Sunday, March 4, 2012

Preverbal object pronouns and the ramifications thereof

I've long understood Koa direct objects to be formally equivalent to possessors. This is clear from parallelisms like

ka veli ni
DEF sibling 1SG
"my brother"

ka mata i veli ni
DEF short FIN sibling 1SG
"the short one is my brother"


ka mata i loha ni
DEF short FIN love 1SG
"the short one loves me"

ka loha ni
DEF love 1SG
"the one who loves me"

As such, since nouns admit an alternative possessive ordering (theoretically primarily for inalienable possession according to A PREVIOUS POST): ka mama ni or ni mama for "my mom," there's no particular reason why pronominal objects couldn't be placed preverbally as well.

I first noticed this (at the very bottom) back when I was making the final decisions on genitive phrase structure, and it worried me a bit. I later announced that "pronoun objects will certainly not be acceptable preverbally." I didn't ever make an effort to motivate this decision, or really explore it in any way, and that's how it's stood for a couple years.

When trying to solve the problem of indefinite agency that came up at the bottom of the previous post, though, I realized that (A) there's no logical reason to forbid this structure, and (B) there are actually a number of very good reasons to allow it, not least the basic internal consistency of the language.

The problem that prompted this consideration was this:

hi si iune ka kala ni
INDEF PERF steal DEF fish 1SG
"someone has stolen my fish"

si hi iune ka kala ni
PERF REFL steal DEF fish 1SG
"someone has stolen my fish"

This new version, necessitated by the decision that hi would be a reflexive marker and not a pronoun, was so completely offensive to me that I had to give it some serious thought. There seemed to be complete overlap with parallel forms with pa, which made it seem like the two might actually potentially be collapsed; except that I knew that the reason I had made them separate in the first place was that they are supposed to have different meanings. Furthermore, hi "worked" in the old version precisely because it was a pronoun.

What I realized, then, was that there's no need to make a decision: I can have it both ways, as long as preverbal pronoun objects are allowed, as they should be anyway. Voilà:

ni nae hi
1SG see REFL
"I see myself" (hi = "pronoun")

ni hi nae
1SG REFL see
"I see myself" (hi = "verb marker")

This being so, there's no reason why the "old" way of doing things would need to change, and we would have two possible orderings with hi and TAM markers: in one situation, hi would precede, being a bona fide pronoun:

hi si iune ka kala ni
REFL PERF steal DEF fish 1SG
"someone has stolen my fish"

In the other, hi would follow TAM markers, looking like a verbal valence particle, but formally actually being a preposed object pronoun:

ka kala i si hi nae e mi-páto
"the fish saw themselves and got scared"

This discovery, though, actually goes quite a bit deeper. We've been using the word "particle" in Koa to refer, basically, to monosyllables, without any attempt at a taxonomy. What this interchangeability shows is that there is at least a chunk of these particles that fall into natural classes, and which can be used more flexibly than previously understood.

That is to say, keeping the above two examples in mind: given that we have this...

ka vatu i si pa luta
DEF money FIN PERF PASS find
"the money was found" begins to wonder what pa "means" if we take it out of its preverbal position, as we apparently might be able to. Is it a pronoun of some kind?

?pa si luta ka vatu
PASS PERF find DEF money

If it's a pronoun, structures should be possible like

ni si nae pa

but what would they mean? This actually gets weirder when we consider the oblique particles: ne, la, o, me, mo, pe, etc. I've been thinking of these as somewhere between case markers and prepositions, but what we see here is that they should be more accurately thought of as locative (or relational) pronouns. Or something. In other words,

la koto
ALL home

should theoretically have the same meaning as

ka koto la
DEF home ALL

...and furthermore, la should be usable on its own to mean something like "to it," thus

ni si mene la he leo
1SG PERF go ALL TIME today
"I went there today"

BUT THEN, if this works, then so should

ni si la mene he leo
1SG PERF ALL go TIME today
"I went there today"

and hey presto, we have a new verb laméne meaning "go to(wards)." Out of the blue, we appear to be able to do quasi-preposition-verb compounding à la Esperanto: pepúhu "talk about," otálu "push out," etc.

So the palace of Koa will have to add another wing or two after today. On the one hand we've discovered that the particles can be almost as flexible as the predicates, and we'll need to do some serious thinking about the meaning and boundaries of this; and on the other, we have a whole new species of constructions to flesh out and integrate.

Two final thoughts:

1) I really need to talk about la, o and ne as free-standing post-verbal particles as inspired by Nahuatl. I think this is compatible with all the above, but we'll want to be sure.

2) Regarding ka koto la for "to the home," I just realized something. In the same way that we can say ni talo or ka talo ni "my house," but not *ni ka talo, if we're going to go down this road then apparently we will be able to say ne masa or ka masa ne "on the table" but NOT ne ka masa. This would be a pretty big change, and we'd better be sure about it before going any further.

No comments: