[Lingtyp] Pronominalised proper names in Old Tamil

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Mon Mar 25 12:47:36 UTC 2019

Dear Samia,

Several years ago I was looking cross-linguistically at constructions 
which would seem to overlap with the kind of construction that you are 
interested in.  Unfortunately I got bogged down in definitional matters 
and abandoned the topic.  But here are some data that might be relevant.

In Papuan Malay, any NP, including proper names, can be marked for 
person (1st, 2nd or 3rd) and number.  (There is no gender in Papuan 
Malay.)  The NP can occur in any position in the sentence. For example

(1) sa lia Niko ko di pasar
     1SG see Niko 2SG in market
     'I saw you/Niko in the market'

The above meets your requirement for person marking but not for 
agreement. Now Papuan Malay also has a construction which might be 
characterized as optional incipient subject-verb agreement.  So putting 
that together with person marking on a proper name in subject position, 
you get constructions such as the following:

(2) Niko ko kelemarin ko lia sa di pasar
     Niko 2SG yesterday 2SG see 1SG in market
     'You/Niko yesterday saw me in the market'

This is now like what you're looking for, except that I would 
characterize the subject NP "Niko ko" as the controller of agreement and 
the verbal complex "ko lia" as its target, which seems to be the 
opposite of what you describe for Tamil (though the difference could be 

Papuan Malay is alone amongst Malay/Indonesian dialects in having this 
construction, and it is a clear calque on similar constructions that are 
available in some of the local languages of West Papua — if you're 
interested I could try and dig up some data (though when I was working 
on this, I wasn't concerned specifically with proper names).

Outside New Guinea, you might take a look at Classical Nahuatl:

Andrews, J. Richard. 1975. Introduction to Classical Nahuatl. Austin: U 
of Texas Press.

where person-marked proper names are reported (p.193), though I wouldn't 
know about agreement patterns.

Then there's Nama, which also productively marks NPs for person, though 
my notes don't specify whether this includes also proper names.  You 
could look at pp. 41-45 of the following reference (which unfortunately 
I don't have access to right now):

Hagman, Roy S. (1977) Nama Hottentot Grammar, Indiana University Press, 

Best wishes,


On 25/03/2019 13:18, Samia Naïm wrote:
> Dear colleagues
> I am relaying to Dr Appasamy Murugaiyan (a.murugaiyan at wanadoo.fr 
> <mailto:a.murugaiyan at wanadoo.fr>), a specialist of Old Tamil (EPHE-UMR 
> 7528 Mondes iranien et indien), who is interested in the languages 
> where the proper names take PNG markers and agree with the predicate.
> Here is his request :
> « Pronominalised proper names in Old Tamil»
> In Dravidian languages, particularly in OlD Tamil, a special 
> construction known under different terms such as “/Pronominalised 
> Noun/, /Participial Noun/, /Appellative Verb/, /Conjugated Noun/, 
> /Personal noun” / is used. From a historical perspective. This 
> /pronominalised //noun/(PNN) is formed by affixing the Person Number 
> and Gender (PNG) marker to any stem (STEM + PNG). These PNN forms in 
> 1^st , 2^nd and 3^rd persons are attested in many Classical Tamil 
> verses with distinctive grammatical functions as argument or 
> predicate. Whereas, in Modern Tamil the PNN forms as occurred in 1^st 
> and 2^nd person nouns have almost fallen into disuse and those in 3^rd 
> person, though are in use, this, however, tends to be generalised and 
> lost their Person distinction. On the contrary, in Tamil inscriptions 
> ((9th to 12th Century CE)the PNN seem to be frequently used. A 
> detailed analysis of the data from the inscriptional Tamil reveals not 
> only that PNN are used in wider grammatical contexts and preserve 
> their multifunctionality, they also found to exhibit a unique feature 
> where, the proper names are pronominalized. The pronominalisation of 
> proper names is not at all attested in other corpus of Tamil.
> In Tamil, the bare form of proper names, with out any marker added, 
> are difinite and 3^rd person singular names.
> Peter   koḍu.tt.āṉ                   ‘Peter gave’
> Peter     give.past.3^rd .s.m
> In modern Tamil to say « I, Pater, gave » a eriphrastic construction 
> is used:
> Peter   ākiya               nāṉ      koḍu.tt.ēṉ
> Pater     be.ADJP           I give.past.1s
> ADJP = Adjectival participle
> But in the the Tamil epgraphic corpus (9th to 12th Century CE), the 
> proper name is prominalised and agrees with the verb. This 
> construction is not noticed or 2^nd and 3^rd persons.
> Peter.ēṉ          koḍu.tt.ēṉ
> Peter.1s             give.past.1s
> This construction « proper name+PNG », is noticed only in Tamil 
> epigraphic texts and I think it is an innovation.
> This type of pronominalisation is noticed in Elamit. DAVID W. McALPIN, 
> Proto- Elamo- Dravidian: The Evidence and its Implications 1981, THE 
> The comparison proposed by David McAlpin is mainly based on the 
> pronominalisation construction shown above.
> The question is: Are there other languages wher the proper names take 
> PNG markers and agree with the predicate or for any other syntactic 
> reasons.
> Thanks and Best regards
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20190325/c26b93d3/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list