[Lingtyp] Differential inalienable marking

Peter Austin pa2 at soas.ac.uk
Wed Oct 9 21:06:53 UTC 2019

Dear Laura

The Kanyara and Mantharta language groups spoken between the Gascoyne and
Ashburton rivers in Western Australia distinguish between three nominal
classes for possession:

1. alienably possessed nouns where the possessor is encoded by a
dative/possessive inflected noun or pronoun (that also takes a case marker
in agreement with the case of the possessee), e.g. Jiwarli thuthu-ngka
nhurra-mpa-la dog-loc 2sg-dat-loc 'with your dog'

2. kinship nouns where the possessor is encoded by a word-forming suffix
added directly to the possessee, e.g. Jiwarli -ju 1sgposs, -ngku 2sgposs.
These forms are then marked for case by a following suffix, e.g.
kunyjan-ju-ra older.sister-1sgposs-loc 'with my older sister'

3. body-part nouns where the possessor is in apposition with the possessee
noun and takes the same case form as the possessee, e.g. ngatha-la
mara-ngka 1sg-loc hand-loc 'with my hand'

Classes 2 and 3 seem to illustrate the "split in inalienable possession"
that you are looking for. The details and examples can be found in my draft
Matharta grammar that is available on Academia.edu.

Best wishes

On Wed, 9 Oct 2019 at 19:34, ARNOLD Laura <Laura.Arnold at ed.ac.uk> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> I’m investigating a feature that I’m calling ‘differential inalienable
> marking’. Differential inalienable marking is found in some languages with
> a morphosyntactic alienability distinction in adnominal possessive
> constructions. In ‘inalienable’ constructions (i.e., those constructions
> that are more closely associated with expressing inalienable relationships
> between the possessor and possessee, such as body parts and kin terms),
> these languages make a further morphological or morphosyntactic distinction
> – for example, with two distinct paradigms marking the person and number of
> the possessor.
> This distinction may be semantically conditioned – for example, kin terms
> may be marked with one paradigm, body parts another. Below is an example
> from Ambai (Austronesian), in which a 3sg possessor is predictably marked
> on kin terms with the suffix *-na*, and on body parts with *-n*.
> (1) Ambai (Silzer 1983: 88-9)
> (a) ina*-na*
>       mother-3sg
>      ‘his/her mother’
> (b) awe*-n*
>       foot-3sg
>       ‘his/her foot’
> Alternatively, the distinction may be lexically specified. In Kula
> (Timor-Alor-Pantar), the possessor is marked on most body parts and kin
> terms with one paradigm; however, there is a subset of body parts which are
> unpredictably marked with a different paradigm. This is exemplified in (2):
> a 1st person exclusive possessor is marked on the body part *nikwa* ‘eye’
> with the prefix *ng-*, but on the body part *kárik* ‘finger’ with *nge-*.
> (2) Kula (Williams 2017: 226)
> (a) *ng*-nikwa
>       1excl-eye
>       ‘my/our eye’
> (b) *nge-*kárik
>       1excl-finger
>       ‘my/our finger’
> Note that I am *not *counting either phonologically predictable
> allomorphy or free variation as differential inalienable marking.
> This feature is attested in several languages spoken in east Indonesia.
> Has anyone come across differential inalienable marking elsewhere in the
> world? (As you can see from the examples, the distinction may be very
> subtle…)
> With best wishes from Edinburgh,
> Laura
> ~~~
> Laura Arnold
> British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
> Room 1.13, Dugald Stewart Building
> School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences
> University of Edinburgh
> The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland,
> with registration number SC005336.
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Prof Peter K. Austin
Emeritus Professor in Field Linguistics, SOAS
Visiting Researcher, Oxford University
Foundation Editor, EL Publishing
Honorary Treasurer, Philological Society
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
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London WC1H 0XG
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