance, “Your daughter plays the piano very well!” (implication: “She plays much better than I would have expected, and I now have a much higher opinion of her”). It seems to me that prefacing the English sentence with “Hey!” would convey the speaker’s attitude better, as well as giving some idea of how an evidential marker works in a sentence.
    I think that the term mirativity can also (at least in some languages) imply a non-neutral reaction of disbelief and possibly condescension about the new information: “I can’t believe it!, or “Do you expect me to believe that?” or even “Oh yeah?”

  6. Odnako means something more like ‘nevertheless’

  7. Rodger C says:

    @Chris Waugh: That sounds like the polite verb ending in Korean. It does end a lot of sentences. (Disclosure, I don’t know much Korean.)

  8. D Sky Onosson says:

    @ Rodger C That’s correct, -sumnida (the u should be an upsilon but I’m on my iPhone) and there are also some similar endings that have -imnida and -nida.

  9. As for the -simida, they’re probably thinking of -습니다 -seumnida, which is indeed a common Korean verb ending in a formal, polite style.

  10. Mirativity is a great concept I was unfamiliar with (or [sigh] had forgotten); a Google Book search on the word brings up all sorts of interesting languages and information.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    I thought I’d mentioned this before, but I learned of the mirative a few years ago when discussing the Norwegian use of the preterite instead of the present with something like mirative meaning:
    At the dinner table: Dette var godt “Oh, this is good!”
    To somebody trying on clothes: Den kledde du. “That one really looks good on you.” Nå var du fin! “Oh, looking good!”
    To somebody excelling at a task: Dette kunne du! “Oh, somebody knows what they’re doing!”

  12. In his 1955 “Golden Rose”, a book of love to the language and of eternal beauty of the words, Paustovsky has many amazing observations on Russian dialects and historic usages. He dismissed “odnako” as an infamous and supposedly ill-informed stereotype. According to Paustovsky, whenever someone writes about Siberia or Russian Far East, their characters inevitably sprinkle their speech with “odnakos” : пресловутое слово “однако”. Писатели, пишущие о Сибири и Дальнем Востоке, считают это слово священной принадлежностью речи почти всех своих героев.
    I should admit that long before the Chukchi jokes came into vogue, I believed that overuse of “odnako” was normal in kerzhak or chaldon dialects (ethnic Russians of Siberia). That must have come from the fiction books about frontier adventures which I loved reading…

  13. marie-lucie says:

    Mirativity is a great concept I was unfamiliar with (or [sigh] had forgotten)
    Don’t feel bad, there is nothing wrong with your memory. I did not know the word until I read Scott DeLancey’s 1997 article, which seemed to imply that he had invented it. It was just the word I needed to describe one of the evidentials in a language I was studying (see the end of my comment above).

  14. … and this recent scholarly paper on modalities in Khanty kind of closes the circle. The author starts from usage of specific admiratives such as nesh/eynem but page 10 of the pdf, forms a hypothesis which is very close to Paustovsky’s pan-Siberian stereotype … except that the author here affirms its relevance. He thinks that all across Siberia and the North, the forces of Nature are considered to be all-powerful and animated, and that the demeanor of the humans mixes passive acceptance with calm bemusement about the acts of Nature. Therefore instead of exclamation, the locals tend to speak of unusual and surprising events in a low-key way, using miratives for this purpose.

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    This is presumably an instance of a more general problem in translation. If language A frequently uses particular particles to emphasize some nuance of meaning that is typically not made explicit (or handled instead through e.g. intonation effects that are hard to capture in written prose) in language B, do you just ignore those particles altogether when translating from A to B, or do you come up with a way of representing the constructions employing those particles in language B which is not exactly wrong or even unidiomatic in small doses but which creates a weird stylistic effect when used as frequently in language-B prose as the language-A usage rate would imply? Or something in between? The quite frequent use of “lo” and “behold” in the King James Version (usually rendering either the Greek “idou” or the Hebrew “hineh”), contrasted with the tendency of more modern Biblical translations to (IIRC) just skip over the relevant bits of source language in order to avoid sounding weird in English, might be a good example. (I personally found it helpful years ago to be given a possibly-inaccurate first-approximation gloss of that Hebrew/Greek particle as indicating essentially a change of POV in the narrative – if the Biblical text were the shooting script of a movie, this particle marks where the director would cut to a closeup, or to a different camera filming the same scene from a different angle, or something like that: that’s kind of a useful thing to be able to do.)

  16. marie-lucie says:

    JWB: Very interesting comments on “lo” and “behold”. I don’t know either Greek or Hebrew, but it seems to me that “Lo!” and “Behold!” call attention to some significant new information rather than a different point of view. But I am not VERY familiar with the OT,
    As for translating these words, perhaps the main problem is that written English does not often reproduce colloquial speech, which has ways of indicating mirativity and other types of “evidentiality” (tone of voice, interjections such as “Hey!” or “Oh yeah?”, imperatives such as “Look!” or “Listen” or “Come on!”) which get edited out in prose, especially prose that is intended to be formal and lofty, as in a translation of a sacred text. “Hey look!” instead of “Behold!” would probably shock faithful readers of the Bible. As for tone of voice, the exclamation mark is not very precise as to what type of evidentiality and emotion it may correpond to: depending on intonation, “Come on!” could mean the concrete “Hurry up!” or the mirative “I don’t believe you!”.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    MOCKBA: all across Siberia and the North, the forces of Nature are considered to be all-powerful and animated, and that the demeanor of the humans mixes passive acceptance with calm bemusement about the acts of Nature. Therefore instead of exclamation, the locals tend to speak of unusual and surprising events in a low-key way, using miratives for this purpose.
    Evidentials are found not only in Siberia but in many languages of North America, especially along the Pacific Coast, which has a wide range of geographical and climactic conditions, some of them very favourable to human survival (eg in California). In many of these languages there is not a wide range in intonation, and differences in speakers’ attitudes to information are handled by suffix-like evidentials (which often include question markers). I think that the quotation above may single out mirativity as associated with a neutral tone of voice, but it could be that this neutral tone is more general in the language(s) in question.

  18. J.W. Brewer says:

    Well, I may have been using “point of view” somewhat idiosyncratically in a film-direction sort of way, to mean not a different subjective personality’s take on the situation, but the different visual angle from which the same omniscient narrator is now choosing to show you the scene, which will often coincide with disclosing significant new information. So e.g. in Gen. 22:13 (“and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns”) the ram may have already been stuck in the thicket for some time but neither Abraham nor the reader had previously been looking in the right direction to see it, until the metaphorical camera of the narrative shifted and brought the thicket into frame or out of the background into sharper focus.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    Prior art:
    S E Mann’s Albanian Grammar of 1931 has an “admirative mood”:
    ra-ka shi
    “I say, it’s raining!”
    He says “It expresses mild surprise, though sometimes it is used merely for emphasis.”

  20. marie-lucie says:

    JWB, thank you for the clarification. I quite agree with your interpretation of “behold” here.
    DE: There is a difference between “admirative” and “mirative”. With “I say, it’s raining!” the speaker is surprised but stating the truth, which the listener can verify. But if the sun is shining and the listener says to someone else, “Hey, X just said it’s raining!”, with a tone of voice expressing disbelief, that would be equivalent to the “mirative”.

  21. Okay, I guess it’s time to list the 14 Lojban evidentials, some of which specify illocutionary force or perlocutionary effect, but which do not convey emotion — there is separate machinery in the language for that. Some of them come in pairs or triplets:
    ba’a ‘I anticipate based on experience’
    ba’acu’i ‘I directly experience’
    ba’anai ‘I remember based on experience’
    ca’e ‘I define’
    ja’o ‘I conclude’
    ka’u ‘I know by cultural knowledge’
    ru’a ‘I postulate, I assume for the sake of argument’
    se’o ‘I know by internal experience [dream, vision, etc.]’
    su’a ‘I generalize from specifics’
    su’anai ‘I particularize from general principles’
    ti’o ‘I hear say [directly or indirectly]’
    za’a ‘I know from observation’
    and lastly ju’a ‘I state without an evidential’, equivalent to no evidential at all.
    Pronunciation is IPA except that c = [ʃ], j = [ʒ], and apostrophe is also a letter pronounced [h].

  22. Marie-Lucie, I was just trying to convery the argumant of the author of the Khanty paper. I also feel very uncomfortable about his invoking stereotypical personality traits, as if to explain lingustic pattern! But as you noted, it helps one understand the neutral / deadpanning way in which “odnako” is uttered in Siberian records. Kind of like “Not that it can be helped, but…”
    A few examples from Novik’s collection of field records:
    1924: (a shrewd fox trades a would-be magic laddle to a man):
    Однако, ты не умеешь варить. Дай-ка поварешку, я сам помешаю в котле
    ~ Who would have guessed that you can’t cook. Give me the laddle and I’ll swirl it in the kettle myself.
    1924: (a shrewd fox offers to ferry old wolverine goods across the river and steals them:)
    – Бабушка, однако, меня далеко унесет с твоим грузом.
    Granny, I can’t help it but the current sends me downriver with your load.
    1923: A fish dares the fox to race upriver. The fox replies,
    – Ты, однако, хвастаешь?
    No way, you must be bragging
    1948: an epic encounter with man-eating
    – Ну, Лэбан, теперь мы, однако, пропали. Ты правь оленями, а я буду готовить лук, буду в него стрелять
    See, Leban, now it just can’t be helped, we’re in big trouble. You control the reindeer and I will prepare my bow to shoot.

  23. Going of on a tangent, does anyone have a good idea of the history of Russian “Nu”?
    Its semantics are not all clear to me either. In Yiddish and Hebrew, who borrowed it from Russian, it seems like a marker of impatience, or of being forced to state the obvious.

  24. I agree with Marie-Lucie’s interpretation. Odnako is simply an introductory statement of the state of things, like ‘One can say, that’. I’ve looked up Dahl: ОДНА́КО нареч. одна́коже, зап. южн. одна́че, но, не смотря на то, при всем том; || видно, верно, кажется, будто бы, конечно. || Сиб. кажется, полагаю, надо быть. – It must, It looks like, It seems. Siberian: I think, It looks like.
    I’ve always linked this meaning with lower Volga-Urals dialects. ‘However, nevertheless’ meaning is strong in Moscow-Mid-Russian usage.
    Vasmer derives it from Greek μόνον.

  25. Bathrobe says:

    I’m afraid that I have great difficulty understanding this mirative thing. Without a lot of examples in languages that have this grammatical form, it’s hard to get a handle on exactly what qualifies as a mirative.
    For example, a wife reading the Sunday Times suddenly exclaims to her husband, “Oh look, Lady Gaga’s had a sex change operation!” Now this seems to me like a mirative (surprise, unexpected information).
    A humorous example from a Japanese movie I saw a long time ago: a middle-aged woman is lying in bed after having had sex for the first time in many years: 使えるもんだね!Tsukaeru mon da ne! literally “It can be used!” She is expressing her wonderment at the fact that although she hasn’t used her equipment for many, many years, it’s still usable. This also seems like a mirative to me.
    And then an example of the mirative from Tshangla: Ama khamung zik-la. “Mother is evidently washing the clothes”. This would be spoken “by someone who had just now learnt the matter, whether by hearsay, or by first-hand observation, for example by walking around the corner and seeing mother in the process.” (Paper on Tshangla in The Sino-Tibetan languages, Graham Thurgood, Randy J. La Polla, P 447).
    The mirative in action seems somewhat different from what we imagine it to be hearing it described as marking “an utterance as conveying information which is new or unexpected to the speaker”. It’s a much blander, more pedestrian notion than we might expect.
    As for однако, I find МОСКВА’s examples interesting because they move beyond the caricature involved in the jokes, but it is still looking through the lens of Russian. The first appears to be a mirative (“So you can’t cook!”), the third appears to belong to m-l’s “non-neutral reaction of disbelief and possibly condescension about the new information”. As for the other two, well, I guess I would translate them into English as “It looks like…” In fact almost all of them can be translated as “It looks like” in English. But this still doesn’t give me a very good handle on the Chukchi usage.

  26. Bathrobe says:

    Actually, “it looks like” is a perfect translation for an evidential form. So perhaps this is what the Chukchi is all about.
    The mystery is why this is expressed in Russian as однако. Could it be that однако is adopted as a distancing marker, as though to say “I’m not saying this myself, I’m just saying that it seems that way from the look of things!”

  27. Vasmer derives it from Greek μόνον.
    No, he derives it from один ‘one,’ comparing (for semantics) German allein (: ein ‘one’) and Greek μόνον (perhaps related to the Greek word for ‘one’; it’s complicated).

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, “it looks like” could be handled by an evidential, but not by the “mirative” one, which does not just comment on something being new or unexpected (though quite plausible) but adds the connotation “hard to believe!” and therefore quite likely to be wrong.
    In your example “Look! Lady Gaga has had a sex change operation!” it is not clear whether the speaker finds this believable or not. In English the degree of belief expressed by the speaker would depend on the intonation, or on the addition of another comment such as “This takes the cake! … ” or “You won’t believe this! Lady Gaga …(etc)”, or, from the listener “Come on!” or “Oh yeah?”.

  29. No, he derives it from один ‘one,’ comparing (for semantics) German allein (: ein ‘one’) and Greek μόνον
    The German allein that I suspect is meant here may not be generally familiar. It’s a conjunction meaning “however” that one encounters only in very formal, your-uncle-the-Bildungsbürger speech. Duden gives as example: Ich hoffte auf ihn, allein ich wurde bitte enttäuscht [I had trusted in him, but was bitterly disappointed].
    Allein, like und, can only operate as a conjunction, not an adverb. Other words (I want to call them “concessive”, but I’m not sure whether that is correct usage) such as jedoch, obwohl and trotzdem can operate as conjunctions (subordinate-clausing what follows) or adverbs (leaving unchanged the order of the surrounding words). Both Er sollte mir das Buch zurückbringen, jedoch hat er es für sich behalten and Er sollte mir das Buch zurückbringen. Er hat es jedoch für sich behalten are correct.
    English is not dissimilar, it seems. Some words liks “however”, “nevertheless” can operate as conjunctions or as adverbs, others such as “yet” can only be conjunctions. The main difference is that the order of the surrounding words does not change, but that just goes to show how inflexible is English.

  30. I just checked in Duden. They write that you can do without the inversion after jedoch: Er rief sie zwar, jedoch sie hörte ihn nicht. That’s not true of everyday speech, I would say, even of a formal kind. However, I wouldn’t blink an eye if I read that in a superior kind of novel.

  31. others such as “yet” can only be conjunctions
    Concessive (?) “yet”, not the “not yet” yet …

  32. obwohl .. can operate as [an] adverb …
    Wrong, wasn’t thinking closely enough.

  33. Bathrobe says:

    “it looks like” could be handled by an evidential, but not by the “mirative” one
    Well, I was working on the original suggestion that the Chukchi was evidential, not mirative. I was also wondering how often a mirative could be used — surely not so often that однако turns up constantly in speech, whereas it would be very easy to imagine an evidential being used constantly.
    As for “it looks like”, I think this is mostly used in English without the connotation of ‘hard to believe’. “It looks like it’s going to rain” simply states an observation.

  34. The mystery is why this is expressed in Russian as однако.
    バースロブ, a clue may be in comparing odnako with the invasive colloquial ‘yeah, bah…’ [yes, but] in modern British English.

  35. Very interesting! I’ve been mildly obsessed with odnako for awhile. A friend sent me this from Anatoly Rybakov:
    – Куда едешь?
    – В Канск, однако, еду, – ответил Саша, имитируя сибирский говорок.
    (Where are you going?
    I’m going, odnako, to Kansk, Sasha replied, imitating the Siberian dialect.)
    Sometimes it’s used as an interjection of surprise. Like a newspaper article headline about a poll that showed 91 % of people in Moscow are Russians: Мы русские, однако (It turns out that we’re Russians). It’s also used like this: Пятница однако, which is harder for me to get. I think it’s something like It’s Friday, man. Or: Hey, it’s Friday.

  36. – Куда едешь?
    – В Канск, однако, еду, – ответил Саша, имитируя сибирский говорок.

    I remember that passage! I loved the whole Siberian section of the novel.

  37. Marie-Lucie has asked me to pop by an comment. I haven’t done fieldwork on Chukchi for many years, but the “odnako” thing never felt authentic to me (Russian Chukcha humour is remarkably off-base in every respect — if I were to generalize about Chukchi cultural characteristics, I would say they were curious, determined, and immensely courageous). I think some of the other commenters are correct to identify odnako as a general feature of some Siberian varieties of Russian, and I think the association with Chukchi has developed from the jokes, not from observations of actual Chukchi linguistic behaviour. I’m a bit shocked to read that Aikhenvald and Dixon have repeated this story (although I’ll have to go to the library to look up what they actually said).

  38. “There’s a joke-meme floating around the Chinese internet about every Korean sentence ending in 斯密达/simida.”
    That mimics GI-Korean.
    “No sweaty da.”
    “Eezhy da.” (Oh, that’s easy.)
    ” It seems to me that prefacing the English sentence with “Hey!” would convey the speaker’s attitude better, ”
    Yes, and I get the same sense from the way some people, mostly East Coast, and kind of class-bound, throw “actually” into sentences. It feels like an attempt to impress the listener with some information only the speaker has. Kind of irritating, usually.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you so much, Michael!
    (Michael Dunn speaks Russian and has written a grammar of Chukchi, based on fieldwork in the Chukotka region where the Chukchi language is endangered but still spoken).

  40. KWillets says:

    “every Korean sentence ending in 斯密达/simida.” is probably a phonetic transcription from Korean TV news broadcasts. They use the formal tense, and it’s easy to conclude that every sentence ends in -니다 or 있읍니다.

  41. Thanks for dropping by, Michael!
    I’m a bit shocked to read that Aikhenvald and Dixon have repeated this story (although I’ll have to go to the library to look up what they actually said).
    No, no, I’m sorry if I was unclear—they say nothing about the jokes, they just mention evidentiality in Chukchi.

  42. Well, I’m definitely East Coast: “class-bound” I leave up to the judgment of my peers. When I put “actually” into a sentence, it is frequently a polite contradiction of what’s been said. But since I have moderate GAS (Geek Answer Syndrome), it’s got to do with the assumption that everyone would like to know the facts (which is false, but the result of natural egocentricism).

  43. J.W. Brewer says:

    Chukchi and its close relatives (i.e. before you get into highly controversial debates about higher-level language-family relationships) are all off at pretty much one smallish end of Siberia, which is rather a large expanse of territory. Evenki, for example, which is referenced above, is an Altaic language with no relationship whatsoever (pace Greenberg/Nostraticism/etc.) to Chukchi. If “odnako” is characteristic of Siberian dialects of Russian in general, the plausibility of any hypothesis that it reflects the influence of local indigenous language (as e.g. a calque of some common pattern in that language, possibly transmitted through the locals’ attempts to learn Russian) would presumably depend on whether it can be made to somehow match up geographically (either now or at some relevant earlier point in time) with the right indigenous language.
    Speaking of Siberian linguistic influence, however, I just today learned the long-standing theory (perhaps it’s actually a fact, I haven’t investigated enough . . .) that the peculiar speech patterns of Yoda were at least in part modeled by George Lucas on those of the native-Siberian-hunter title character in Kurosawa’s film “Dersu Uzala,” which is based on a book published a half century earlier by a V.K. Arseniev relating his encounters circa 1902-07 with a man from the Nanai ethnic group near the Manchurian border. Their language is something Tungusic; I have no idea whether Nanai speakers’ attempts at Russian do or don’t characteristically result in Yoda-like wacky inversions of expected word order.

  44. aqilluqaaq says:

    I can think of at least nine common words in Chukchi which mean «однако» in one context or another, but this is very likely a reference to the (perhaps unexpectedly) high frequency adversative particle -ым.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    JWB: What you are talking about seems to be “areal convergence” where languages of different origins spoken in the same geographical area come to become similar to each other, because of people learning each other’s languages, even if imperfectly. This can happen even if very few words are borrowed. Besides Siberian languages, many native languages of Western North America, a region of high linguistic diversity, also have “evidentials”.
    aqilluqaaq: what exactly do you mean by “adversative”?

  46. aqilluqaaq says:

    what exactly do you mean by “adversative”?
    Ӄоԓ овъаԓпэраԓьын, ӄоԓ-ым чеԓгыпэраԓьын. One is black, the other is red.
    Гаԓгат-ым ынӄэнат ынӈот ганмыԓенат. This is how the ducks were caught.
    Ынин-ым ытԓыгын эӈэӈыԓьын. Now his father was a shaman.
    That sort of thing.

  47. Bathrobe says:

    Since I don’t speak the bolded language, I can only go on the English.
    “One is black, (but) the other is red” somewhat looks like an adversative. “This is how the ducks were caught” doesn’t look adversative, nor does “Now his father was a shaman”. (I assume the “now” here is used to highlight “important information coming, listen up” rather than “present time”.)

  48. aqilluqaaq says:

    ӄоԓ овъаԓ-пэра-ԓьы-н, ӄоԓ=ым чеԓгы-пэра-ԓьы-н
    one black-appearance-POSS:PRED-ABS:SG other=PTL red-appearance-POSS:PRED-ABS:SG
    гаԓга-т=ым ынӄэна-т ынӈот га-нмы-ԓена-т
    duck-ABS:PL=PTL that-PL thus RES-catch-RES:3-PL
    ы-н-ин=ым ытԓыгы-н эӈэӈы-ԓьы-н
    he-COLL-POSS=PTL father-ABS:SG spirit-POSS:PRED-ABS:SG
    ӄоԓ-ым : ‘as to the other, it…’
    гаԓгат-ым ынӄэнат : ‘as to th(os)e ducks, they…’
    ынин-ым ытԓыгын : ‘as to his father, he…’

  49. marie-lucie says:

    It looks like this morpheme is a kind of discourse-organizing particle, like “now”, not an evidential. I agree with Bathrobe that only the first example could be called “adversative”, unless the other sentences have (at least by implication) some contrastive emphasis: This is how the ducks were caught (not by some other method that could have been used), His father was a shaman (not someone else’s father).
    Contrastive meaning (even if weakly so) is indeed compatible with English however (I don’t know enough Russian to compare with odnako): (He …..); his father, however, was a shaman. English however is rather formal, while the Chuckchi particle seems to be quite colloquial, and its meaning may have once been stronger but have now weakened to the point that it is used in most contexts.
    Incidentally, I know the Russian alphabet and can decipher the words here but most of them show a meaningless symbol instead of a normal written character or phonetic symbol. I find it quite frustrating not to be able to pronounce the words because of this problem.

  50. That’s odd, I see all the characters as they are supposed to be (I think). Are you using Firefox?

  51. Bathrobe says:

    m-l, I don’t get ‘meaningless symbols’ (meaning boxes or question marks). I do get some strange-looking letters, which I assume are part of the local Cyrillicisation: Ӄ and ԓ. The first looks like some kind of к, the second like some kind of л.

  52. Bathrobe says:

    Hat, it works in Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. A possible reason is that the fonts on m-l’s Mac lack certain characters. The best all-round font is Arial. On top of that it’s often necessary to download other fonts for more exotic languages (notably Indian). And there are still languages that don’t show up properly on a Mac. Try Tom Gewecke’s site “Unleash your multilingual Mac“.

  53. Bathrobe says:

    Incidentally, the two letters are Ka with hook and El with hook.

  54. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, I am using Firefox, although I could use Safari that I used before and still have on the computer (but probably a much older version).
    Bathrobe, for Siberian languages there is indeed a modified Cyrillic alphabet. Until now I had not even thought of checking my copy of Michael Dunn’s grammar, but now I can say that the first character you mention, which I can see as a modified к, represents the voiceless uvular stop [q], and the second (which I see here as a meaningless symbol) is a voiceless lateral fricative (as in Welsh ll) usually noted phonetically as “barred l” (a plain l with a horizontal bar through it, though higher than a hyphen). There must be yet other characters which are hidden behind the same meaningless symbol on my screen.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, I am glad to know that my source agrees with yours about the identity and phonetic nature of those two characters.

  56. aqilluqaaq says:

    I agree with Bathrobe that only the first example could be called “adversative”, unless the other sentences have (at least by implication) some contrastive emphasis: This is how the ducks were caught (not by some other method that could have been used), His father was a shaman (not someone else’s father).
    Whether it could be called adversative (under some unspecified conditions), I couldn’t say, but it is in fact so called – though particles in Chukchi not infrequently fulfil a range of rôles – but, yes, this one does generally mark a contrastive theme, namely the theme to which it is attached (but not, for example, the one you mark in the first example you quote above).
    One is black; as to the other, it is red.
    As to the ducks, this is how they were caught.
    As to his father, he was a shaman.

  57. aqilluqaaq says:

    There must be yet other characters which are hidden behind the same meaningless symbol on my screen.
    /qoɬ oβʔaɬpeɹaɬʔən qoɬ-əm çeɬɣəpeɹaɬʔən/
    /ɣaɬɣat-əm ənqenat ənŋot ɣanməɬenat/
    /ənin-əm ətɬəɣən eŋeŋəɬʔən/

  58. Trond Engen says:

    One is black, but the other is red.
    But the ducks were caught like this.
    But his father was a shaman.
    Would (and could) the meaning be changed by moving the clitic:
    *ы-н-ин ытԓыгы-н=ым эӈэӈы-ԓьы-н
    he-COLL-POSS father-ABS:SG=PTL spirit-POSS:PRED-ABS:SG
    But his father … vs. But his father>
    If not, isn’t this more like a clitic conjunction, similar in application to e.g. Latin -que “and”?

  59. marie-lucie says:

    aqilluqaaq, thank you for the phonemic transcription. Do you have firsthand acquaintance with Chukchi, or are you relying on someone else’s work entirely?
    I looked up the “Chukchee” grammar by Waldemar Bogoras, published in English in 1922, in the second volume of the Handbook of American Indian Languages, which includes several grammars of such languages. Bogoras lived among the Chukchi and Koryak reindeer herders in 1895-97 and 1900-01. His grammar lists this item among “Miscellaneous adverbs and conjunctions” as an emphatic adverb: it is always postpositional and seems to emphasize the word to which it is attached. (p. 849). Except for one or two, most of the examples given (pp. 849-850) don’t seem to imply contrast (or conjunction), eg sentences meaning “The reindeer fell down“, “It is deep!“, “Let us leave it” (italics for the words to which the particle is added). Dunn also uses the word “emphatic”.
    I am familiar with a language where there is a particle (not a clitic) used in exactly this manner. I called it “intensive/contrastive”, “intensive” being the primary meaning since its use does not indicate contrast but merely emphasizes it where it exists. But “contrastive” had been my first guess, because that’s where I noticed it first, before I understood its primarily intensive or emphatic function.
    Without knowing much more, it seems likely to me that the designation “adversative” is a generalization from cases where there is indeed a contrast, so that the contrasting item is emphasized, but the clitic itself does not seem to indicate contrast, only slight emphasis.
    In any case, I don’t think it can be described as an evidential.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    However, if Chukchi speakers and others have adopted odnako which means “however”, implying contrast, and use it much more widely than do the Russians, it could be that they have generalized the use of this word from the contrastive context where it is used in Russian (a context where they would use their own “emphatic” clitic) to all the contexts where they would use the clitic. This sort of generalization of meaning and use is frequent under conditions of imperfect learning, whether in language contact or among small children.

  61. John,
    “Well, I’m definitely East Coast: “class-bound” I leave up to the judgment of my peers.’
    My definition of class-bound is I don’t expect to hear it in cop shows set in NYC. How’s that for rigorous field methods?

  62. marie-lucie says:

    “Class-bound” does not specify which “class” or social group whatever it is that is bound to it.
    But you said it three times, so it must be true.

  63. (Alas, I have deleted the repetitions and ruined m-l’s joke!)

  64. Bathrobe says:

    m-l, Michael Dunn said: “I think some of the other commenters are correct to identify odnako as a general feature of some Siberian varieties of Russian, and I think the association with Chukchi has developed from the jokes, not from observations of actual Chukchi linguistic behaviour.” So odnako and Chukchi could be quite unrelated.

  65. Moreover, the 1980s burst of popularity of Chukchi jokes owes to a popular contempt to an ethnic Russian Siberian, a certain K.U.Chernenko who came across as a talkative but not intelligent; whose face had some Asian features; and whose name conveniently started from letter “Ch”. So the archetypal Chukcha of the jokes was, indeed, a monolingual Russian (“Once upon a time, a Chukcha decided to become the General Secretary of the CPSU. And so he did.”)
    The real Chukchi remained absolutely unknown to an average Russian, perhaps treated with Dersu Uzala-like mysterious respect but never really with contempt. Tne vainglorious Chukcha of the Kremlin was another matter. My fav of those jokes tells about his aspirations to be become a honorary luminary of science and literature. Чукчу избирают почетным академиком. “По четным буду академиком, а по нечетным – рыбу ловить”.

  66. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, you are right, but aqilluqaaq suggested that the Chukchi particle referred to as an “evidential” was the one called “adversative” in at least some works on Chukchi, although not in Bogoras or Dunn’s grammars.
    In any case, the gist of my comment could be valid for other languages of the area, since the overuse of odnako in Russian is found in several groups speaking Siberian languages. It is possible that this use started in one language group and spread to others which had more or less equivalent words or particles (an areal feature, as I suggested earlier).

  67. Yes, I like the idea of a contagious spread of a speech pattern consisting of deadpan tone but with an emphatic particle across families of languages; like a viral meme.
    Back to make-believe Chukchi language of the jokes … can’t resist a change to post a link to this entry of Rio Wang (where the language sounds like Turkic but with enough Russian and English borrowings to grasp)

  68. marie-lucie says:

    MOCKBA: contagious spread of a speech pattern is a very good definition of “areal diffusion”, which happens in areas where several languages are in frequent contact.

  69. The discussion of odnako triggered a memory of an old post by Mark Liberman over at the Log, discussing a fictional character’s idiosyncratic use of “and yet”. It seems to me that Jennifer Government’s “and yet” is very similar in feel to odnako.

  70. marie-lucie says:

    ACW, I agree.

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