Arse has been bugging me ever since it was published many years ago in VT49. As you know, it appears in this sentence on page 23:

Quiquie menin koaryanna, arse. "whenever I arrive at his house/come to/get to, he is out"


Now I am not a linguist, so I would very much need your expert opinion on

  • what it is
  • whether it has a parallel in IRL languages
  • is it/can it be part of a paradigm?

On the surface the answer to the "what is it" question looks simple, it looks like the preposition/adverb ar "out(side), beside, (with)out" plus (an enclitic?) pronoun se "he/she", meaning "out [is] he".

It has occurred to me that there is a slight possibility it might be actually ar plus a locative -se (meaning simply "[he is] out"), but that would be a redundant formation and looks unlikely.

Also on the surface it is very much like other formations involving a preposition and a pronoun, such as óse, ómesse, aselye, but there is a difference which looks significant: in óse etc. the pronoun is the object of the preposition ("with him, upon us, with you"), whereas in arse se appears to be the subject (=se [ná] ar), so it is in effect an entire clause in one word.

Are there examples of this in real-world languages?

And the exciting question: do we need to regard arse as an isolated ephemeral experiment, or could it be part of a productive system? Meaning, is it conceivable to form the same with other pronouns (*arni, *arle etc.) and other adverbs/prepositions (*orse, *mile etc.)?

Submitted by Paul Strack Fri, 09/27/2019 - 14:34

Patrick Wynne suggested (VT49/35-36 note #34) that here ar means “without”, so arse = “[it is] without him”. If that’s not the case, perhaps is a formulaic collapsed cupola: ar(a) se [ná] = “out [is] he”.

In any case, I wouldn’t try to make it into any kind of system without more and clearer examples.

Submitted by Lokyt Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:37

The closest reallang structure I can think of is Polish stuff like tameś szczęśliwy "thou [art] happy there": tam = "there", szczęśliwy = "happy", -(e)ś is one of two verbal sg. 2nd pers. markers (cf. jestem "I am", jesteś "thou art" etc.).
Tameś in isolation is a faulty construction (tam requires an expressed verbal copula to become its complement, i.e. there must be tam jesteś for "thou art there"), but a Polish speaker would be able to interpret it (as "thou [art] there") without difficulties.

Submitted by Lokyt Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:49

And BTW I strongly doubt Wynne's interpretation of arse.

Arse is in itself the main clause of a compound sentence, where all of quiquie menin koaryanna is the dependent clause. And I can hardly imagine a main clause with both the subject and the finite verb (= in this case the copula) ellipted, with only an adverbial phrase left.

If arse was "without him", then quiquie menin koaryanna arse would be most likely interpreted as "whenever I come to his house without him, ...".

Submitted by Paul Strack Sat, 09/28/2019 - 01:28

I agree that Wynne’s suggestion is rather dubious, especially given the gloss. That’s why I analyze it as outside + he in Eldamo.

But I think my own interpretation is dubious as well, which is why I wouldn’t use arse as the basis of new constructions.