Tuesday, November 6, 2007

possession in Blackfoot

I just finished a handout for a presentation I'm giving tomorrow on possession in Blackfoot, so I thought I would share some of the main points here. Blackfoot has an interesting way of marking verbs and nouns, part of which is the fact that they are marked essentially the same. The prefix nit- can indicate 1st person on a verb, or can indicate what in English would be indicated by the possessive pronoun "my." Another interesting quality of the language is that prefixes mark the person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), while a suffix indicates the plural (with a separate suffix for each person. The 1st person prefix can range from n- to ni- to nit- to nits-, though I won't get into the variation here (and even if I did I wouldn't have the knowledge to explain all of it). 2nd person is the same, but with an initial k- instead of n-. Third person is generally marked by o-.

Then we have the plural suffixes: -(i)nan(a) for 1st exclusive, -(i)nun(a) for 1st inclusive, -oau(a) for 2nd, and -oauai (also -auai, oai, oaiau) for 3rd. The initial vowel in parentheses signifies that it is only realized after a consonant. The final vowel is parentheses signifies nothing consistent, merely that speakers often drop it. While a noun or verb can have only a prefix, it cannot have only one of these plural suffixes. Another concept that might not be immediately apparent to IE-speakers is the 1st person inclusive/exclusive distinction. Many (unrelated) Native American languages have a distinction semantically and morphologically for the difference between "we including you" and "we excluding you." "We" always conveys the speaker and various unspecified third persons, but in Native American languages there is a morphological distinction to indicate whether or not it also includes the addressee.

I won't get into too much more detail, but I will give some examples:
niksistanan - our (excl.) mother [ni-ksist-anan] = [1st-mother-1st.excl.pl]
kiksistanun - our (incl.) mother [ki-ksist-anun] = [2nd-mother-1st.incl.pl]
kiksistoau - your (pl.) mother [ki-ksist-oau] = [2nd-mother-2nd.pl]
oksistoauai - their mother [o-ksist-oauai] = [3rd-mother-3rd.pl]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is interesting!