Re: Alienable/inalienable possession
|From:||Patrick Littell <puchitao@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, February 7, 2006, 16:57|
On 2/4/06, Carsten Becker <carbeck@...> wrote:
> I wonder
> how would one express to have something or to give
> something away that is inalienable? ... However,
> according to Payne it seems to me that it's no problem to
> give away something that is inalienable, it's just specially
> marked for inalienability. I am confused. Does anyone care
> to explain?
Here's what might be confusing you. Inalienability and alienability
are not properties of things -- they're properties of a
possessor-possessum relationship. Now, it's frequent that there are
certain words -- body parts, in particular -- that are almost always
inalienably possessed, and sometimes we think of a "class of
inalienably possessed nouns". But it's not a "noun class" in the
sense that there's some property ALIENABLE that some words always have
and some words don't.
Instead, inalienability is something that obtains *between* a
possessor and a possessum. So you might not be able to predict, for a
given possessum, whether it's inalienably possessed or not -- it
depends on how it's possessed. The following is from Itzaj Maya:
u-k'ik'-el -- his blood
u-k'ik' -- his blood (presumably outside his body)
u-tzo'otz-el -- his hair (on his head)
u-tzo'otz -- his hair (on the table)
The first of these are marked for (something like) inalienable
possession, the second inalienable. I the distinction here depends on
whether it's currently in his body or not. Here's a few from
Lichtenberk's A Grammar of Manam (1983):
málo-gu -- "My breechclout" (but only when I am wearing it)
málo né-gu -- "My breechclout" (otherwise)
nanarita?á-gu -- My story, a story about me
nanári né-gu -- My story, a story I invented, told, like
paNaná-gu -- My head, refers to a part of my anatomy
paNána ?aná-gu -- My head, refers to a head meant for my consumption
paNána né-gu -- My head, may refer to a head I found, cut off, or even
to a head I will give my dog to eat
(That second-to-last is the "edible possession" that was mentioned
earlier for Fijian.)
Now, just like noun classes there can be a lot of irregularity...
sometimes things take an unexpected marking. (In Manam, for example,
you can't inalienably possess a "modern" article of clothing like a
shirt, even when you're wearing it.) And houses ("pera") require the
Keep in mind that nothing *prevents* you from making up a language in
which you have a "noun class" of inalienably-possessed nouns, which
must always take inalienably possession markings, and a class of
alienably-possessed ones, which never do. It's entirely possible,
although I know of no examples. You're just not *restricted* to that.
Hope this helps,
BTW: If anyone wants a copy, I wrote a paper recently on the
interaction between obligatory possession and noun incorporation,
specifically on the incorporation of body parts into transitive verbs.
I figure it's the sort of "exotica" that list folks might enjoy.
Give me a mail off-list if you want a copy.