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THEORY: Odd case systems (was Re: Charlie and I)

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Sunday, September 19, 1999, 17:27
"Raymond A. Brown" wrote:

> There is case; it just works > differently from both Classical Latin & from what the prescriptivists think > English should have.
True. I can't remember if I've already told the list about this, but in Atkan Aleut (Alaskan language), there is a case system of sorts, but not at all what you might expect. The absolutive (in singular, -x^, the voiceless uvular fricative) is used for all nouns in the sentence if each is specifically mentioned: (1) Hlax^ mikakux^ boy:AbsSg play:Pres:SgSub "The boy is playing." (2) Hlax^ suunaadax^ agukux^ boy:AbsSg boat:AbsSg make:Pres:SgSub "The boy is making a boat." (3) Piitrax^ asxinus kidukux^ Peter:AbsSg girl:Pl help:Pres:SgSub "Peter is helping the girls." The relative (here, -m), on the other hand, is really weird. It's used for singular subjects, but tells you that an objective noun is implied by the verb but is not directly stated (i.e., is a pronoun of some sort): (4) Hlam aguqaa boy:RELSg make:Past:SgObj "The boy made it." (5) Piitram kidukungis. Peter:RelSg help:Pres:PlObj "Peter is helping them." The case essentially tells you "Hey, I'm a singular subject, but you also need to be looking for an object somewhere." But not only does the noun change, the verb decides to agree with the object instead. It looks like all this might have evolved out of an ergative-absolutive system, but clearly isn't now, because the relative and absolutive can both be used for syntactic subjects of any type of verb (well, the relative can't be used for transitives, obviously, because there are no objects). Of course, the whole system gets considerably messier when *all* nouns are implied, but we won't get into that... ======================================================= Tom Wier <artabanos@...> ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom Website: <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." Denn wo Begriffe fehlen, Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Zeit sich ein. -- Mephistopheles, in Goethe's _Faust_ ========================================================