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13077A New Year's Question: "suffix pronoun" vs "pronominal suffix"

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  • Robert M Whiting
    Dec 31, 2010
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      A question arose the other day about the use of "suffix pronoun" in
      contrast to "pronominal suffix". I preferred the latter in a certain
      context but was told that "suffix pronoun" is the established term among
      demotists and that besides, "it's a bit more than a mere pronominal

      Now I would maintain that "suffix pronoun" and "pronominal suffix" are
      completely interchangeable (unlike some adjective-noun pairs like, say,
      "house cat" and "cat house") and using one or the other at any given time
      would depend on whether one wanted to stress the pronoun or the suffix
      aspect of the beast. I would also expect the grammatically correct
      "pronominal suffix" to be slightly preferred over the less robust "suffix
      pronoun" (with the more correct "suffixed pronoun" perhaps sharing the

      Well, demotists are strange creatures in any case, but are they really
      biased towards "suffix pronoun" over "pronominal suffix"? To test this
      conumdrum, I took the example of Marc Cooper and headed for The Google.
      These are the results of several searches (if they are difficult to read,
      switch to a fixed font):

      "pronominal suffix" phoenician | About 3,170 results
      "suffix pronoun" phoenician | About 220 results

      "pronominal suffix" arabic | About 13,800 results
      "suffix pronoun" arabic | About 1,250 results

      "pronominal suffix" hebrew | About 36,000 results
      "suffix pronoun" hebrew | About 1,280 results

      "pronominal suffix" akkadian | About 5,030
      "suffix pronoun" akkadian | About 317 results

      "pronominal suffix" ugaritic | About 4,100 results
      "suffix pronoun" ugaritic | About 174 results

      "pronominal suffix" ethiopic | About 3,200 results
      "suffix pronoun" ethiopic | About 308 results

      "pronominal suffix" "semitic languages" |About 3,430 results
      "suffix pronoun" "semitic languages" |About 356 results

      "pronominal suffix" egyptian | About 12,400 results
      "suffix pronoun" egyptian | About 2,490 results

      "pronominal suffix" coptic | About 1,270 results
      "suffix pronoun" coptic | About 720 results

      "pronominal suffix" demotic | About 277 results
      "suffix pronoun" demotic | About 459 results

      The usual caveats about Google searchs apply: There are doubtless
      numerous ovrlaps in the search results, but I think it likely that these
      will only increase the size of the numbers, not their relative

      The results are astonishing (at least to me). While semitists prefer
      "pronominal suffix" over "suffix pronoun" by at least 10 to 1 (several
      times this in some categories), demotists actually prefer "suffix pronoun"
      by about 5 to 3. Furthermore, other Egyptological branches also seem to
      be more amenable to "suffix pronoun", with Egyptian at only 5 to 1 in
      favor of "pronominal suffix" (due to the search parameters, there may a
      large number of Egyptian Arabic examples included in this number) and
      Coptic at less than 2 to 1 in favor.

      So the claim that "suffix pronoun" is established among demotists, would
      seem to be borne out, and now comes the question: Why is this so? Why do
      demotists reverse a universal trend and prefer "suffix pronoun" over
      "pronominal suffix"? I am loathe to ascribe this to the natural
      perverseness of demotists, so there must be some reason why this
      particular discipline bucks a trend that is obvious, if not overwhelming,
      among semitists. Is it based on a translation from some master demotist
      whose word cannot be altered? Does it have it roots it the wider field of
      Egyptology, which seems to be several times more tolerant of "suffix
      pronoun" than its semitist countepart?

      A second question is: Does anyone have any reason to believe that there
      is any difference in meaning between "suffix pronoun" and "pronominal
      suffix"? Does anyone claim, or know of anyone who claims, that a "suffix
      pronoun" and a "pronominal suffix" are different things? Is this an idea
      that is current among demotists?

      Any help is welcome, but especially from those who plough the vowelless
      wastes of ancient Egyptian.

      Bob Whiting
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