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The indefinite person: A journey across Arawak languages

journal contribution
posted on 09.11.2021, 23:08 by Alexandra AikhenvaldAlexandra Aikhenvald
A few of the world’s languages have a marker indicating an indefinite possessor or an indefinite subject. Eight Arawak languages, belonging to five subgroups, have a prefix *i-, with the meanings of indefinite, or unspecified, possessor and subject on nominalizations and a focused and unspecified subject on verbs. Three of these languages, all of them members of the Uapuí subgroup in the Upper Rio Negro region, add to this a marker of generic, or impersonal, possessor and subject, translatable as ‘one’ or ‘someone,’ thus creating an unusual five-term set of person values. Notwithstanding the brevity of the prefix’s form, its shared functions and geographical spread point toward its antiquity. This article offers an in-depth investigation of semantic and syntactic features of the indefinite person prefix on nouns and on verbs and suggests possible scenarios for its historical development.

Funding

Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)

History

Volume

87

Issue

4

Start Page

459

End Page

499

Number of Pages

41

eISSN

1545-7001

ISSN

0020-7071

Publisher

University of Chicago Press

Language

en

Peer Reviewed

Yes

Open Access

No

Author Research Institute

Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research

Era Eligible

Yes

Journal

International Journal of American Linguistics