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Amerindian Possessives

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Friday, February 7, 2003, 17:44
At 11:03 AM -0500 2/7/03, Karapcik, Mike wrote:
> Hi, > I have a question for the Gatherers of Extremely Enlightening >Knowledge (or GEEKs, for short ;-) ). > On the subject of possessives, for continental North American >languages, how common is the distinction between alienable and inalienable >possession? I know Hawai'ian and the other Polynesian languages have >different possessive markers for alienable and inalienable possessions, and >this is the structure I'm referring to. (I'm not asking about inherently >possessed items, such as in many Southwest languages.)
Marianne Mithun, in her book _The Languages of Native North America_ does not distinguish between what you are calling inalienable possession and inherent possession. I'm not sure that I see the distinction either. Well, I can see it, but it doesn't seem to be a real one. Even the languages which have inherent possession (Navajo and Luiseño come to mind) also have a way to mention inherently possessed referents without a possessor. In Navajo the prefix a- is used; it's almost like saying "someone's X" without specifying the someone. [snip nice description of Tekwari possession]
> So, anyway, I was wondering. Do any Amerind languages have >alienable/inalienable possession that works anything like this? Or have I >made something that is more Polynesian than Amerind?
Maybe; perhaps the correct distinction is Pacific Rim vs elsewhere. Look at the coastal languages of the Americas and see what they do. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see a Polynesian style alienable-inalienable distinction. Heck, even English has a covert (in the Whorfian sense) alienable/inalienable distinction. Try this out: 1. He hit my arm. 2. He hit me on the arm. What does 1. mean? What does 2. mean? Do they mean the same thing? Now try: 3. He hit my BMW. 4. He hit me on the BMW. What does 3. mean? What does 4. mean? Do they mean the same thing? Cool, eh? Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "It is important not to let one's aesthetics interfere with the appreciation of fact." - Stephen Anderson