Re: Various weirdnesses in natlangs, plus obconlang questions following them
|From:||Tim May <butsuri@...>|
|Date:||Friday, May 19, 2006, 14:40|
(Some notes, with reference to Mithun's _Languages of Native North
Eldin Raigmore wrote at 2006-05-18 20:34:00 (-0400)
> [CYCLIC LANGUAGES]
> Milewski mentions a group of languages, all of which, he says, are
> restricted to various parts of British Columbia, which he calls
> "cyclic languages".
> In these languages, a word's "function in the clause" is not marked
> in/on that word, but in/on the previous word. To say it a little
> differently, in these languages, a word does not mark its own
> "function in the clause", but rather, marks the next word's
> There is one function reserved for the first word -- it appears to
> always be the verb, or, at least, is in the examples Milewski
> actually printed.
> There is one marking which means "this is the last word in this
> Has anyone's conlang ever done anything that weird?
> Milewski's example languages that he mentions are;
> Kwakiutl (a Mosan (?) language)
Mosan is a proposed macrofamily comprising Salishan, Wakashan, and
Chimakuan. According to Mithun it's generally been abandoned by
specialists, the similarities being attributable to contact. Kwakiutl
is a Wakashan language (as Patrick mentions in his reply).
Both members of the Tsimshianic family.
> Apparently Kwakiutl is what we would call accusative, while Nass and
> Tsimshian are what we would call ergative.
> Does anyone know anything about these languages? Or about any
> other "cyclic" natlangs?
Like Patrick says, it's (to the best of my knowledge) a matter of case
particles that precede the noun and cliticise to the word they follow.
(Although I have a feeling I've read _something_ more like Milewski's
account, about something, somewhere.)
Here's Mithun on Sm'algyax (which is the same language as Tsimshian).
| (18) SM'ALGYAX ERGATIVE PRONOMINAL CLITICS Mulder 1988: 99
| yagwa=*t* dzap=dit Rita waas.
| PRESENT=*3ERGATIVE* make=ERGATIVE.PROPER blanket
| 'Rita (*ERGATIVE*) is making a blanket.'
| Case on full noun phrases is specifed by clitics that precede the noun
| phrase but merge phonologically with the word to tehir left. In (18)
| the clitic _=dit_ marks the following noun _Rita_ as ergative, but it is
| attached to the preceding word 'make'. (It is interesting that a
| similar pattern appears in the Northern Wakashan languages, including
| Kwakwala. The languages are genetically unrelated, but they are
| geographicallly adjacent.) The Sm'algyax clitics distinguish
| ergative, absolutive, genitive, and oblique (benefactive,
| instrumental, locative, temporal) categories. The case enclitics,
| termet 'connectives' by Tsimshianists, also distinguish common nouns
| from proper nouns, which include independent pronouns. The enclitic
| _=dit_ in (18) identifies _Rita_ not only as ergative but also as a
| proper name. Case enclitics for common noun phrases can be seen in
| (19): _=a_ absolutive common and _=da_ ergative common.
| (19) SM'ALGYAX COMMON NOUN CLITICS Mulder 1988: 46, 58, 46
| a. Nah siipg=*a* ƚguqoomƚk.
| PAST sick=*ABSOLUTIVE.COMMON* child
| 'The child (*ABSOLUTIVE*) was sick.'
| b. Yagwa hadiks=*a* sts'ool da ts'm t'aaks.
| PRESENT swim=*ABSOLUTIVE.COMMON* beaver oblique in pond
| 'A beaver (*ABSOLUTIVE*) is swimming in the pond'
| c. Yagwa=t huum=*da* duus=*a* hoon.
| PRESENT=3ERGATIVE smell=*ERGATIVE.COMMON* cat=*ABSOLUTIVE.COMMON* fish
| 'The cat (*ERGATIVE*) is sniffing the fish.' (elicited)
| The language thus shows interesting distinctions among kinds of
| grammatical relations: ergative pronouns are clausal clitics, while
| absolutive pronouns are verbal suffixes; core case markers are
| nominal clitics, while obliques are particles.