Wednesday Word: Untrue News

This week I got the news…

In Palawano, they have a word habar which means “news” (news, hear the news, tell the news, etc.)

In linguistic terms, this verb is not “factive.” That just means that the TRUTH cannot be assumed just by uttering it. That was news to me, and I have to adjust my use of the word.

For example, in English, believe is not factive: “I believe Martin left this morning.” That’s just the speaker’s belief or assumption, and might not be true.

But realize is factive: “I realized that Martin left this morning.” You cannot rightly say that unless he indeed left.

So in Palawano, to call something “news” does not assume the truth of it.

Hmmm. That’s like much of what we get from the media, don’t you think?


About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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5 Responses to Wednesday Word: Untrue News

  1. D... says:

    It is so funny how words were meant to help us communicate what we mean, but a lot of times end up creating more confusion. Almost like in conversation how one has to dig out what the other person really means by what the other person said. I think it’s really common in the U.S., I mean we even have a saying, reading between the lines. I think some other languages are more direct and have noticed some of my friends from other cultures being more direct. Do you find this to be true in your journeys too?

    • Bill Davis says:

      Yes and no. It’s more that the directness is used in different situations, and the indirectness is expressed in different ways. We (Americans) offend people all around the world for being so direct. Then we accuse someone of another culture for “saying yes to an invitation, but then not attending.” But had we truly read the signs, they spoke the WORD “yes” (to save us from losing face), but there was a subtle sign… an eyebrow movement, a slight hesitation, a glance down, which means, “I’m saying yes so you know we are friends, but I’m sorry and cannot come.” It’s a artful indirectness. Neither is right or wrong, but rather, beautifully different. We just need to learn to understand. Language learners make the mistake of thinking they have learned the language, learned to communicate, just because they learned the “words.”

  2. D... says:

    Well body language is a whole other ballpark. I know what you mean about the subtle differences with that form of communication. I am first generation U.S., so my I understand the nuances of both cultures. My cousin only spoke Spanish and I only English, but when we were small we communicated much better than when we learned each others language. We communicated with play (action) and with our young hearts. When I think of it, I think of how remarkable it was.

    • Bill Davis says:

      Yes… another ballpark. It was amazing watching our daughter and her best friend work out communication with NO common words to start with. NONE. And yes, it’s word, grammar, body language, gesture, expectation and assumptions, all the cues defined by culture, most of it completely unconscious. Truly miraculous, as you said, that we can communicate at all. Even with the same language, if you think about it… I grow up in CA and meet someone who grew up in NY and we have no common connections, our parents never met, and yet the language they “gave” us works, because it’s a wider network, the society that passes it on.

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