9855 - Animacy effects within the pronominal domain in Athapaskan

This presentation explores the effects of animacy within the pronominal domain throughout the Athapaskan language family. The importance of the animacy hierarchy in Navajo for a syntactic analysis of agreement marking (Southern Athapaskan) has been known since Hale (1973), and Witherspoon (1977) for a cultural analysis of the conceptual background. The pronominal yi-/bi- alternation is based on six or more nominal classes that vary according to animacy, degree of control, and material characteristics. (‘The man yi-kicks the horse’, but not ‘*The horse yi-kicks the man’; rather ‘The man lets himself to be bi-kicked by the horse’ (active construction in Navajo)).

The clausal perspective is enhanced by including the discourse pragmatics of these constructions (what happens when ‘equals’ meet?), and identifying subgropus within the family accordingly. It is suggested that what could be called an inverse system in Southern Athapaskan has evolved by the reanalysis of a human pronoun and an earlier non-human demonstrative.

Complementing these non-speech act markers are two originally indefinite pronouns, one human subject (eg. Beaver ts’a-) and one non-human subject/object marker (eg. Beaver i’-). The human one has developed further uses in many languages that include specific, personal constructions, such as the appreciative or the first person plural marker. Another originally classificatory prefix called the Areal (e.g. Beaver ghu) also shows human indefinite object as well as human specific object usages (Jung 1999).

Keywords: Athapaskan, pronouns, inverse, animacy

Author: Jung, Dagmar (University of Cologne, Germany / Deutschland)


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