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清華學報 Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
清華學報 Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies


A Study of Noun-class Markers in Kavalan

Vol. 28 No. 3   6/1998  

Title A Study of Noun-class Markers in Kavalan
Author Yung-li Chang, Chih-chen jane Tang & Dah-an Ho
Genre Article  
Key words
Noun-class markers, common/non-common, human/non-human

      It has long been observed that common nouns and non-common nouns (including proper nouns and pronouns) take different case markers in a number of Formosan languages: common nouns take u/a-system of case marker while noncommon nouns take i-system case-marker (Mei 1994,Li 1995, Huang 1995 among many others). In Kavalan, the common –noncommon distinction is also attested but in a different fashion: it is attested in noun classification rather than in case marking. In Kavalan, nouns are classified into two major categories: common nouns and noncommon nouns. In the category of common nouns, human member occur with the non-class marker kin while nonhuman member occur with u upon the presence of numerals or quantifies. On the other hand, in the category of common nouns, humanmembers take ti while nonhuman nouns either take Φ (zero morpheme) of ni. It is noteworthy that like classifiers, noun-class markers in Kavalan classify nouns according to the inherent properties of the entities to which nouns refer, though they are slightly different from classifiers in their syntactic behavior (e.g. unlike typical classifiers, the noun-class marker for noncommon nouns do not occur with numerals or quantifies.

    Besides, the results of this study also shed light on the systems of the noun marking in Formosan languages. In light of the noun-class marking system in Kavalan, we postulate that the common-noncommon distinction which is previously claimed to be made in case –marking in other Formosan languages should be a distinction of noun- class marking instead. In that case, case-markers are morphological complexes: they consist of a case-marker and a noun-class marker. Under the analysis, case marker for noncommon human nouns should comprise of a case-marker plus a noun-class marker Ci (C stands fo a consonant). On this view, a number of long standing problem (e.g. the problem why nouns in non-argument positions should take “case marker”) can cesolved.


Author : Yung-li Chang, Chih-chen jane Tang & Dah-an Ho
Genre : Article