[Lingtyp] Differential inalienable marking

Randy J. LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Thu Oct 10 02:37:25 UTC 2019

Dear Laura,
In the Qiang language (Northern Sichuan, China; Tibeto-Burman), if the relationship is inalienable possession and the referent is something that does not normally exist apart from the possessor, such as a body part, the clause takes the form of a simple existential clause, and the possessor appears as a genitive possessor of the body part in a single noun phrase with the body part, and the verb is intransitive (with that one noun phrase as its sole argument), a clear example of Heine’s (1997) Genitive Schema, but if the situation involves ownership of an object which is not part of the person (i.e. is not physically inalienable, including other people, such as in kinship relations), then the causative suffix (see §4.2.2) is used with the verb of possession to make it transitive, i.e. an Action Schema. So what is normally thought of as inalienable is restricted to just physically inalienable and does not include kinship relations. I’ll attach the pages from my grammar of Qiang on this (LaPolla, Randy J., with Chenglong Huang. 2003. A Grammar of Qiang, with Annotated Texts and Glossary (Mouton Grammar Library 39). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.)

Hope this is useful.

Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
Professor of Linguistics, with courtesy appointment in Chinese, School of Humanities 
Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-45, 48 Nanyang Avenue | Singapore 639818
Most recent books:
The Sino-Tibetan Languages, 2nd Edition (2017)
https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324 <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
Sino-Tibetan Linguistics (2018)
https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397 <https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397>

> On 10 Oct 2019, at 2:33 AM, 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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