determiners before proper names (was: Re: Degrees of volition)
|From:||J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>|
|Date:||Monday, August 14, 2000, 3:53|
Nik Taylor wrote:
> J Matthew Pearson wrote:
> > No. The determiner "i" is used only for people (usually children, or those
> > with non-Malagasy names).
> So, "i" is not used with adults with Malagasy names?
I said "usually". There are tons of exceptions. If you want the complete scoop,
here it is: There are two determiners used with proper names, "i" and "Ra-" (the
latter is, for no very good reason, written as a prefix and carries
capitalization in writing). Thus, the name "Koto" may show up in one of two
Normally, "i Koto" would be used of a child while "Rakoto" would be used of an
adult. However, a great many names fail to take the "Ra-" determiner, and thus
show up with "i" regardless of whether the referent is a child or an adult.
Among these are nearly all names of foreign origin, such as "Paoly" [Paul]. (The
only exceptions I know of are "Rajaona" [John] and "Rajemisa" [James], which
typically take "Ra-". However, "Rajaona" and "Rajemisa" are usually used as last
names rather than first names.) In addition, a number of indigenous names lack
"Ra-" forms, including the names of my principal Malagasy language consultants,
Noro, Saholy, and Sahondra.
My impression is that the "Ra-" determiner is slowly losing out in favour of
"i". In fact, for common first names which take "Ra-" (e.g. "Rasoa", "Rabe",
"Rakoto", "Ranaivo", etc.), many speakers appear to have reanalyzed the "Ra-" as
being part of the name rather than a prefixed determiner, and thus use "i" even
with these ("i Rasoa", "i Rabe", "i Rakoto", etc.).
Originally, I think, "Ra-" was an honorific marker. In addition to being used
with names of adults, it also shows up from time to time as a determiner on
common nouns (in place of the usual determiner "ny") when those nouns are used to
refer to someone of high rank:
ny zazavavy "the boy"
razazavavy "the boy (of noble rank)"
"Ra-" is also sometimes used with names of nationalities, as in the following
lyric from a favourite Malagasy song of mine:
Zovy amintsika anefa no mahay an-dRamalagasy a?
But who among us really knows the Malagasy?
Most commonly, "Ra-" is used with Malagasy surnames. Unlike in the West,
Malagasy usually do not inherit their surnames from their parents; instead, their
parents give them new surnames in addition to common names. A very popular
custom these days is to give a child a French (or English) first name and a
Malagasy given name. The latter tend to be quite long and poetic:
However, among more traditional-minded Malagasy (including many of the
post-colonial era), native Malagasy given names are preferred--as in the case of
my three consultants. Their full names are:
(As you can see, most--but not all--of these surnames begin with the determiner