Person and Number morphemes

Jordan Lachler lachler at UNM.EDU
Sun Nov 4 03:02:48 UTC 2001


I am looking for references to languages which have both person and number
argument marking on the verb, and/or person and number marking for
possessor on the noun, but where these categories are not combined in the
same portmanteau morpheme, and are instead expressed by separate morphemes.

This is the case in Keresan languages, for example, where the transitive
verb (and the possessed noun) has the following basic structure:

	Person + Object/Patient # + Stem + Subject/Agent #

So, for instance, consider the following forms:

(Note: + is used to represent a barred-i)

si.u.m'eek'um'e            "I am watching him"
si.u.m'eek'um'e.sraty+     "we (dl) are watching him"
si.u.m'eek'um'e.shi        "we (pl) are watching him"

Here, the prefix si- indicates 1st person subject and a third person object
(as well as Factual mode), the prefix -u- indicates a singular object,
followed by the stem -m'eek'um'e- "watch someone/something", followed by
either "zero" for singular subject, -sraty+ for dual subject, or -shi for
plural subject.

Likewise with the verb stem -kacha "see someone/something".

si.u.kacha	"I saw him/her"
si.y'uu.kacha	"I saw them two"
si.w'aa.kacha	"I saw them (3+)"

Here, the prefix si- again indicates a first person acting on a third
person in the Factual mode, followed by either -u- for a singular object,
-y'uu- for a dual object, or -w'aa- for a plural object, followed by the
stem -kacha.

A similar pattern is found with possessed nouns.'a    "his/her buttock(s)"
g.u'u.much'a   "their (dl) buttocks"
g.uw'a.much'a  "their (pl) buttocks"

Here, the prefix g- indicates a third person possessor, followed by either
the prefix -au- for a singular possessor, -u'u- for a dual possessor, or
-uw'a- for a plural possessor, followed by the noun stem -much'a "buttock(s)".

(These patterns hold pretty well for transitive verbs and possessed nouns,
but intransitive verbs are a different story.)

If anyone knows of references to similar phenomena in other languages, I
would appreciate hearing about them.  I'll post a summary of responses to
the list.

Thanks very much!

Jordan Lachler
Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico
lachler at

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