[Lingtyp] Differential inalienable marking

Alex Francois francois at vjf.cnrs.fr
Thu Oct 10 01:25:15 UTC 2019

dear Laura

Thanks for an interesting query.

*Teanu*, one of the 3 languages of Vanikoro (Temotu province, Solomon
Islands; 800sp.), is unusual among Oceanic languages, in having lost all
bound morphology — specifically, possessive suffixes. And yet, it has
preserved the essential principles of Oceanic possessive systems, in

(D) direct possession [*Pss-d Pss-or*]   for some inalienable relations

   1. body parts
   2. several bivalent nouns like “name of”, “inside of…”
   3. [*lexically determined*] some nouns referring to clothes &  intimate

(I) indirect possession [*Pss-d Lnk Pss-or*]  with 4 *distinct* linkers for:

   1. {Lnk = /*ma*/} "drink" possession ; +  [*lexically determined*]
   'breast, chest (of man/woman)'
   2. {Lnk = /*we*/} "eat/tool" possession:  food + tools + language
   3. {Lnk = /*ie*/, 1sg = /*one*/} most kinship terms
   4. {Lnk = /*ie*/, 1sg = /*enone*/} default possession:  most possessed
   items (incl. clothes), economic property, etc.; some kin terms…

Some examples follow:

(D1)  noma   Bakap

      face    (name)

        'Bakap's face'  [Bakap = a male name]

(D1’) noma   ene

      face    Pron:1sg

        'my face'

(D2)  kie    Bakap

      hole    (name)

       'Bakap's grave'

(D3)  lusa   Bakap

      shirt   (name)

        'Bakap's shirt'

(D3’) lusa   ene

      shirt   Pron:1sg

        'my shirt'

(I1)  ero       *me*    Bakap

      water/milk DRINK  (name)

        'Bakap's (drinking) water/milk'

(I1’) ero       *me*    Bakap

      water/milk DRINK  (name)

        'Bakap's chest'

(I2)  buioe    *we*        Bakap

      areca     FOOD/TOOL  (name)

        'Bakap's areca nuts (to chew)'

(I2’) kompiuta  *we*       Bakap

      computer   FOOD/TOOL  (name)

        'Bakap's computer'

(I2”) piene  *we*       Bakap

      words   FOOD/TOOL  (name)

        'Bakap's language'

(I3)  et’     *ie*   Bakap

      mother   KIN  (name)

        'Bakap's mother'

(I3’) et’     *one*

      mother   KIN:1sg

        'my mother'

(I4a)  mwoe   *ie*       Bakap

       house   GEN.POSS  (name)

        'Bakap's house'

(I4a’) mwoe   *enone*

       house   GEN.POSS:1sg

        'my house'

(I4b)  piene  *ie*       Bakap

       words   GEN.POSS  (name)

        'Bakap's speech'

(I4b’) piene  *enone*

       words   GEN.POSS:1sg

        'my speech'

(I4c)  emele  *ie*       Bakap

       woman   GEN.POSS   (name)

        'Bakap's wife'

(I4c’) emele  *enone*

       woman   GEN.POSS:1sg

        'my wife'

Note that I am avoiding to use the term "inalienable" here, because it is
unclear to me whether it is supposed to refer to a universal category
(semantic? formal?).  In this case, Teanu distinguishes formally between
'his mother' and 'his wife', a contrast which could be described as
(semantically) inalienable vs. alienable, yet it does so within the (emic)
category of "indirect possession", which is often equated in the (Oceanic)
literature with "alienable".
All in all I can't really say that the two concepts "inalienable" vs.
"alienable" define any clearcut formal contrast in this language.  As you
see in these examples show, the alienability opposition rather cuts through
several formal categories. — compare (D1) vs. (D3), or (I1) vs. (I1'), etc.


Alex François

LaTTiCe <http://www.lattice.cnrs.fr/en/alexandre-francois/> — CNRS–
–Sorbonne nouvelle
Australian National University
Academia page <https://cnrs.academia.edu/AlexFran%C3%A7ois> – Personal
homepage <http://alex.francois.online.fr/>

On Thu, 10 Oct 2019 at 05:33, 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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