Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The puzzle of the extra pronouns

Like most (all?) Songhay languages, Kwarandzie has two sets of 3rd person pronouns: in this case, they are a (sg.) / i (pl.) vs. ana / ini. In southern Songhay (eg Koyra Chiini, the longer set are used as logophors - that is, used to refer back to the speaker in reported speech. This is not the case in Kwarandzie, though.

ana/ini are obligatory in pre-sentential topic and focus position (including when followed by a preposition), while a/i are obligatory for possessors:

ana (*a) a e-kka. ghi "it's him that hit me."
ini (*i) i-bbey ibbagen "them, they know tales."
an (*anan) kembi "his hand"

But in normal object position, either set can occur:

e-ggwa / e-ggwana "he saw him"

After much checking, I still have no idea what factors drive the selection of one or the other in this position. These are not used, Algonquian-style, for tracking two distinct referents: ²e-gga.r.ana ²e-kka.r.a "I found him and hit him" can as easily refer to hitting the same person as to two different objects.

So it's not logophoricity (much less reflexives), it's not an obviative or a switch-reference system, it's not related to politeness or gender... can anyone think of another possibility for me to check before I leave?

7 comments:

David Marjanović said...

And it can't be like in French (je l'ai vu / moi, je l'ai vu)except that the French system is limited to the nominative?

Glen Gordon said...

Interesting. Well, here's my desperate attempt at a solution. How about tense/aspect/mood? Maybe transitivity? Telicity? Ergativity? Subjective/objective?

It immediately reminded me of subjective/objective conjugation in Nenets the way you presented it. But then again, I could be way off.

Glen Gordon said...

Sorry, now I can't stop thinking about this. Let me develop my swiss-cheese idea further. You said that the simpler set is used for possessors. So effectively then these are like forms in a genitive case, let's say. Maybe there are two kinds of objects at play here: the longer version is acting underlyingly like an accusative and the shorter form is acting underlyingly like a genitive, possibly?

By thinking of it that way, then theoretically could the form e-ggwana have a durative connotation while e-ggwa has a punctual one? Or alternatively, could the form e-ggwana convey object-focus while e-ggwa conveys subject-focus?

Anyways, I'll shut up now :)

redcatblackcat said...

Just a quick comment re "Algonquian-style": the proximate-obviative contrast in Algonquian languages seems to have an undeserved reputation for tracking distinct referents. In fact it appears to be more about tracking dependencies between referents. Indeed, proximate-obviative statuses often switch so much that they end up no better at maintaining referent distinctions than the 3rd person pronouns of English are.

redcatblackcat said...

Actually, also from the Algonquian side: is it possible that the longer pronouns are actually possessed nouns (given what you've shown of the possessive forms, this looks possible), while the shorter ones are more like clitic-y D-heads?

In most of the Algonquian languages I work with, the freestanding pronouns are actually concatenations of clitic person morphology with a bleached/lightish nominal stem: in W. Abenaki, for example, the stem is -ia, which is etymologically 'flesh, material', and from it you get

n-ia '1s'
k-ia '2s'

Abenaki dialects for separate reasons have unrelated 3rd person forms, but other Algonquian languages show the full paradigm with a nominal stem in *-iila, e.g. Ojibwe:

n-iin '1s'
k-iin '2s'
w-iin '3s'

In other words, in Abenaki when you have the freestanding full pronoun 'I, me', you have something that at least morphosyntactically is like 'my flesh, my material'.

If this is the case for Kwarandzie, it would explain why the longer ones can't be used with possessor morphology, since they essentially already are that structure in and of themselves; this then would only require some explanation for why stacking of a possession construction here would be bad.

Correspondingly, we'd assume that you need something a bit more phonologically freestanding for presentential topic/focus position, since nothing would be there to host a weak D citic. A possessed bleached/lightish noun stem would fit the bill. Only question here would be why a preposition couldn't be enough to host the morphophonoligically lighter element.

Then finally, in object position, both should be possible, since the verb could host the D clitic, but presumably a freestanding possessed noun should be equally possible.

No doubt there are a million other factors I'm unaware of in Kwarandzie that might rule out this account, but I thought it might be worth suggesting.

Lameen Souag said...

Thank you all (belatedly) for your excellent comments. The possessed noun idea is nifty, and consistent with the facts so far observed, but doesn't seem to allow any way of predicting when ana or a will be used in object position.

Anonymous said...

Taking "self" as noun:
me vs. my-self;
you vs. your-self;
etc.