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524Re: Verb agreement

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  • David Kiltz
    Nov 5, 2003
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      On 05.11.2003, at 08:35, Andreas Johansson wrote:

      > Question: are there any known primary world languages that, in a
      > construction like "I, Narvi, made ...", would use a 3rd sg verb, because
      > the appositional noun is treated like the antecedent?

      Not that I know of, if you mean something like +"I, Narvi has made
      them" but cf. below for a possible explanation.

      To me it seems that as the primary reference is to the subject in the
      1. person, a 'taking over' of the apposition would be self-contradictory.
      Just as in a sentence like "Thou, Jesus, king of the Jews" both appositions
      "Jesus" and "king of the Jews" are (in that particular sentence!) 2nd sg. as
      they are subordinate to the primary subject "Thou". The whole thing
      changes when the actual reference of the verb is something else, namely a
      relative pronoun. Cf. below on Breton.

      There are languages that do not mark person at all in the verb. Cf., e.g.
      Japanese _iku_ 'XY go(es)' depending on what pronoun you use with it
      or, indeed, simply the context.

      Also, there are Celtic languages that have somewhat similar
      constructions. Cf. Modern Irish _tá mé/tú/sé_ 'I am, you are, he is'
      where _tá_ is formally == 3rd sg..

      This isn't, however, exactly the situation in Sindarin. Maybe this
      comes closer: In Breton there is a "conjugaison impersonelle":

      _Me a skriv_
      _Te a skriv_
      _Eñ a skriv_
      _ni/c'hwi/i a skriv

      which looks a bit like Sindarin. Historically that is '(It is) me who
      writes' == I write. Interestingly this has been leveled so that in the
      plural the form is still only _skriv_. This form is used when the subject
      precedes the verb. Otherwise you have e.g. _eun istor a skrivan_
      'I write a story'.

      Perhaps in Sindarin a similar development is to be assumed: _Im hain
      echant_ for older *_Im i hain echant_ '(It is) I who made them', with
      _i_ being left out to avoid confusion between an explicative and a
      restrictive relative sentence: *_Firn guinar_ (< *_Firn i guinar_?) 'Dead
      live' vs _Firn i guinar_ 'The (particular) dead that live'. Possibly also,
      two different relative pronouns where used. So, maybe, likewise
      _Im echant_ (< *_im i echant_). Sindarin, like Breton, seems to use
      fronting of the personal pronoun as a means to denote emphasis: I,
      Narvi ... made ....

      David Kiltz