Placebo questions

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The phrase placebo questions comes up in today's Dilbert strip. You can see the intended meaning (once you realize that Dilbert's boss has handed him a project so confidential that a lot depends on his keeping it rigorously secret), despite the stretch from the medical use that nearly everyone is familiar with. It's an unusual word, placebo: it comes directly from an inflected word of another language. It is the first person singular future form of the verb placere in Latin: it means "I will please". It apparently entered common parlance on the strength of being the first word of the first antiphon in the Latin text of the Catholic service of vespers for the dead, and somehow got picked as the technical term for an inactive substance used as a control in testing pharmaceutical products.

I don't actually know the full details of how it arrived at that point. If I had an extra twenty minutes this morning I would study the OED entry for the word. But we busy people without the time to do etymological research over breakfast may be lucky and find that some etymology expert shows up in the comments area below and tells us the story.

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65 Comments »

  1. rone said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 5:35 am

    Douglas Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary's entry for 'placebo' includes:

    Medical sense is first recorded 1785, "a medicine given more to please than to benefit the patient." Placebo effect attested from 1950.

  2. Copernicus said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 5:50 am

    an unusual word, placebo: it comes directly from an inflected word of another language.

    Having administered the placebo, you could wash your hands in a lavabo, and then make a swift exit to catch the (omni)bus, unless someone vetoed the idea.

  3. Xmun said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 5:58 am

    I can only add more mystery. The antiphon in Vespers is a quotation from a Vulgate text (Ps. 114:9, placebo Domino in regione vivorum), which corresponds to the Book of Common Prayer's Ps. 116:9, "I will walk before the Lord : in the land of the living". How does "Placebo" become "I will walk"? Presumably it didn't, and "I will walk" translated some other reading in the Hebrew.

  4. jan wohlgemuth said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 6:19 am

    It would be 'unusual' (at least for English) if it actually *kept* its inflection(al paradigm). But the adoption of frozen forms is not so unusual at all.

    [It is statistically: it's a rare type of borrowing compared to borrowing a stem, isn't it? —GKP]

  5. bulbul said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 6:24 am

    Xmun,

    How does "Placebo" become "I will walk"
    Different source. "Placebo" is a translation of the Septuagint Greek ευαρεστησω. FYI, Lust's Lexicon only has ευαρεστεω = "to be pleasing". "I will walk" is a translation of the Hebrew original (116:9) "אֶתְהַלֵּךְ" (et-ha-lekh).

  6. Xmun said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    Bulbul: Thanks. See also (online) the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 93, April 2000, pp. 213-214, where under the heading "Biblical origins of placebo" a letter from Benjamin Jacobs is printed, the final paragraph of which reads as follows:

    "Placebo Domino in regione vivorum (I will please the Lord in the land of the living) is a direct translation of the Septuagint . . . In fact, it is a meaningful interpretation of the Hebrew. While the simple Hebrew form elech means 'I will walk', the reflexive grammatical form ethalech implies something more purposeful such as 'I will be in step with' or 'I will please'. The Septuagint consistently avoids translating Hebrew anthropomorphism literally, and translates this form of 'walking' as 'pleasing' in Genesis v verse 22 and likewise in Genesis vi verse 94."

  7. bulbul said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 6:51 am

    OED:

    4.4 Med. (See quot. 1811); spec a substance or procedure which a patient accepts as a medicine or therapy but which actually has no specific therapeutic activity for his condition or is prescribed in the belief that it has no such activity. Freq. attrib., esp. in placebo effect, a beneficial (or adverse) effect produced by a placebo that cannot be attributed to the nature of the placebo. Also fig.

    1785 G. Motherby New Med. Dict. (ed. 2), Placebo, a common place method or medicine.    
    1811 Hooper Med. Dict., Placebo,‥an epithet given to any medicine adapted more to please than benefit the patient.    
    1824 Scott St. Ronan's xx, There is nothing serious intended—a mere placebo—just a divertisement to cheer the spirits, and assist the effect of the waters.    
    1885–8 Fagge & Pye-Smith Princ. Med. (ed. 2) I. 205 It is probably a mere placebo, but there is every reason to please as well as cure our patients. 1938 Ann. Internal Med. XI. 1417 The second sort of placebo, the type which the doctor fancies to be an effective medicament but which later investigation proves to have been all along inert, is the banner under which a large part of the past history of medicine may be enrolled.    
    1946 N.Y. State Jrnl. Med. XLVI. 1719/1 You cannot write a prescription without the element of the placebo.‥ The fact that it is signed by a doctor,‥that the prescription has to be taken to a drug store to be made up,‥that it has, perhaps, a bad taste, all of those things are placebo elements in a prescription.    
    1950 Jrnl. Clin. Investigation XXIX. 108/2 Not only the frequency but also the magnitude of ‘placebo effects’ is impressive and deserves attention.    Ibid., It is‥customary to control drug experiments on various clinical syndromes with placebos especially when the data to be evaluated are chiefly subjective.    
    1954 Jrnl. Amer. Med. Assoc. 22 May 340/1 After use of the pills was stopped, the eruption quickly cleared.‥ Later it was learned that the rash had developed while she was taking placebos.    
    1961 Amer. Jrnl. Psychiatry CXVII. 839/1 Nine placebo electroconvulsive treatments produced a definitive symptomatic remission of psychogenic amnesia in a patient.    
    1964 Diseases Nervous Syst. XXV. 146/1 Placebo therapy is not restricted to the prescription of inert or relatively inactive capsules; injections, powders, suppositories, supporters, ‘talking’ treatments, lotions, inhalations, convulsive therapies, may all be used.    
    1971 Brit. Med. Bull. XXVII. 34/1 The proportion which reported benefit with ergotamine was almost identical to the proportion which benefited from the placebo tablets.    
    1977 Lancet 22 Jan. 190/2 The placebo effect of plasmapheresis must be considerable.    
    1978 Detroit Free Press 16 Apr. 1c/4 They‥were significantly more effective than a third group, who were given a lactose capsule that was supposed to improve endurance but was really a placebo.

  8. Tom Saylor said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:22 am

    Trying to think of other English nouns derived directly from finite forms of Latin verbs:

    lavabo
    ignoramus
    fiat
    caveat
    imprimatur
    caret
    magnificat
    introit
    exit (?)

  9. NW said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:28 am

    Rare as such imports are, their morphology is familiar enough to be very marginally productive in English: gazebo and nocebo.

  10. SeanH said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    I like the suggestion, by analogy, that questions to which the questioner does not genuinely seek the answer are not really questions at all (assuming that Dilbert is uninterested in the answers to the "placebo questions" and is only using them to throw co-workers off the scent).

  11. bulbul said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:34 am

    Xmun,

    thanks for the quotation. While it is obvious that the Septuagint takes some liberties with the Hebrew original when it comes to this verb, I'm not sure I buy the part about the reflexive. Hitpa'el is indeed generally used to form reflexives, but the whole binyanim thing is a bit more complicated. In Zechariah 6:7, for example, "לְהִתְהַלֵּךְ" refers to walking to and fro and is indeed translated as "patrol" and in Exodus 21:19 "וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ" means "to walk around" (with בַּחוּץ = "outside") referring to a man injured in a fight. Here both meanings could be interpreted as intensives. In short, it's the context that determines the meaning / translation (the relationship of a particular person to God), rather than the semantic properties of the binyan.

  12. Nik Berry said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    Bulbul quoted the OED, but missed out the etymology, which is:

    [< classical Latin placebo I shall be pleasing or acceptable, 1st singular future indicative of placere to please (see PLACET int. and n.), in post-classical Latin used to denote the Office for the Dead (frequently c1220-1503 in British sources), from the first word of the first antiphon of vespers in the Office for the Dead (Placebo Domino in regione vivorum, Psalm 114:9 (Vulgate)). Compare Old French, Middle French, French placebo (13th cent. in sense 2 in phrases chanter placebo (also chanter a placebo, chanter de placebo: compare to sing (a) placebo at sense 2), parler a placebo, etc.; late 14th cent. in sense 1; late 14th cent. or earlier in sense 3 in the allegorical name Nicole Placebo; now only in sense 4, which is not paralleled in French before 1954).] 

  13. bulbul said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:47 am

    Somewhat OT: In addition to the reference to the rite (OED's meaning 1) and the familiar meaning (OED's 2), OED also gives two obsolete meanings:

    †2 In allusive phrases: to sing (a), play (with), make, be at the school of placebo, etc.: to play the sycophant, flatter, be servile or time-serving. Obs.
    (Last quotation is from 1679)

    †3 A flatterer, sycophant, parasite. (In Chaucer as proper name.) Obs.
    (Last quotation is from 1651)

    Considering that this discussion was triggered by a reference to Digby, I find this a rather amusing coincidence.

  14. bulbul said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:49 am

    Nik,

    thanks, my electronic version of OED only has "[a. L. placēbo (I shall be pleasing or acceptable), 1st sing. fut. ind. of placēre to please: also used in OF. in senses 1 and 2.]" as etymology and I thought we had settled that.

  15. Dhananjay said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 8:05 am

    @Tom Saylor:

    "lavabo, ignoramus, fiat, caveat, imprimatur, caret, magnificat, introit, exit"

    add affidavit, memento, credo, audio, video, recipe, non sequitur

    In response to people who are fussy about octopodes, genii, and the like, I find it amusing to point out that, equally, we ought to speak of "affidaverunt" and "non sequuntur".

  16. Nik Berry said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    @bulbul

    The best thing about working for a university is that I get free online access to the draft edition OED :)

    [Me too, but not from my breakfast table, until I get around to installing the VPN software that will make me appear electronically to be on campus. —GKP]

  17. MattF said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 8:39 am

    @Nik Berry

    It's actually pretty common for public libraries to have subscriptions to the OED. In fact, the website for the library system in my county has a link to the online OED that is accessible with a library card number.

  18. language hat said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    The fact that it "apparently entered common parlance on the strength of being the first word of the first antiphon in the Latin text of the Catholic service of vespers for the dead" does not mean that that origin has anything to do with the medical use. The word may have been in people's vocabulary because of church use, but it seems clear to me that the medical use is entirely based on the Latin meaning of the verb and has nothing to do with the antiphon.

  19. Alice said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 10:22 am

    language hat –

    it seems clear to me that the medical use is entirely based on the Latin meaning of the verb and has nothing to do with the antiphon

    You may well be right, but according to one scholarly history I read (sorry the ref slips my mind – Roy Porter perhaps?), the medical use has shifted over time, and its earlier meaning – roughly something inert one prescribes to satisfy a demanding, hypochondriac patron – strikes me as rather a good fit with with the antiphon, read as a murmured acknowledgement of one's place in that relationship:

    "I shall please the lord in the land of the living"

  20. Sili said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    I can see how placebo questions would be valuable in polling (assuming of course that one actually wanted a real result). Throw in enough chaff to obscure what it actually is you want to know. Most of the time it's obvious from the questions, not only what the pollster want from you, but what answer is the preferred one.

  21. AJD said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    Tom Saylor, Dhananjay:

    There's a pretty good-sized list of English words from Latin inflected verb forms here.

  22. dwmacg said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

    But does Dilbert know who's getting the placebo questions and who's getting the real questions? I'm worried that this isn't a true double-blind study.

  23. Rodger C said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    @Dhananjay: And of course placebimus.

  24. richard howland-bolton said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    @Dhananjay "…people who are fussy about octopodes…."
    Surely their fussing is only justifiable if they spell the singular 'oktapous', and then of course there are the antipodes, so called because (apart from Long John Silver) not many of us have an antipous.

  25. David Walker said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

    There is, or used to be, a prescribable placebo, named obecalp. No extra points for figuring out where THAT name came from.

    There are a couple of other names for this "medicine", and I read somewhere that it came in different "strengths" (and colors). I wish I could remember the other names, but a quick Internet search didn't yield any info.

  26. Rosie Redfield said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    They were really decoy questions.

  27. Jayarava said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

    The placebo effect is apparently getting stronger. http://is.gd/ebPJU

  28. Xmun said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    @Tom Saylor

    "Exit" and "Exeunt" make good sense as stage directions, but "Exit" strikes me as odd as a sign over a doorway. Shouldn't it be "Way Out" or (as in Greece, but Latinized) "Exodus"?
    At my UK boarding school, leave to go home at the weekend during term-time was called an "exeat".

  29. chris said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    While the simple Hebrew form elech means 'I will walk', the reflexive grammatical form ethalech implies something more purposeful such as 'I will be in step with' or 'I will please'.

    Now I'm curious: does this have anything to do with walking humbly with thy God?

  30. Nathan Myers said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

    Rosie is right. Probably Scott just couldn't think of the right word.

    But maybe English doesn't really have the right word. A decoy is used by a hunter to deceive prey. Is there a word for something left to confuse predators?

  31. Faldone said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

    We have studied the medications available for all the world's diseases and we have discovered that they are composed primarily of the same three elements. We have combined these elements in one medication. The scientists call this combination β-D-fructofuranosyl-(2→1)-α-D-glucopyranoside but this is quite a mouthful. We simply call it Placebose® because it stimulates production of the enzyme placebase, a natural enzyme that your body produces on its own. Production of this enzyme gives your body all it needs to fight diseases naturally. Ask your doctor if Placebose is right for you.

  32. George said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    @Nathan: "does this have anything to do with walking humbly with thy God?"

    Yes, the same verb root is used in Mic 6:8, "and to walk humbly with your God."

    I agree with bulbul, the translator(s) of the Septuagint either took liberties with the Hebrew original, or they were working with a different text than the Masoretes (which is entirely possible).

  33. Vasha said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

    On the subject of placebo questions, it's not uncommon for psychological experiments to include elements whose only purpose is to obscure the real purpose of the experiment. What do psychologists call those?

  34. octopod said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

    Nathan: "false trail" is all I can think of.

  35. un malpaso said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

    "Decoy" seems like it is usable in the anti-predator sense by extension. Don't fighter jets fire decoy missiles to confuse heat-seeking missiles?

  36. Russell said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 3:03 am

    Vasha:

    fillers?

  37. bulbul said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 4:04 am

    Nik,
    The best thing about working for a university is that I get free online access to the draft edition OED :)
    And electronic versions of journals. I miss those the most…

    George,
    Yes, the same verb root is used in Mic 6:8, "and to walk humbly with your God."
    Yes, same root (לֶכֶת), but different binyan (qal, the base form).

    or they were working with a different text than the Masoretes (which is entirely possible)
    Of course it is, but here I think we're dealing with translation as interpretation, at least in some contexts.

  38. dwmacg said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 9:16 am

    @Nathan:

    Red herring, perhaps?

  39. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 9:49 am

    Another English word that comes from a Latin antiphon in the old services pro defunctis is "dirge," (from Dirige me, Domine). But that makes a lot of sense since the chant starting with those words was, in fact, an example of a dirge. One wonders if the medical use of "placebo" implies a very dry sense of humor, i.e. that getting the placebo rather than active pharmaceutical might increase the odds that the office for the dead would need to be said for your repose.

  40. Simon Holloway said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    It's not strictly relevant to this discussion, but it is incorrect to refer to the Hebrew אתהלך as a reflexive. That the Hithpa'el usually denotes the reflexive is beside the point; the meaning here is certainly frequentative. The same verb, in the same construction, appears in Genesis 3:8 (the sound of God "moving about" in the garden) and, famously, Job 1:7 and 2:2 (the Satan's "roaming" of the planet), amongst others.

  41. Sili said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

    "Exit" and "Exeunt" make good sense as stage directions, but "Exit" strikes me as odd as a sign over a doorway. Shouldn't it be "Way Out" or (as in Greece, but Latinized) "Exodus"?

    "To the Egress"?

  42. George said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    @Simon: "It's not strictly relevant to this discussion, but it is incorrect to refer to the Hebrew אתהלך as a reflexive."

    "Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar" (2nd Edition, 55b & 67l) gives the hithpa'el form as reflexive. However, it is hard to see a reflexive meaning in the psalm or your other citations.

    (And, yes this is somewhat off subject – but I suppose a little straying is allowed).

  43. Dan T. said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    In England, as I recall from trips there, they actually do label exits (from tube stations, for instance) as "Way Out". Way out, man!

  44. bulbul said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

    George,

    "Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar" (2nd Edition, 55b & 67l) gives the hithpa'el form as reflexive.
    Indeed. And as every student of Semitic languages knows*, any such absolute statement as to the function or meaning of a particular binyan is more of a general description than a hard rule. Joüon's "Grammaire de l'hébreu biblique"** (2nd edition, Rome 1947), gives the same general rule: "Le hitpael est la conjugaison réflechie de l'action intensive" (p. 118), but goes on to say "D'une façon général, l'hitpael peut avoir les divers sens du nifal, avec, en plus, les nuances propres du piel" (p. 120). You will find more than a few frequentative (according to Simon's interpretation of הִתְהַלֵּךְ) or intensive (the way I see it) hitpael verbs.

    * It might sound condescending, but I assure you, it is not meant to.
    ** The first grammar of Hebrew within my reach at the moment.

  45. Rodger C said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    Not terribly relevant to the discussion, but at least linguistic in nature: Why is it "le hitpael" in one sentence and "l'hitpael" in the next?

  46. George said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

    @bulbul: I did not mean to suggest that there are no exceptions. Clearly there are. This is the nature of language. In fact, this particular verb would seem to have few appropriate contexts for a pure reflexive (to walk or go oneself). But, there certainly would be a nuance the writers were expressing with the availability of other patterns in their inventory to choose from.

  47. bulbul said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 5:51 am

    George,

    pure reflexive (to walk or go oneself)
    I interpret "to walk or go oneself" as "to walk or go on one's own, unaccompanied" and I would not say this is reflexive. Come to think of it, is a reflexive even possible with a verb of motion?

  48. Brett said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    @bulbul: Reflexive verbs of motion are possible in English. Consider, "I ran myself over to the store." Depending on how its said, it might mean the speaker went alone, or it might be a reflexive, which serves to emphasize that the speaker got to the store under their own power.

  49. latinist said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    Could the familiar sense of placebo come from one of the obsolete meanings bulbul mentioned above? A "flatterer" seems like a not-totally-inapt metaphor for a pill that pretends to be helpful in ways it really isn't.

  50. George said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    @Brett: Yes, that is the meaning that I intended for reflexive. It is hard to see the reflexive (as in your example) in the passages being discussed. Also, I have a little difficulty with "walk on one's accord" as well. It seems to me that this would be the default assumption unless there is an intended contrast with being compelled.

    But, there is likely some connotation or nuance to distinguish this from simple walking or going.

  51. Nijma said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

    is a reflexive even possible with a verb of motion?
    Spanish: lavarse (to wash oneself), llamarse (to call oneself–"Me llamo Nijma."–My name is Nijma.), levantarse (to get up)

    a pill that pretends to be helpful
    Make no mistake, placebos work. The placebo effect is well documented. If you give someone a medication with a known pharmacological effect–say, morphine–and tell them it will relieve their pain, they will get more effective pain relief than they would have from just taking the medicine alone. Hence the need for double-blind testing, where the person administering a medicine under study does not know what it is.

  52. Craig Russell said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 1:39 am

    @xmun

    OED suggests that English 'exit' has two sources: the conjugated Latin verb form meaning "s/he departs", which is the one used in stage directions, made plural with 'exeunt', and a truncated version of the Latin noun 'exitus' meaning "a departure", which is the one hung over doors that lead out.

  53. bulbul said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 4:56 am

    Brett,

    ah yes, of course. Then there are also verbs of motion with resultative complements – "He walked/ran himself to death", "She ran herself crazy".

    Nijma,
    is llamarse a verb of motion?

  54. George said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 5:29 am

    @Nijma: "is a reflexive even possible with a verb of motion?"

    I think they are exceptional, but they do exist.

    After surgery, the patient got up and walked herself down the hall. (contrary to expectation).

    The president drove himself to Camp David. (normally he is taken by someone).

  55. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 5:58 am

    @bulbul:

    is llamarse a verb of motion?

    Well, "llamar" can mean "summon" or "beckon" (just as the English "call"), and although the verb is infrequent (and invariably metaphorical) as a reflexive in this sense, it's attested reliably enough:

    "En el segundo tiempo, el partido cayó en la intrascendencia, porque ambos planteles se llamaron a la tregua". Cambio, La Paz (Bolivia), 28/6/2010
    "Los contendientes, que ya manoteaban algo en la cintura, se llamaron a la calma, comprendiendo la formalidad del momento". La República, Montevideo (Uruguay), 2/3/2007

    "Llamarse a silencio" is a well-established idiom meaning "refrain from speaking".

    (I realise this is not the same meaning as in "Me llamo Alon", but you asked about the verb, not that specific sense).

  56. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 6:02 am

    On an unrelated note: would it be possible to actually align the rendering in the preview panel with the actual result? I assume WordPress filters out some of the HTML markup, but that would be a good thing to know in advance. The layout gracefully degraded when my nicely formatted <ul> was blown to oblivion, but this is not always the case, especially in comments involving angle brackets.

  57. bulbul said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 8:32 am

    Alon,

    thank you for the examples, but in any case, I don't see any motion in either "se llamaron a la tregua" or "llamarse a silencio". And come to think of it, I wouldn't include "levantarse" or "lavarse" as verbs of motion. Those are – at least according to my understanding – supposed to refer to the movement of the entire body / entire object, not just parts thereof. Walk, move, go, hurry, leave, come, arrive, run, crawl, slide, rush – that kind of thing. And, to get back to my original question, it is obvious that at least some of them can be reflexive: Spanish "moverse", Slovak "ponáhľať sa" = "hurry" and so on.

  58. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    @bulbul: I defer to the learned regarding the usual meaning of "verb of motion", but "levantarse" definitely entails movement of the entire body, while "moverse" does not.

    Re: "llamar(se) a", I explicitly mentioned these are metaphorical usages, but the spatial source domain is clear enough. The only other complement that the preposition "a" can take with those verbs is an {i|a}llative one: "a la mesa", "al juzgado", "al hospital", etc.

  59. bulbul said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Alon,

    my bad on 'levantarse'. As for 'moverse', that will depend on the subject. A person can be described as 'moving' when only rearranging the position of limbs, but if a car is moving, all of it is changing position.

    the spatial source domain is clear enough
    Without a doubt – we have location and/or direction. But where is the actual movement, at least in some cases?
    I would describe "llamarse" as an attention-type verb (see Dixon 2005, p. 133), similar to look. Then again, Dixon describes 'visit' as involving 'intersection of motion and attention'…

  60. Nijma said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    is llamarse a verb of motion?
    In the sense of speaking, why not? You can also "llamar" someone on the telephone; even a ventriloquist would have to move to dial the numbers. When a verb is made reflexive, the action stays with the subject.

    rascarse-to scratch oneself
    acostarse-go to bed
    casarse-to get married (as opposed to performing a marriage ceremony)
    comerse-to eat (like comer, but emphasizing who is performing the action)
    irse-to go away
    ponerse-to put on

  61. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 4:23 am

    @bulbul:

    A person can be described as 'moving' when only rearranging the position of limbs, but if a car is moving, all of it is changing position.

    That would be the default assumption (mainly because the only kind of motion a car is able to do on its own power is linear), but it seems to be a defeasible one. If parts of the car were shaking or spinning, "moverse" would seem to me an acceptable colloquial equivalent for "vibrar" o "rodar". The first example that cropped up when trying to substantiate this intuitive guess was suitable enough, although a better search query or significant manual filtering would be needed for anything resembling an estimation of likelihood:

    que no trae ABS esta cosa?? saliendo de agencia lo lleve a verificar y me salio en la pantalla falla en abs por que 2 llantas estaban moviendose y las otras 2 estaban paradas

  62. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 6:03 am

    @Nijma: the "-se" in "comerse" is not really a reflexive, but rather an intensifier, much like the particle "up" in phrasal verbs such as "eat up". A good treatment of such constructions can be found in Maldonado, Ricardo (1999): A media voz. Problemas conceptuales del clítico 'se'. México DF: UNAM

  63. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    Tom Saylor: I'm not sure 'introit' belongs on that list; I think it more likely
    that it derives from Latin 'introitus'. (This would be parallel to the possible derivation of 'exit' from 'exitus', which Craig Russell notes, though in that case it clearly does sotrimes derive from the inflected form.)

  64. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    sotrimes

    er, sometimes.

  65. Lavabo said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 3:50 am

    It's not strictly relevant to this discussion, but it is incorrect to refer to the Hebrew אתהלך as a reflexive. That the Hithpa'el usually denotes the reflexive is beside the point; the meaning here is certainly frequentative. The same verb, in the same construction, appears in Genesis 3:8 (the sound of God "moving about" in the garden) and, famously, Job 1:7 and 2:2 (the Satan's "roaming" of the planet), amongst others.

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