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Disentangling a versatile prefix: The nature and development of a polysemous marker in Arawak languages
journal contributionposted on 2023-02-21, 23:00 authored by Alexandra AikhenvaldAlexandra Aikhenvald
A number of the world’s languages have a special morpheme marking a generic human participant or possessor, roughly translatable as ’one’, or ’someone’. In the course of language history, a generic marker may undergo semantic change and take on further functins - those of (a) a first person inclusive, (b) a marker of possessor coreferential with the subject of a clause, or (c) just a third person. The versatile prefix *pa- attested in a number of Arawak languages of South America offers new insights into clusters of function involving a "generic person." The prefix is a feature of a variety of languages in the Upper Rio Negro region and a few other Arawak languages spoken north of the Amazon, in addition to a few south of the Amazon. We discuss the meanings of the prefix in individual languages and present a scenario of its historical development.
Number of Pages49
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
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