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Re: Commentary: From Tokana to Denden (LONG)

From:Matt Pearson <jmpearson@...>
Date:Friday, November 19, 1999, 1:40
This message doesn't seem to have gone through, so I'm sending it
again.  Apologies if you get two copies!  -- Matt.

>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 > "The girl hits [things]" > "The girl is a hitter" > >The ergative subject, on the other hand, can be deleted freely, without the >need for a special marker on the verb. When the subject is absent, the word >order is OV: > > Ne mikal kahta > the.ABS boy hit > "The boy is hit" > "[Someone] hits the boy" > >(5) In embedded clauses, the word order is typically VSO (VOS is also >possible, but less frequent). In order to indicate that the clause is >embedded, >one of a special set of 'dependent order' suffixes is added to the verb. >This >suffix appears after the verb stem and before the suffixed determiner (if >any): > > ... kahta-n-na moiha ne mikal > ... hit-DEP-the.ERG girl the.ABS boy > ... "that the girl hits the boy" > >For example: > > Ikime iona kahta-n-na moiha ne mikal > we.DAT know hit-DEP-the.ERG girl the.ABS boy > "We know that the girl hits the boy" > >(6) Just as in main clauses, embedded clause arguments may be freely >deleted if their referents are unknown or irrelevant. As in main clauses, >deletion of the absolutive object is accompanied by the prefixing of "u-" >to the verb, while deletion of the ergative subject requires no verb >marking. The word order is VS or VO: > > Ikime iona u-kahta-n-na moiha > we.DAT know ANTIPASS-hit-DEP-the.ERG girl > "We know that the girl hits [things]" > > Ikime iona kahta-n-ne mikal > we.DAT know hit-DEP-the.ABS boy > "We know that [someone] hits the boy" > "We know that the boy is hit" > >(7) Relative clauses are formed using dependent suffixes on the verb >as well. In relative clauses, one of the arguments (viz. the one >corresponding to the head of the relative clause) is obligatorily absent. >Relative clauses always follow the noun they modify, just like in English: > > moiha [ kahta-n-ne mikal ] > girl hit-DEP-the.ABS boy > "a girl who hits the boy" > >Here, the relative clause "kahtanne mikal" modifies "moiha". Notice >that the argument inside the relative clause is marked with absolutive >case. Thus, we know that it is being interpreted as a direct object, >which means that the missing argument must be the subject. This is >how we know that the girl is the one who is doing the hitting. > > mikal [ kahta-n-na moiha ] > boy hit-DEP-the.ERG girl > "a boy whom the girl hits" > "a boy who is hit by the girl" > >Here, the relative clause "kahtanna moiha" modifies "mikal". Notice >that the argument inside the relative clause is marked with ergative >case, and is therefore the subject of the verb "hit". This is how we >know that the boy is the one being hit. > >(8) In relative clauses, just as in other kinds of embedded clauses, >it is possible to delete an argument whose referent is unknown or >irrelevant. As before, a deleted absolutive is marked by the prefix >"u-", while a deleted ergative is unmarked: > > moiha [ u-kahta-t ] > girl ANTIPASS-hit-DEP > "a girl who hits [things]" > "a girl who is a hitter" > >(Notice that we have "-t" instead of "-n" as the dependent suffix in >this case. "-t" and "-n" are just phonological variants of the same >suffix.) > > mikal [ kahta-t ] > boy hit-DEP > "a boy who is hit" > >Notice that in both expressions, "moiha ukahtat" and "mikal kahtat", >there is no subject or object after the verb. In other words, these >relative clauses contain 2 gaps. Because the verb is prefixed with "u-" >in the first case, we know that the verb denotes an action directed at >an unknown/irrelevant object; therefore the noun being modified by >the relative clause ("girl") must correspond to the subject of the verb. > >In the second case ("mikal kahtat") there is no "u-" prefix on the verb. >Therefore we know that the direct object is NOT unknown/irrelevant. >Therefore, it must be the SUBJECT which is unknown/irrelevant, while >the missing object corresponds to the head of the relative clause ("boy"). > >(9) It is also possible to form what are called 'free relative' construc- >tions, equivalent to the following: > > the one who hits the boy > s/he who hits the boy > > the thing which the girl hits > that which is hit by the girl > what the girl hits > >These are formed using a series of interrogative/indefinite >quantifiers roughly equivalent to "wh-" words in English: > > mioh "who, someone" > mah "what, something" > melh "where, somewhere" > ima "when, sometime" etc. > >If a determiner is added to these, they become definite expressions: > > ne mioh "the one who...", "s/he who..." > te mah "the thing which...", "that which..." > te melh "the place where..." > te ima "the time when..." > >These are literally "the who", "the what", "the where", and "the >when". (Note that "ne" is the unmarked determiner used with >animates, while "te" is the unmarked determiner for inanimates.) > >Putting the determiner + interrogative together with an embedded >relative clause gets us the following: > > ne mioh [ kahta-n-ne mikal ] > the who hit-DEP-the.ABS boy > "the one who hits the boy" > "s/he who hits the boy" > > ne mioh [ u-kahta-t ] > the who ANTIPASS-hit-DEP > "the one who hits [things]" > > ne mioh [ kahta-n-na moiha ] > the who hit-DEP-the.ERG girl > "the one who is hit by the girl" > > ne mioh [ kahta-t ] > the who hit-DEP > "the one who is hit [by someone]" > >Whew!!!! > >So, the subject noun phrase in the Tokana poem has the same form as >this last example: > > te mah [ ola-t suhoi ] > the what hear-DEP wind.DAT > "the thing which is heard [by someone] in the wind" > "that which is heard in the wind" > >Now, to put this phrase inside the larger sentence: > >The verb phrase is: > > uthma tsampatin > give body-balance > "gives balance to the body" > >Since the word order is SVO, the noun phrase "te mah olat suhoi" will >precede the verb. One final wrinkle: Since this expression is the >subject of the sentence, it must appear in the appropriate case. When >a subject is animate, the ergative case is normally used (as in >the sentences about the girl hitting the boy). However, "te mah olat >suhoi" is inanimate, and inanimate subjects must appear in the >instrumental case. Thus, the proper form will be "itan maha olat >suhoi" (where "itan" is the instrumental form of the inanimate >determiner "te", and "-a" is the instrumental noun suffix): > >[ Itan maha [ ola-t suhoi ] ] uthma >tsampatin > the.INST what.INST hear-DEP wind.DAT give body-balance >"That which is heard in the wind gives balance to the body" > >Is that clear at last? I hope so... > >Matt. > >