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LC-01 genitive noun phrases

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Tuesday, October 28, 2003, 0:09
Development of my conlang (codenamed) LC-01 is effectively on hiatus
until I have a chance to read Mithun's _The Languages of Native North
America_ (and learn something more about phonology), but something
occurred to me recently which might be worth mentioning here.

LC-01 is a based on semitic-style consonantal roots which are
essentially verbal in nature.  Attributive adjectives are
morphologically nouns which follow the substantive they modify:

ngakang kalat                           (<ng> = /N/)
cat     black one, black thing
"black cat"

This may be analysed as an appositive relationship "the cat, the black
one".  (Note that _kalat_ is like most LC-01 nominals a nominalized
verb; apposition of a nominalized form is the basic mechanism for the
formation of relative clauses in the language[1].)

In genitive phrases, the possessum precedes the possessor and is
marked by a posessive prefix.

   s-ngakang Djång                      (<å> = /Q/)
POSS-cat     NAME [2]
    "John's cat"

Possessed forms may also stand alone, in which case the prefix has an
anaphoric function:

"his/her/its cat"

Other possessive prefixes exist for other persons:

      x-ngakang                         (<x> = /x/)
1S:POSS-cat     [3]
    "my cat"

However, a problem arises.  Does _sngakang kalat_ mean "his black cat"
or "the cat of the black one"?  I'm loathe to make such a basic
formation so ambiguous, although if anyone has any ideas on how this
could be handled pragmatically, I'd be interested to hear them.

One possible way of avoiding the ambiguity would be to express "his
black cat" as _ngakang skalat_, (something like "the cat, his black
one").  This seems a little strange to me - does anyone know whether
similar formations are ever found in natlangs?  If it is acceptable,
should "my black cat" then be _ngakang xkalat_, even though _xngakang
kalat_ is unambiguous?

Alternatively, of course, one case or the other could be marked in
some way, perhaps by the introduction of a particle.  It's difficult
to decide which, though.

[1] Although I suspect it becomes more complex in various cases which
    I don't know about yet.

[2] There's possibly some kind of article which precedes proper names,
    but I haven't worked it out yet.

[3] Just how the prefixes actually break down for person and number is
    unclear;  additionally, there are several different types of
    "genitive" relationship, each with its own set of prefixes.  The
    details are irrelevant to the present discussion - what's
    important is that 3rd person prefixes may indicate posession by
    some implicit party, _or_ by the following noun.


Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>