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Questions on Inalienable Possession Prefixes

From:Sylvia Sotomayor <kelen@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 5, 2002, 1:34
I'm having some trouble with inalienable possession...

That Kélen has a profound animate vs. inanimate distinction is so
ingrained into the language I can't change it any more. Generally,
this is the distinction between the ma- prefix and the ja- prefix, as
in: jaló 'bright thing' and maló 'sun', etc...

Now take the root -kú: which is usually  ja-kú 'hand'. With an
animate prefix, this would be ma-kú, 'worker, manual laborer'. Or,
-Né, 'face', which when animate becomes ma-Né 'person, aquaintance'
(as opposed to the more generic m-éla 'person').

I've already decided to do alienable possession or association as a
suffix, and I would like inalienable possession to be a prefix of
some sort. I've tried it as a suffix and it hasn't worked for me.

So, reading up on the subject, I've come up with two schemes, neither
of which is entirely satisfactory...

Scheme A: Use the current reduced personal pronouns as prefixes
replacing ja-:
So instead of ja-kú 'hand', we could have le-kú, ri-kú, and a small
problem. It should be ma-kú for 3p. However, that would conflict with
the animate prefix. So, it could instead be ja-kú or from a more
obscure 3p pronoun sa-kú.

Scheme B: Use 1st & 2nd person prefixes cognate with the
demonstratives Tó (here by me) and xó (there by you):
Ta-kú, xa-kú, and ???, probably ja-kú, which would fit in with the
fact that the generic demonstrative is jáo, and is obviously related
to the inanimate prefix ja- and the 3rd person inanimate pronoun ja.
There is a third deictic demonstrative áke (there by him/her/them),
which could become a'-, as in ak-kú, but that doesn't seem right to
me, though the reduplicated consonant bit shows up in other places in

I'm leaning towards Scheme B, though A with ja-kú is also workable.

Any thoughts, questions or comments from the list?

Sylvia Sotomayor

The Kélen language can be found at:

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á (a-acute); é (e-acute); í (i-acute); ó (o-acute); ú (u-acute);
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H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
JS Bangs <jaspax@...>