Determiners and Demonstratives

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Determiners are post-nominal and appear as clitics or words rather than as suffixes. A reason for not treating them as suffixes is that when nouns are modified, the modifying constituent intervenes between the noun and the determiner. Furthermore, the determiner agrees with the noun class. It also has word properties and is able to be positioned phrase-initially as well as undergoes morphophonological agreement changes, and encodes proximal-distal distinctions.

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Determiners and Proximity

Determiners undergo a four-way proximity distinction, as the following table summarizes:

(N+)demonstrative Demonstrative Pronoun Sg, Pl
(human class only)
Locative Pronoun Quantifier Default bare demonstrative
proximal C-eek oxeek, week meek week keek, week
medial C-een oxeen, ween meen ween keen, ween
distal seen C-aana oxaana, waana maana waana kaana, waana
distal unseen C-aaga oxaaga, waaga maaga waaga kaaga, waaga

(I understand that final -e is optional for all proximal and medial ones. -a is not optional but mandatory for the distals).

The first column consists of a consonant (C), which is defined according to the noun class of the verb it is combining with, but the vowel and coda of that syllable expone the unique semantic features of the determiner, that is, whether it is a proximal, medial or distal, or not visible distal. The coda consonants of these clitics expone proximity as follows: -k- is proximal, -n- is distal and medial, and -g- is super-distal. In terms of vowel distinction, -ee- is associated with proximal and medial, and -aa- with distal in general.

The second column details the deictic distinctions for a class of demonstrative pronouns roughly translatable as ‘the ~ one(s)’. The singular is oxe and the plural owe (where -x- and -w- encode the number distinction throughout the pronominal and determiner paradigms). Some examples of this include the following, all of which translate as ‘the one who is bored’ or ‘the one who is not happy’:

 oxe tayl na
 lit. one who is lazy
 oxe sawareer na
 lit. one who is sad
 oxe bugateer na
 lit. one who is not liking
 oxe ɗayeer na
 lit. one who is not happy

Interestingly, an adjective can intervene between o and xe/we:

 oxe jeg na		-->  o cegu xe		
 ‘the rich one’
 owe tayl na		-->  o taylu we		
 ‘the lazy one’

This suggests that o- is really a pronominal form and can be modified by an adjective, while -xe and -we are its number-marking clitics for singular and plural, respectively. In the relativizing construciton with na, each of these includes an unsplit determiner pronoun oxe plus a bare form verb/adjective. The determiner pronoun can become demonstrative by attaching the appropriate deictic ending with -k, e.g., o cegu xeek.

Noun-Class-less Determiners

As suggested above, xe and we are default demonstratives when the noun is omitted and there is deictic reference. See the section on Noun Modification with na for more discussion on xe/we.

The following table details, for a few noun classes, how oxe/we work, and also summarized modification for those nouns with -u and na:

Pronominal head or headless
Relative -na Adjectival -u
person oxe faax na
the one that is good
Ø opaxu (o)xe
the good one
people we mbax na
the ones that are good
Ø mbaxu we
the good ones
butterfly oxe ranig na
the one that is white
Ø orangu (o)xe
the white one
butterflies we ndanig na
the ones that are white
Ø ndangu we
the white ones


Headed with optionally expressed head
Relative -na Adjectival -u
person (okiin) oxe faax na
the (person) that is good
(okiin) ofaaxu (o)xe
the good person
people (wiin) we mbax na
the (people) that are good
(wiin) faaxu we
the good (people)
butterfly (ofiiɗ) ole ranig na
the (butterfly) that is white
(ofiiɗ) oran (o)le
(ofiiɗ) orangu (o)le
the white (butterfly)
butterflies (xapiiɗ) axe ndanig na
the (butterflies) that are white
(xapiiɗ) oran ole
(xapiiɗ) orangu (o)le
the white (butterflies)


Note: At the time of writing, the author believes the forms in the third column (with the optional noun and na-modification) might be possible as such, that is with the noun potentially overt (and the forms in the fourth column are indeed attested with no noun). Further verification is needed with the consultant to make sure this is so.

In the first column, it looks like oxe/we are pronominals that are modified by the adjectives faax 'good' and ranig 'white'. As I suggested in the discussion in the section above, oxe can possible be broken up into o-, a pronoun, and -xe, a determiner. Similarly for we, there is a null pronoun and an overt determiner. However, to remain agnostic as to the nominal status of oxe/we, I have suggested that the phrases may in fact be headless.

Demonstrative fronting

Demonstratives do not preserve the noun class of the noun they modify when the demonstrative is a fronted bare demonstrative. Take an example with pis ke ‘horses’:

 pis ñofu ɗik keek		-->		keek, pis ñofu ɗik oo
 'These two fast horses'                       'These (are) two fast horses'


Here, the noun class already involves keek because the plural for 'horse' is pis keek. However, with a noun of a different class, we see that when fronted the demonstrative remains keek. For instance, with 'biceps' xaʄoox axeek (for reference, the regular determiner forms for this noun are: oʄoox oxe (sg), xaʄoox axe (pl)):

 xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku axeek          -->       *axeek, xaʄoox xadak xasaƭku o
 'These two strong biceps.'                    keek / week, xaʄoox xasaƭku xaɗak o
                                               'These, two strong biceps.'

Keek is the default for either singular or plural, and week is the default specifically for plural. Given the rules of the usability of the generic demonstratives according to the consultant, the following should be the acceptable versions of singular and plural forms:

 oʄoox oɗak osaƭku oxeek		      -->	oxeek, oʄoox oleng osaƭku o
             						keek, oʄoox oleng osaƭku o
 'This one strong bicep.'                              'This, one strong bicep.'
 xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku axeek	              -->	axeek, xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku o
                        		        	keek, xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku o
                        			        week, xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku o
 'These two strong biceps.'                            'These, two strong biceps.'

However, in actuality, the consultant claims that the following plural version is impossible:

 xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku axeek	              -->	*axeek, xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku o

It is unclear why fronting of the regular noun-class-appropriate demonstrative is acceptable for the singular and not the plural.

The consultant also claims that the following is correct:

 xaʄoox xaɗak xasaƭku week

To explain the acceptability of the latter, there could be some processing lag, whereby by virtue of there being two intervening modifiers the demonstrative fails to retain its noun class (it forgot what it was by then!) and defaults to a generic demonstrative.

In all fronted versions of these utterances, the predication is expressed with a copular particle o. Please see the subsection in Predication Strategies dedicated to this particle.

Oana 21:34, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

Determiners and Wh-interrogatives

See Questions for the section on "which" interrogatives (used in WH-constituent questions), which agree for noun class with the head noun in their phrase.

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