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Commentary: From Tokana to Denden (LONG)

From:Matt Pearson <jmpearson@...>
Date:Friday, November 19, 1999, 0:24
I wrote:

>> I must not have provided nearly enough info, because you seem to have >> parsed these sentences incorrectly. The correct structure is:
And Boudewijn Rempt replied:
>Well, what made me go wrong was the bit in the notes: > > So "itan maha olat" in the above poem can only mean "that which > one hears". It can't mean "that which hears things". > >So I took that for the relative clause, and tried to connect the >dative 'suhoi' and 'sihe' and so on to the verb.
To which I reply: Clumsy me. I should have spelled out what I meant in more detail. Perhaps if I'd phrased it this way: <quote> "Itan maha olat..." can only mean "That which is heard...". It can't mean "That which hears...". <end quote> Then again, maybe that isn't all that much clearer (see below). I wrote:
>> [ itan maha olat suhoi ] uthma tsampatin >> [ that which (one) hears in-the-wind ] gives health >> >> [ itan maha olat sihe ] uthma pamihati >> [ that which (one) hears in-the-stream ] gives nourishment >> >> So SUHOI and SIHE are part of the relative clause. >> The ending -AT on OLAT indicates that this verb is part of an embedded >> clause (here, a relative clause headed by MAHA "what"). The ending -A on >> UTHMA, by contrast, indicates that this verb is in the main clause.
And Boudewijn replied:
>Well, I'd really like to see a thorough syntactic analysis of this >constructions - it's still not entirely clear to me.
OK, you asked for it! Let's begin with the basics: (1) Noun phrases in Tokana are inflected for case. The absolutive and ergative (or nominative) cases are unmarked, while the remaining cases (dative, instrumental, ablative, and comitative) are marked by suffixes on the noun. (2) Definite noun phrases are preceded by a determiner which 'agrees' in case with the noun (like in German). When the noun phrase in question is an argument of the verb and appears right-adjacent to the verb, then the determiner attaches to the verb as a suffix (cf. "-n" and "-na" in (3) below). (3) In main clauses, unmarked order is SVO or OVS: Na moiha kahta-n mikal the.ERG girl hit-the.ABS boy "The girl hits the boy" Ne mikal kahta-na moiha the.ABS boy hit-the.ERG girl "The girl hits the boy" The OVS (or 'inverse') sentence is often given a passive-type reading: "The boy is hit by the girl". (4) Transitive sentences like the ones in (3) contain an ergative subject and an absolutive object. Either of these arguments may be deleted if its referent is unknown or irrelevant. When the absolutive object is deleted, a special 'antipassive' prefix "u-" must be added to the verb. The word order is SV: Na moiha u-kahta the.ERG girl ANTIPASS-hit