On Jun 22, 2013, at 6:41 PM, Alex Fink <000024@...
> On Sat, 22 Jun 2013 12:28:42 -0500, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...> wrote:
>> Hello, all. I'm wondering:
>> 1. If it's attested for languages with construct state (e.g. Semitic languages) to allow a noun phrase to appear *in* the construct state but *without* an overt possessor (either an NP or possessive affix); and
> I was all about to say that I've never heard the application of the name "construct state" outside of Afro-Asiatic. But then I went to look up the language which I was remembering regarding an answer to (2), and whaddya know, the grammar uses "construct state".
>> 2. What the semantics of that sort of construction might be.
>> For #2, I would hypothesize the existence of 3rd-person interpretations, as in Ainu, but I have wondered too if a noun in construct state without overt possessor marking might be construed in some languages some other way, e.g. as being simply definite, or possessed by the 1st or 2nd person. In one of my conlangs in progress, it's occurred to me to have the usual non-overtly-possessed construct NP be interpreted as 3rd-person-possessed, e.g. father-CONS "his/her/their father", but in the vocative have it be 1st-person, e.g. father-CONS-VOC "O my father".
> The Ulwa language of Nicaragua and Honduras has a "construct state", to wit, a paradigm of head-marked possessed forms, in which the 3sg is not clearly formally simpler than all the others. Third-person construct state nouns, however, can appear without overt possessors, giving most transparently the sense 'his/her N, their N' (5.4 of the grammar below), but it can also be used as a marker of definiteness (188.8.131.52), and cause hypernymic broadening of the sense of its base (6.2): e.g. the bare noun _was_ is specifically 'water' while the 3sg construct _was-ka_ can refer to any liquid; 'liquid' per se is expressed _dî waska_ 'something's water'.
Excellent! It's a little different from what I had in mind, in that there is a whole set of affixes, not just one; so in a way it feels like a regular old possessive-affixed-noun system. But the semantics of possessive marking are really intriguing, as are the irregular forms (including forms with no affix but a vowel change in the stem).
This paper makes reference to a similar system in Miskitu; I'll need to dig into that as well.