Query (Nenets)

Johanna Laakso johanna.laakso at univie.ac.at
Wed May 21 19:39:18 UTC 2003

(Moderator's note: Although this answer to Michael Riessler's query concerns
a rather small detail, I think it deserves to be forwarded to all
URA-LISTers, as it contains a valuable lesson in source criticism...)

Tapani Salminen (tasalmin at cc.helsinki.fi) writes:


Lähetän tämän suoraan sinulle, niin voit harkita, onko se paikallaan koko
listalle vai lähetänkö sen vain kysyjälle:

- - - - - - -

> Collinder (1957:432, quoting Castrén) gives an example from Nenets:
> tiic´i-da jææle
> cold-Px3sg. day
> 'the cold day'.

Collinder does not strictly speaking quote Castrén, but says that
"according to Castrén, <tiic´ida jææle> means 'the cold day', whereas
<jææleda tiic´i> means 'the day is cold'". If we take a look at the
original reference, which Collinder does not mention but which can be
found at the beginning of the chapter on adjectives in Castrén
(1854: 187), there is no mention of a possessive suffix but Castrén simply
states that "[a]ttributiv gebraucht nehmen sie [= einige Adjective] immer
das Suffix <da> an". The actual forms Collinder cites faithfully following
his own transcription system; in the original they appear as <tîcida jâle>
'der kalte Tag' and <jâleda tîci> 'der Tag ist kalt'. It is therefore easy
to understand why Collinder must have thought that the suffix <da> was the
same in both phrases.

At this point, it must be remembered that Castrén (1854) was published
posthumously, and a minimum requirement for quoting lexical material from
Castrén is to double check the data on the basis of Castrén (1855). We do,
indeed, find that the attributive form quoted above is recorded
differently and, as we can immediately tell, more reliably in Castrén
(1855: 28, 239), namely as <t´iet´edea> or <t´iet´idea>. It is the
imperfective participle form, in modern phonological transcription,
/tyecy°dya/ (in most varieties of Tundra Nenets without optional
palatalization /tyecy°da/) of the verb /tyecyø-/ 'to be cold', of which
the indicative aorist 3rd person singular form is in Eastern dialects
/tyícyi/ (in other dialects without metaphony /tyecyi/). Incidentally,
metaphony cannot occur in the participle, so <tîcida> in Castrén
(1854: 187) is partly theorized.

The full phrases are thus /tyecy°da yalya/ 'a/the cold day' (no
definiteness implied) and /yalyada tyícyi/ 'the day is cold', in which the
elements involving /da/ bear no relation to each other: in /tyecy°da/ it
represents the imperfective participle marker {n~t(y)a} and only in
/yalyada/ it is the realization of the 3rd person singular possessive
suffix {t(y)a}. Castrén would have known that besides "das Suffix <da>" a
variant with /n/ also existed, for example in the imperfective participle
form /pøryidyenya/ of the verb /pøryidye-/ 'to be black', but for some
reason this piece of information was excluded from Castrén (1854: 187). It
is available in a large number of later sources of Tundra Nenets though.

Castrén 1854 = M. Alexander Castrén's Grammatik der samojedischen
Sprachen. Herausgegeben von Anton Schiefner. St. Petersburg 1854.
Castrén 1855 = M. Alexander Castrén's Wörterverzeichnisse aus den
samojedischen Sprachen. Bearbeitet von Anton Schiefner. St. Petersburg

Tapani Salminen

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