Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Selk'nam concordances

A very nice, interesting language the Selk'nam, it also belongs to another indigenous people of Argentina who dwelled in the southernmost tip of the American continent. They have also been called Ona and they were part of the Chon linguistic and ethnic family.

Their language is intriguing in that it has a great number of words with very complex consonant clusters, for example; a word ʂq'òːht'èː means 'to gather', notice the retroflex with the ejective occlusive, also in the word haʔmqn which means 'coast'.

Most important about this language is the grammar, which includes a system of evidentials, namely, a dubitative, a surprisive, and a certitive. This, along with the pronominal prefixes can create quite a mouthful. The language does not take any markings for gender, but the certitive ending varies according to gender or neutrality, for example;
jah t-ahjqe-nn, I see (him), masc.

1st 3rd-to.see-CERT.masc.

jah t-ahjqe-èn, I see (her), fem.

1st 3rd-to.see-CERT.fem.

jah h-ahjq-n, I see it, neut.

1st 3rd-to.see-CERT.neut. 
In fact the same endings are also applied to the tense particles, so if we have xenn 'to come', and nèj 'present particle'.
xe-nn nèj-j čonn, the man comes. 
to.come-CERT.masc. PRS-CERT.masc. man 
But this last mark in the tense particle is not added when the pronoun is left last.
xe-nn nèj jah, I come (male). 
to.come-CERT.m PRS 1st
This suffixes can also be appended to the negative particle and other tense particles as well. Another interesting aspect of the language is the different lemmatas used in word-formation. I will discuss other interesting features of Selk'nam verbs and morphology in new posts.

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