Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tidbits of Philology no. 5

Welcome to this week's Tidbits of Philology!

Many languages have special ways for the speaker to say "my name is ____". In English, apart from this simple predicative structure, one could say, although not so pragmatically, as it seems, "I'm called _____" or "People call me ______".

Some languages, notably the Romance ones, use (I) reflexive structures:

Portuguese: (Eu) me chamo ____.
Spanish: (Yo) me llamo ____.
Italian: (Io) mi chiamo ____.
French: (Je) m'appelle ____.
Romanian: (Eu) mă numesc ____.

Such structure denotes a certain power of one's name: people call me this way because I chose to do so.

In some other languages, it seems the "decision" over one's name lies in the usage other people make of it. These languages use a direct object/passive/medium voice structure (II), as exemplified below:

Greek: Με λένε ____. ([they] call me ____.)
Hebrew: קורים לי ([they] call me ____.)

Other languages, notably the Germanic ones, have special verbs (III) for that purpose:

German: Ich heiße ____.
Dutch: Ik heet ____.
Swedish: Jag heter ____.

Curiously enough, English lacks such a verb.

How does your language cope with this meaning? Does it use I, II, III or is it only possible to express it using the predicative construction "My name is ____."?

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