Some Ideas for Person Marking

A while ago, I posted a short blog article on how I found Ayeri’s 3rd-person marking strange. I was reminded by a commenter that since Swedish uses han and hon for ‘he’ and ‘she’ respectively (and recently also hen as a gender-neutral pronoun), Ayeri’s -ya, -ye, -yo for ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘~it’ isn’t too unnatural. However, this would-be issue didn’t let go of me, and neither did the fact that Ayeri’s topics still bear large similarities to subjects. So if I should ever get around to making a dialect, sister-, daughter- or proto-language for Ayeri, I thought of some changes in grammar to consider.

The following bit is just two sentences of current standard Ayeri:

Ang
AT
silvyo
see-3SG.N
peljas
horse-PL-P
turayya
hill-LOC
mavi
sheep(.T)
si
REL(.A)
sapaya
wool-LOC
kayvay.
without.
Na
GENT
kacyong
pull-3SG.N.A
pelye
horse-PL(.T)
men
one
savaley
wagon-P.INAN
hagin
heavy

“A sheep which was without wool saw horses on a hill. One of the horses was pulling a heavy wagon …”

In this example – as usually –, verbs agree in number and gender with the agent of the clause (masculine/feminine/”neuter” animate vs. inanimate); if the agent NP is a non-topic pronoun, verb agreement additionally includes agent case marking. However, if we reduce gender to just animate/inanimate and also eliminate number marking in verb agreement (pronouns get -n, nouns -ye/-j?!), things could look like this:

Ang
AT
silvya
see-3
peljas
horse-PL-P
turayya
hill-LOC
mavi
sheep(.T)
si
REL(.A)
sapaya
wool-LOC
kayvay.
without.
Na
GENT
kacyāng
pull-3.A
pelye
horse-PL(.T)
men
one
savaley
wagon-P.INAN
hagin
heavy

And also, to decrease the subject-likeness of the topic, let’s make verbs not generally agree with the actor (or the patient in impersonal statements where there is no actor), but with the topic of the clause (While we’re at it, we could maybe also introduce syntactic restrictions to relative clauses!):

Silvyāng
See-3.AT
peljas
horse-PL-P
turayya
hill-LOC
mavi
sheep(.T)
si
REL(.T)
sapaya
wool-LOC
kayvay.
without.
Kacana
pull-3.GENT
yāng
3.A
pelye
horse-PL(.T)
men
one
savaley
wagon-P.INAN
hagin
heavy

(Or maybe I should keep ang … -ya, na … -ya etc. instead of using the normal, case-marked pronoun versions as clitics?)

In order to avoid having -yāng all over the place (Ayeri prefers actor topics, so its ancestor may have had a NOM/ACC alignment before probably developing a split-S system that resulted in the current, rather idiosyncratic variant of the Philippine alignment), reduce it to -a:

Silva
See-3.AT
peljas
horse-PL-P
Kacana
pull-3.GENT
a
3.A
pelye
horse-PL(.T)
men
one
Naraya
Say-3.A
peljang
horse-PL-A

Just some ideas …