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Nominal classes in Itakian. What do you think of it?

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Thursday, January 27, 2000, 12:58
I've been working lately on more grammatical aspects of Itakian (now that
the phonology and morphophonology are more or less settled for now :) ).
I've particularly worked on the nominal classes, their meaning and their
marks. So here it is!


All nominal classes (there are ten of them in Itakian) can be said to have
two meanings:
- a "lexical" meaning which is simply the general meaning of the class
- a "derivative" meaning when the class mark is used to derive another
meaning  from a noun which is of another class.
The system of derivation is very important and quite complex (intricated in
fact). So here are the primary ("lexical") and secondary ("derivative")
meanings of the different classes:


class 1: beings with high volitionality: humans (individuals); high spirits.
class 2: beings with medium volitionality: small groups of humans with
important links (typically: families); big animals (individuals); slaves
class 3: beings with low volitionality: big groups of humans (typically:
people, nations); groups of animals; groups of slaves (typically: the staff).
class 4: beings without volitionality: plants; objects capable of moving by
themselves (robots, machines).
class 5: long beings: trees; things that "stream" (rivers).
class 6: small beings: small objects; small animals (pets); units of masses
(salt, sugar).
class 7: composed beings: small groups of objects; drops of liquid; big
class 8: big composed beings: big objects.
class 9: untouchable but visible things: smoke.
class 10: untouchable and invisible things: gas; invisible objects;

Those are the primary meanings of the classes. As you see, they are quite
large and allow some interesting irregularities :) . I'm thinking for
instance of putting languages in class 5, because languages "stream" from
one person to another (maybe all means of communication will be in this
class :) ).


When the class mark is used as a derivation from a noun of another class
(it replaces the original class mark of this noun), the classes have the
following meaning:

class 1: from any class, it has a personnification meaning, or a laudative
class 2: it is used to make a paucal from nouns of class 1.
class 3: it gives a plural for classes 1 and 2.
class 4: it forms a collective for classes 1, 2 and 3.
class 5: no derivative meaning attested for now.
class 6: used from any class to makes diminutives and "caressing" nouns.
class 7: used for the paucal of class 6.
class 8: makes the plural of classes 5, 6 and 7. From any class, has also
an augmentative or pejorative meaning.
class 9: used to make collectives from classes 5, 6, 7 and 8. Used also to
make abstractives.
class 10: used to make abstractives. The choice between class 9 and class
10 for abstractives is more or less lexical (it generally has to do with
visibility-invisibility of the abstraction represented, a feature that I
cannot explain now because I'm working on it :) ).

Of course, you find also a handful of other unproductive derivations which
are available for small lists of words only.


Nominal classes marks are prefixes to the noun radical. However, when the
noun is preceeded by a preposition, the class prefix disappears and the
preposition is suffixed by a corresponding class suffix (which is generally
identical to the class prefix) Each class mark has thus a prefixed form and
a suffixed form. The prefixed form often blends in one way or another with
the first syllable of the radical. This is not the case for the class
suffixes to prepositions (this blending happens on deep structure, so it's
reflected by writing changes). In this presentation, N refers to a vowel
_and/or_ a liquid (and NN' can refer to any sequence VV, VL, LV and LL). C
will refer here to any consonnant except the glottal stop ' (so C: p t k f
s x h).

To present all this, I also have to show the tones which are very
important. The notation I will use adds a tone mark at the end of a
syllable to mark tone:
- a / for rising tone,
- a \ for falling tone,
- a | for high tone,
- nothing for low tone.
The tones often change due to the constraints that I explained in my
earlier post: two following tones must match on their contact (the second
tone changes accordingly if needed), and two syllables that fusion see
their tones fusioning too.

Now here are the different class marks:

class 1 (called also class 'i/):
suffixed form: 'ii/
prefixed form: 'i/ before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make 'iN'

class 2 (called also class ce/):
suffixed form: ce/
prefixed form: ce/ before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make c(N)N'

class 3 (or class 'ar):
suffixed form: 'ar
prefixed form: 'a before C
               blends with 'N to make 'rN
               contacts 'NN' to make 'a'rN'

classes 4 and 7 (or classes xen/):
suffixed form: xen/
prefixed form: xen/ before C
               blends with 'V to make xVn
               blends with 'L to make xnL
               contacts 'NN' to make xN/'nN'

class 5 (or class 'ue):
suffixed form: 'ue
prefixed form: 'ue before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make 'uN'

class 6 (or class tia\):
suffixed form: tia\
prefixed form: tia\ before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make tiN'

class 8 (or class si):
suffixed form: si
prefixed form: si before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make siN'

class 9 (or class 'na\):
suffixed form: 'na\
prefixed form: zero for some nouns (with no special distinctive features)
               'na\ before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make 'nN'

class 10 (or class 'n\):
suffixed form: zero
prefixed form: zero for some nouns (with no special distinctive features)
               'n\ before C
               blends with '(N)N' to make 'nN'

NOTE: as you see, classes 4 and 7 have exactly the same mark (they are
differentiated with the agreement marks on other parts of the sentence).
This may reflect a common origin or a semantic union.

NOTE2: classes 9 and 10 have similar marks, and some words of those classes
have no class mark (thus these are the classes where borrowing is easiest).
The principal difference between those classes is that when the nouns are
preceeded by a preposition, class 9 suffixes 'na\ on the preposition (even
if the noun has no class mark by itself), whereas class 10 suffixes a
zero-mark (nothing :), not even a tone change ).

NOTE3: an important grammatical feature is that the first syllable of the
trigger is always high tone (|), whatever it was before (class mark,
syllable coming from the fusion of the class mark and the first syllable of
the radical, etc...).

Okay, I think that's enough for now :) . I'm now working on the trigger
system and the way nominal clauses are handled, as well as a few other
things about verbs. If you're interested, just ask! :)

                                                        Christophe Grandsire
                                                |Sela Jemufan Atlinan C.G.

"Reality is just another point of view."

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