[Lingtyp] Query on sentential names/Satznamen: concluding remarks

Iker Salaberri ikersalaberri at gmail.com
Sat Jun 22 07:12:28 EDT 2019

Dear all,

Thank you very much to everyone who has commented on this query and has
sent me references and examples. My sample of languages with sentential
names (SNs) has become considerably larger and more diverse.
I would now like to conclude my query by making a few cross-linguistic
generalizations based on (very) preliminary observations of my data:

It has been claimed recently that names have a "special onymic grammar"
(Anderson 2007: 127, 2015: 299, Nübling et al. 2015: 64, Stolz et al. 2017:
123). The aim of my study is to test this claim by comparing SNs in the
world's languages with their non-onymic clausal counterparts (relative
clauses, commands, declarations, questions, etc.). More specifically, I
take four variables into account: (a) phonological weight, i.e. number of
syllables; (b) morphological complexity, i.e. number of morphemes; (c) word
order; (d) presence vs. absence of dedicated onymic markers. I have so far
found out the following (I apologize in case some of the data are

1. The Basque example I mentioned in the previous message illustrates that
SNs can have fewer syllables than their non-onymic clausal counterparts
(Salaberri 2008: 733):

Euri-a dakarr-en gain-a
rain-DEF.ABS bring.3SG.PRES-REL summit-DEF
'The summit which brings rain' (Basque) (relative clause) (8 syllables)
'The summit which brings rain' (Basque) (SN) (6 syllables)

2. The Ese Ejja examples mentioned by Marine Vuillermet illustrate that SNs
can have fewer morphemes than their non-onymic clausal counterparts:
whereas in the latter locative is usually expressed by a clitic =*jo*, this
is not always the case in SNs (Vuillermet 2012: 217, 313):

Jáma=ya mími=naje radió=jo Sára
so=FOC speak-PST radio=LOC Sara
‘So said Sara on the radio’ (SN) (Ese Ejja)
‘(The one who) lives in the middle of the water’ (SN) (Ese Ejja)

The Mwotlap examples mentioned by Alexandre François seem to point in the
same direction: in this language nouns and some proper names are frequently
derived from other parts of speech by means of the derivational prefix *wo*-.
However, SNs in particular very often lack this same prefix (François 2001:
241, 243):

Yip           >    Nō-wō-yip-yip
blow               DEF- wō-blow-blow
‘To blow’          ‘Cigarette’ (Mwotlap)
No-yolah   >    Wo-yolah
DEF-seaweed  wō-seaweed
‘Seaweed’        ‘Woyolah (name of a reef)’ (Mwotlap)
‘Born during a food shortage’ (SN) (Mwotlap)
‘(She) waits for ships’ (SN) (Mwotlap)

3. The Amharic examples mentioned by Matthew Anstey show that the word
order of SNs and the most frequent word order of the language can be
different: in this language the usual order in declarative sentences with
full NPs is subject-object-verb (SOV) (Leslau 1995: 181). As opposed to
this, SNs can have SOV order, as in declarative clauses, but much more
frequently present (S)VO order (Leyew 2003: 209-210):

Addaňňu anbässa-w-ən gäddälä
hunter lion-DEF-ACC kill.3SG.PST
‘The hunter killed the lion’ (clause) (Amharic)
‘Let them spread a golden rug’ (SN) (Amharic)
Agäňňä räd
find.3SG.PST helper.ACC
‘He found a helper’ (SN) (Amharic)

In Turkish, as well, the optional oblique subject NP of a transitive
passive sentence usually precedes the verb, i.e. the order tends to be
Subject-Verb (SV) (Kornfilt 1997: 50, 144). In contrast, SNs containing
passive verbs and oblique subjects present the opposite order, i.e.
Verb-Subject (Aksu 2003: 178-179):

Zeynep bu haber-e çok üz-ül-dü
Zeynep this news-DAT very sadden-PASS-PST
‘Zeynep was very saddened by this news’ (clause) (Turkish)
Ali Hasan taraf-ɩn-dan öv-ül-dü
Ali Hasan side-3SG-ABL praise-PASS-PST
‘Ali was praised by Hasan’ (clause) (Turkish)
‘Built by Aziz’ (SN) (Turkish)

4. The Hoocank examples mentioned by Johannes Helmbrecht show that SNs can
be distinguished from their non-onymic clausal counterparts solely by means
of dedicated onymic markers (I repeat here his example):

peec taa'ehiga
peec taa'e=Ø-Ø-hi=ga
fire   blaze.up=3SG.U-3SG.A-cause=proper name
'He blazes up a fire' (this is a traditional name of the bird clan)

Whereas points 1. and 2. seem to be quite common, i.e. SNs are frequently
phonologically shorter/lighter and morphologically simpler than clauses, so
far I have found that points 3. and 4. are the exception rather than the
rule, i.e. SNs rarely diverge in word order, and they do not very often
take dedicated onymic markers. Does this support or contradict the claim
that names (in this case, SNs) have a "special onymic grammar"? I think
that much more research still needs to be done before a clear answer can be

Aksu, Ibrahim. 2003. The sultan’s journey and other Turkish placename
stories. *Names *51(3/4).163-192.
Anderson, John M. 2007. *The grammar of names*. Oxford: Oxford University
Anderson, John M. 2015. Names. In John R. Taylor (ed.), *The Oxford
handbook of the word*, 599-615. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
François, Alexandre. 2001. *Constraintes de structures et liberté dans
l’organisation du discours: Une description du mwotlap, langue océanienne
du Vanuatu*. Paris: Université Paris-IV Sorbonne dissertation.
Kornfilt, Jaklin. 1997. *Turkish*. London/New York: Routledge.
Leslau, Wolf. 1995. *Reference grammar of Amharic*. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Leyew, Zelealem. 2003. Amharic personal nomenclature: A grammar and
sociolinguistic insight. *Journal of African Cultural Studies* 16(2).
Nübling, Damaris, Fabian Fahlbusch & Rita Heuser. 2015. *Namen: Eine
Einführung in die Onomastik*. Tübingen: Narr.
Salaberri, Patxi. 2008. Satznamen direlakoen inguruan: Erlatibozko
perpausetan jatorri duten toponimoak aztergai [On so-called Satznamen:
Investigating toponyms which originate in relative clauses]. In Xabier
Artiagoitia & Joseba A. Lakarra (eds.), *Gramatika jaietan: Patxi
Goenagaren omenez*, 725-741. Bilbao/Bilbo: University of the Basque
Stolz, Thomas, Nataliya Levkovych & Aina Urdze. 2017. Die Grammatik der
Toponyme als typologisches Forschungsfeld: Eine Pilotstudie. In Johannes
Helmbrecht, Damaris Nübling & Barbara Schlücker (eds.), *Namengrammatik*,
121-146. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
Vuillermet, Marine. 2012. *A grammar of Ese Ejja, a Takanan language of the
Bolivian Amazon*. Lyon: Université Lumière Lyon 2 dissertation.

Iker Salaberri
Public University of Navarre
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