Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Follow-up thoughts about pronominal objects

Okay, I might have gotten a bit overzealous in the previous post. This ka talo ne instead of ne ka talo business isn't winning any aesthetic awards in my neck of the woods, and I'm not sure it even really makes sense. Let's hold off on that while we think things through.

Vis-à-vis preposed objects, Nahuatl has me thinking that another reading might be desirable:

le Motekusoma ni puhu
NAME Moteuczoma 1SG greet 2SG
"It is I, Montezuma, who spoke"

Here ni is taking the pronoun position that i would usually fill in a clause like this. I suppose there isn't any reason why I can't do both, other than the risk of ambiguity; but actually, thinking it over, genuine ambiguity seems to be hard to come by. For one thing, the subject and object pronouns are in different places, thus

le Motekusoma ni na se kanu
NAME Moteuczoma 1SG NEG 2SG injure
"It was not I, Montezuma, who injured you"

le Motekusoma i se nae
NAME Moteuczoma FIN 2SG see
"Montezuma sees you"

le Motekusoma se nae
NAME Moteuczoma 2SG see
"You, Montezuma, do see"

In fact, I'm having trouble coming up with a single ambiguous example. I really wasn't expecting that.

So what's the difference between these?

le Keoni i si tule
"John has come"

le Keoni ta si tule
NAME John 3SG PERF come
"It is he, John, who has come"
"He, John, has come"

I'm pretty sure the answer is clear, but I'm getting sleepy and having trouble articulating it. Hopefully I'll remember to address this again later...

One further remark before I go to bed. I still haven't solved exactly what the "pronoun" pa ought to mean, if it really does function just like hi, but I think the difference between these two clauses:

hi si hou ka sumo ni
INDEF PERF squash DEF squash 1SG
"someone squished my squash"

pa si hou ka sumo ni
PASS PERF squash DEF squash 1SG
"my squash got squished"

...is one of overtly implied agency. In the first example, I'm intimating that a volitional agent, and probably a human, did the squashing. In the second, it's not impossible that a volitional agent was involved, but the speaker does not wish to assert this, for whatever reason. It might have been an act of nature, or an animal; or the speaker might not want to draw attention to agency.

On the other hand, the difference between

pa si hou ka sumo ni
PASS PERF squash DEF squash 1SG
"my squash got squished"


ka sumo ni i si pa hou
DEF squash 1SG FIN PERF PASS squash
"my squash got squished"

...is something that we're going to have to flesh out the pragmatics of. New/given information, communicative intent and all that.

Okay, bedtime.

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