Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More on Rumsen

Okay, now back to some serious linguistic stuff. I think this post will be mostly my thinking out loud to try and get a better handle on Rumsen Ohlone and Utian in general.

Utian languages seem to operate on the basis of root, stem, and theme. At least in Ohlone, the root usually, although perhaps not always, corresponds to the noun form. The stem often changes from the root form by various means, usually either through metathesis, ablaut, or vowel length alternation. (This more or less corresponds to Marc Okrand's [1974] assessment of Mutsun, a close cousin of Rumsen.) For example:

comb - n. xaxxews, v. xaxwen (past tense, to comb) - stem = xaxw (?)
wolf - n. *'um(u)x, v. 'umxun (to hunt wolves) - stem = 'umux (?)
mtn. lion - n. *xeek(e)s, v. xeksen (to hunt lions) - stem = xeks (?)

* Note that, unlike in Mutsun, the final vowel (of nouns, at least) is either whispered or completely dropped in Rumsen.

It seems that, in preparing a dictionary, the various forms of the stem must be shown or at least cross-referenced in order to help the learner in assembling the various verb forms, giving examples as appropriate. Perhaps something like:

wolf, n. 'umx (v. 'umxun).
wolves, to hunt, v. 'umxun (n. 'umx).

Ex. 'Iče mak'umxun. Let’s hunt wolves. 'Uyk wa’umxunin. Yesterday he went wolf-hunting.

Is this making some sort of sense?

Another interesting thing about Rumsien is its lack of an actual genitive form, with possessor and possessed simply placed in juxtaposition with each other:

Ka ‘ukx tip.
my friend knife
My friend’s knife.

Apparently, if one wanted to say "my friend the knife" (as sadistic as that sounds!), one would say:

Ka ‘ukx sa tip.
my friend DEF knife
My friend the knife.

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