6502 - The Grammaticization of Prepositions in Q'anjob'al (Mayan)

Like other Mesoamerican languages, Q'anjob'al expresses spatial ideas with "relational nouns" (RN) from component/body part terms. The RN category is not unified, however, and "noun" is not its best syntactic identification.

Ul 'inside' is a possessed noun (with 3rd erg. prefix y‑ ), object of 'paint' 1; 2 shows ul 's RN use:

1.X-in b'on (y-ul) te' na.
cm - A1s paint (A3-inside) cf
'I painted (the inside of) the house'

2. X-in b'on-waj *(y-ul) te' na.
cm-B1s paint- ap *(A3-inside) cf house
'I painted inside the house'

Y-ul can be omitted from 1 (with meaning change), butnot from 2: the antipassive b'on-waj allows only one (abs.) argument, its subject 'I'. Thus, in 2 y-ul is not a noun (despite homophony with 'its inside'), but a preposition (cf. Lillehaugen 2006 re Zapotec).

Some component words are used prepositionally only to show contact with the up-facing part. Thus, chop 'buttocks' can't express 'under' (a common Mesoamerican development), but can mean 'on the underside of' 3:

3.Ay ay tx'an chop motx'.
exist dr cf buttocks basket
'It is on the bottom of the [upsidedown]

This 'on' sense appears only in existential/positional locationals, not with other verbs as in 2. This restricted use thus begins the path to prepositional development (Hollenbach 1995).

Fully lexicalized prepositions don't have the 'on' interpretation: pak'il 'side'>'beside' can't mean 'on the upside of':

4.Lekan aqtoq ix *(y-ib'an) pak'il ch'en carro .
stand dr cf *(A3-on) side cf car

'She stands on the side of the car [it's lying on its other side]'

Some spatial prepositions which behave identically with the component part prepositions (like y-ib'an 4) have lost any noun use they once had; others express non-spatial ideas ( etoq 'with').

Q'anjob'al thus reveals several stages in the preposition grammaticization process.

Keywords: Q'anjob'al, Mayan, prepositions, relational nouns, grammaticization

Author: Munro, Pamela (UCLA, Ud States of Am / USA)


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