v41: paj

As Wikipedia says, A loanword (lånord) is a word borrowed from one language and incorporated into another, however neither loanword nor borrowing correctly conveys the meaning, since no words are going to be returned.

The Romani people migrated out of India around the 11th Century CE, through the Middle East and into Europe. Romani is one of Sweden’s five official minority languages (a nice trivia question for you there); according to Språkrådet, there are around 40,000 Romani speakers in Sweden. Språkrådet lists the following Romani loanwords into Swedish: tjej (girl), haja (understand), lattjo (funny) and jycke (dog).

But the word I’m interested in, that Språkrådet doesn’t mention, is paj (broken).

As you know, in English and in Swedish, most adjectives can be placed either before the noun (attributive) or after the noun (predicative) [I know that’s not a good definition of attributive and predicative, but it will do for now]:

The big house. The house is big.
Det stora huset. Huset är stort.

But there’s a group of adjectives that don’t have this flexibility in English:

The fomer president. *The president is former.
The main reason. *The reason is main.
The man is alone. *The alone man.

(The asterisk here means the sentence is ungrammatical.) In general, the English adjectives above are reference-modifying, that is, they describe the context that the noun is in. Compare alone with lonely:

The man is lonely. The lonely man.

Lonely is referent-modifying, that is, just describing the noun itself. Similarly, in Swedish, there are also adjectives that are restricted to either attributive or predicative use. The attributive-only seem to be reference modifying:

I fjärran länder. In foreign parts.
Det dåtida Stockholm. The Stockholm of that time.

But I can’t see a pattern for the predicative only:

Arbetet var slut. Work had finished.
Bilen är sönder. The car is broken-down.

Slut and sönder may look as though they are somehow related in meaning, but then there are other words meaning broken, such as trasig, that can be used both attributively and predicatively. So maybe there’s just no rule to learn? My grammar book just says that some indeclinable adjectives can only be used attributively, some can only be used predicatively, and some can be used both ways. It doesn’t say whether there are any declinable adjectives that can only be used attributively or predicatively. What about paj? There seems to be no problem with the predicative use (Min dator är paj), but I can’t find any good examples of attributive use, or other forms of the adjective, even though they are suggested here.

The much more common meaning for paj is pie, in which case it’s a loan word from English. And there is the answer to last week’s picture clue: adjectives + bakery = paj. By the way, the best known (possibly the only non-slang) Romani loanword in English is pal.

Next week, let’s talk about food again:


What am I?

Published in: on October 4, 2009 at 20:59  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Yiddish is another of Sweden’s five official minority languages (remeber, I already mentioned Romani, so three more to go). Yiddish is a Germanic language, so it wouldn’t be surprising, would […]

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