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OT: Possession in Ainu

From:Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Date:Saturday, November 4, 2006, 21:00
I've been wondering about how possession works in Ainu. From things
I've read lately, I think I somewhat understand the system, but I
feel there might be pieces missing; so I'm going to write my
understanding of it, inviting corrections from you. (Unfortunately I
don't have an Ainu grammar handy, or I would just look it up.)

My understanding so far, with questions interspersed:
1. Many nouns have two main forms: a possessed or "belonging" form,
and a non-possessed or "original" form. In my examples, I will use
<mat> "wife" as the original form and <maci> as the belonging form
(although <macihi> is also acceptable, at least in some dialects).

2. Most nouns do not have belonging forms? I remember reading that in
Alexander Vovin's _A Reconstruction of Proto-Ainu_, but I don't know
the page number.
- Contrary to that, it actually seems like most of the nouns listed
in the book do have belonging forms. Do most nouns have them, or not
have them?

3. There is a set of possessive pronominal prefixes, of which at
least some are identical to the verbal prefixes.
- Are the verbal ones all identical to the possessive ones?.

4. To show possession of one noun by another, you simply juxtapose
them, with possessor first, e.g. <kamuy mat> "a god's wife".
- Is it possible to say *<kamuy maci>?

5. To show possession of a noun by a pronominal referent, you can
either use the appropriate possessive prefix plus the belonging form,
or use a verbal prefix on the verb <kor>, "to have", followed by the
noun, e.g. <ku=kor mat> or <ku=maci> "my wife".

6. If you use the belonging form but no possessive prefix, the
meaning is "his/her X"; e.g. <maci> "his/her wife". But on http://
LING2009/project/ainu/morphology.html it shows a separate third-
person prefix <i>, yielding <i=maci(hi)>.
- So is the 3rd-person prefix optional? Is there any distinction
(e.g. formality)?
- Also, do <maci> and <i=maci> both mean the possessor can be
singular or plural?

7. A non-possessed form has a generic meaning; a possessed form has a
more concrete meaning.
- Does this mean that if you use the word <cikap> "bird", you are
speaking of birds in general, while if you use <cikapi> you are
speaking of a specific (or at least concrete) bird?
- How does this work with nouns that have no belonging form? I.e. can
they only be talked about in the abstract? Or do such nouns always
denote concrete things? Or are they generic by default but they can
be made concrete?

8. An indefinite possessor can be used, meaning "someone's X". This
has the semantics of a concrete instance of X, but not necessarily
any specific one.
- What is the affix used for indefinite possession?

9. I have read on this list that Ainu has the alienable/inalienable
possession distinction.
- How is this distinction shown? I haven't found anything that says
e.g. that you use the prefixes for inalienable and prefix+<kor> for

That turned out longer than I expected. Thanks for reading this far!