Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

The "Budalo Jedna!"-Type Construction in Contemporary Serbian

Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

The "Budalo Jedna!"-Type Construction in Contemporary Serbian

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper describes the qualifying exclamatory construction in Serbian exemplified by Budalo jedna! 'What a fool you are!'. This construction belongs to non-descriptive (or SIGNALATIVE) linguistic expressions which cannot be questioned, negated, or freely modified. The lexicographic description of such expressions has received insufficient attention. We argue that in the above construction the adjective JEDAN intensifies the speaker's negative feelings such that the construction means: 'You are a fool and I feel very negatively about it'. Extensions of the construction include the use of JEDAN with a positive evaluative noun, which produces an ironic effect (e.g., Genije jedan! 'You are the opposite of a genius, and I feel very negatively about it') and with a non-evaluative noun, which results in the "transfer" of negativeness to the noun (e.g., Profesore jedan! "You act as a typical professor [which is bad], and I feel very negatively about it'). Since all these effects are attributable to JEDAN, we describe the qualifying exclamatory construction in the lexical entry for JEDAN.

1. The Problem Stated

Contemporary Serbian has an open-ended set of colloquial phrases of the form Budalo jedna!, Idiote jedan!, etc., which are addressed directly to a person and can be glossed literally as 'Fool/Idiot one['; they mean, roughly, 'What a fool/idiot you are!'. (1) Such a phrase consists of a HUMAN NOUN in the vocative case and the indefinite adjective JEDAN 'one', (2) which immediately follows the noun and agrees with it in gender, number, and case. The phrase has a specific prosody: exclamatory intonation with an uninterrupted falling contour and a strong phrasal stress on the noun, represented as follows:

N (gender)number, vocative + JEDAN gender' number', nominative! (3)

The N + JEDAN construction is quite common in Serbian. (4) It immediately attracts the attention of a learner of this language. Note that there also exists a variant with the second component negated: N + NIJEDAN 'not one'. We do not see any semantic or syntactic differences between the two variants. The version with NIJEDAN seems slightly obsolescent and stylistically marked. It is also less frequent. To make our task better circumscribed, we do not consider this variant at all.

In the present paper we want to answer the following question:

   What is the linguistic nature of the N + JEDAN construction
   and how can it be represented in a description of Serbian?

Our methodology is FORMAL MODELING of linguistic phenomena, or more precisely, a formal description of the relevant meaning-text correspondence. We restrict ourselves to a synchronic investigation and put the main emphasis on formalizing as much as possible the intuition of a native speaker of Serbian. The result of the present study is an explicit and precise statement of the correspondence between a particular, rather complex meaning of the N + JEDAN construction and its linguistically conventional expressions in appropriate contexts. Due to its precision and explicitness, such a description can serve as a basis for deeper and wider studies of this and similar phenomena.

The first fact to note about the N + JEDAN construction is that in most (but not all!) cases of its use the adjective jedan can be omitted, the result being another exclamatory construction--in our case, Budalo! 'Fool!' and Idiote! 'Idiot!'. (5) Despite the vocative form of the noun, it is used not to attract the attention of the Addressee but to evaluate or qualify him. We will call it a QUALIFYING EXCLAMATORY CONSTRUCTION WITH A HUMAN EVALUATIVE NOUN, or N HUM-EVAL EXCLAMATORY CONSTRUCTION (since the noun appearing in it is of a special type, which will be characterized below): (6)

N hum-aval(gender)number, vocative!]

The second relevant fact is that, in the examples of the type considered above, the meaning of the N + JEDAN construction includes the meaning of the N hum-eval construction. …

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