Tag Archives: nouns

Reduplication issues

Ayeri uses reduplication for a number of things, because reduplication is a nice feature. Says the Grammar on this topic (§ 3.2.3):

It is used for hortatives, to indicate that something is done again, and it is used to form diminutives of nouns.

There are two patterns listed for verbs, one with complete reduplication of the imperative verb form for hortative statements, and one with partial reduplication as a way to express that an action takes place again, i.e. some kind of frequentative – like this:

nara- ‘speak’ naru-naru ‘let’s speak’ na-naru ‘let’s speak again’
narayeng ‘she speaks’ na-narayeng ‘she speaks again’

Nouns use complete reduplication to derive diminutive forms, for example veney-veney ‘doggie’ < veney ‘dog’. Sometimes, this is also lexicalized, though:

agu ‘chicken’ agu-agu ‘chick’
gan ‘child’ gan-gan ‘grandchild’
kusang ‘double’ kusang-kusang ‘model’
veh- ‘build, construct’ veha-veha ‘tinkering’

As you can see from the above examples, the outcome of lexicalized reduplication of nouns is not always what one would expect from a strict interpretation: sometimes the result simply adds a more endearing shade of meaning to the original word than strictly signifying a smaller version of the thing.

Last year, however, I also began applying (lexicalized) reduplication to adjectives as a means of derivation:

apan ‘wide’ apan-apan ‘extensive’
ikan ‘complete, whole’ ikan-ikan ‘entire; completely, totally’
pisu ‘tired, exhausted’ pisu-pisu ‘tiresome, exhausting’

This is all fair enough, but when I was translating something very recently, I even found myself using this reduplication of adjectives productively:

[gloss]Nay yanoyam ada-reng voy sano talingaya-as nay kayvomaya-j-as kayvan-ya nā, ang paron-ay gamar-yam – kebay~kebay – sidegan-ley kopo=ikan.
and because that-A.INAN NEG both mechanic-P and passenger-PL-P company-LOC 1SG.GEN, AT prepare-1SG.T manage-PTCP – EMPH~alone – repair-P.INAN difficult=very.[/gloss]
‘And because there were neither a mechanic nor passengers in my company, I prepared to manage – all alone – a very difficult repair.’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 13)

What I did here is reduplicating kebay ‘alone’ to kebay-kebay ‘all alone’. The question is then, whether I should regularize this reduplication process, too, as a means to emphasize the large extent of the quality described by the adjective. This is, essentially, an augmentative function.

Now, in languages like German or French, adjectives are noun-like in that they agree with their noun heads in categories of the noun – in German and French this would be number and case. In Ayeri, on the other hand, adjectives aren’t inflected for either the noun’s or the verb’s categories, but they are still nouny in that uninflected nouns may serve as adjectives easily, for example:

anang ‘charm’ anang ‘charming’
dipakan ‘pity’ dipakan ‘pathetic, wretched, pitiable’
gino ‘drink’ gino ‘drunk’
ijan ‘silver; coin’ ijan ‘rich’
karon ‘water; sea’ karon ‘liquid’
mihan ‘wood’ mihan ‘wooden’

This is also relevant regarding case-inflected noun compounds, for example kihas ‘map’ in this passage:

[gloss][​N​]ara-tang, ang mya pasy-ong-ay=eng sungkoran-as kihas[.]
say-3PL.M.A AT be.supposed.to be.interested.in-IRR-1SG.T=rather science-P map[/gloss]
‘[T]hey told me, I should rather be interested in geography[.]’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 12)

The question then is, if adjectives are essentially nouny in Ayeri, should there be a reduplicating derivative method that basically does the opposite of what it does for nouns? It doesn’t necessarily strike me as counter-intuitive given the range of things that reduplication is already used for in Ayeri, but systematically it seems confusing. Also, consider that although nouns are rather consistently case-marked in Ayeri, they appear zero-marked (that is, superficially unmarked) when they carry the topic morpheme. Thus, a topic-marked diminutive noun that also exists as a zero-derived adjective could at least potentially clash with a reduplicated adjective at least in its identical surface form.

  • De Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. Le Petit Prince. Ed. Rudolf Strauch. 11th ed. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1991. 12–13. Print.
  • I replaced *bata-bata ‘grandchild’ with the regularly formed gan-gan in the dictionary already a while ago but didn’t change it here. I did that now. I think my coining *bata-bata was due to mixing up bata ‘short’ with gan ‘child’ for some reason.

“To be, or not to be …”

Quoth Peter Bleackley on Twitter:

See the message on Twitter.

Indeed, besides Peter’s joke (that took me a while to recognize …), it would be interesting to compare how various languages with a zero copula translate Shakespeare’s probably most famous line (yellow marking mine):

To be, or not to be, that is the queſtion
“To be, or not to be, that is the queſtion” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet, III.1 — Shakespeare Quartos Archive, CC-BY-NC; original image cropped and yellow marking added)

Since Ayeri is a language with a zero copula – that is, the copula, “be,” does not have a phonetic realization – I was wondering how to translate this quotation. However, I would rather expect from context that the way “be” is used in English here refers to existence: the verb “be” is used as a full, content verb rather than the copula as a function. That is, the way Hamlet uses “be” does not suggest that he is assigning a quality to the subject, as in “The king is dead,” or “I am suicidal.”

In spite of possessing a zero copula, Ayeri nonetheless has an overt verb for “be” in the meaning of ‘exist’: yoma-. However, what Ayeri still lacks is a proper infinitive – the only non-finite form there is, is the participle, but you can’t usually use this as a nouny standalone thing as in English.[1. I’m not sure if there’s something in the Grammar about this. If the Grammar allows participles to stand on their own, my usage has changed meanwhile.] A possible solution to this problem is to use the noun, yomān ‘existence’. This raises another question, though: how do you negate that, that is, what do you get for ‘inexistence’? Searching the dictionary for nouns in in-/ir-/il-, dis-, un- doesn’t reveal any obviously negated nouns.[1. A possible candidate would be tenyan ‘death’, though, since ‘life’ is ten‘; -ya is one of the allomorphs of -arya (cf. below). Ayeri quite loves -ya as a morpheme!]

Besides verbs, the only other category that can be negated are adjectives, which are rather noun-like in Ayeri. Adjectives may be negated by -oy and -arya (which has a variety of allomorphs), and since the negation of ‘existence’ we need here is categorical rather than transitory, I would choose -arya. This results in yomāryān as a possible negation:

[gloss]yoma- -arya -an
exist -NEG -NMLZ[/gloss]

On the other hand, since yomān is already derived from a verb and verbs get negated with -oy, another possible derivation could be yomoyan:[1. With the transitory adjective negation -oy, the outcome would indeed have been the same, so it really doesn’t matter here.]

[gloss]yoma- -oy -an
exist -NEG -NMLZ[/gloss]

I think the latter case is more succinct, so I’d translate the famous line from Hamlet as:

Yomān soyang yomoyan – adareng prantānley.
[gloss]Yomān soyang yomoyan – ada-reng prantān-ley
existence or inexistence – that-A.INAN question-P.INAN[/gloss]
‘Existence or inexistence, that is the question.’

Note that in the first half of the sentence, the nouns are not case marked. I chose not to mark them for case since as far as I can tell, they do not fit into the case frame of any verb here, besides the fact that the sentence above does not include any overt verb.

Of course, using less enigmatic language while it still being a bit of a pun, I could also simply translate:

Ten soyang tenyan – adareng prantānley.
[gloss]Ten soyang tenyan …
Life or death …[/gloss]
‘Life or death – that is the question.’

But that would’ve been boring.

  • Shakespeare, William. The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. London, 1604. [​27.] The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke: An Electronic Edition. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive. Shakespeare Quartos Archive. Mar. 2009. Web. 8 May 2013. ‹http://www.quartos.org›. (The image the presented excerpt is taken from was published under CC-BY-NC; original image cropped and yellow marking added.)
  • David J. Peterson informs that the “[u]sual route is ‘to live or not to live’.” Phrasing it exactly that way doesn’t work in Ayeri either, though.