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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 ways: i Koto Rakoto 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: Roger-Bruno Rabenilaina Irene Mbolatianavalona Jeannot-Fils Ranaivoson Charles Randriamasimanana Francoise Razafimamonjy 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: Noro Ramahatafandry Saholy Hanitriniaina Sahondra Rabenarivo (As you can see, most--but not all--of these surnames begin with the determiner "Ra-".) Matt.