Sketching the possessive structures of Rawàng Ata, II

INDIRECT POSSESSION

Indirect possession also uses possessive prefixes, but does not attach them to the possessum. Instead, they are attached to a possessive classifier, which follows the possessum. It is the possessum, not the classifier, that takes any case or number marking required.

Most nouns signifying animals or supernaturally animate entities take the classifier an.

Other nouns vary in their classifiers depending on their intended use, or their origin.

If a thing (or a part) is to be eaten, it takes the classifier yik.

If a thing (or a part) is to be drunk, it takes the classifier alak/-āk.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for ornament, it takes the classifier fū.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as material for construction, it takes the classifier oniy.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used to provide shelter, it takes the classifier -tabù.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as a weapon, it takes the classifier bair.

If a thing (or a part) is to be given as a gift, it takes the classifier aniykakì.

If a thing (or a part) is to be smeared over something, it takes the classifier orus.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as a recepticle for foodstuffs or potential foodstuffs, (including drinks) it takes the classifier timyu.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as a recepticle for other items, it takes the classifier –īn.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used to represent or depict some other thing, it takes the classifier –au.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as material to make some other tool, it takes the classifier –luikàn.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for sexual gratification, it takes the classifier –yèhu.

If a thing (or a part) is to be hoarded by a woman, it takes the classifier –syar.

If a thing (or a part) is to be hoarded by a man, it takes the classifier –tafus.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as part of a game, it takes the classifier nànyang.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used in unstructured play, it takes the classifier kāng.

If a thing (or a part) is to be destroyed by the owner, it takes the classifier olung.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used to annoy somebody else, it takes the classifier –sinèng.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used as something to be cared for (eg pet plants, pet stones), it takes the classifier –amū.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for no purpose known to the speaker but believed to be known to the owner, it takes the classifier –ho.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for no purpose known even to the owner, it takes the classifier iru.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for a purpose known to the speaker but not to be divulged to the listener, or for a complex purpose requiring explanation, and the speaker has deduced the purpose through reason and circumstantial evidence, it takes the classifier –è.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for a purpose known to the speaker but not to be divulged to the listener, or for a complex purpose requiring explanation, and the speaker has heard of the purpose second-hand, it takes the classifier –atiùsā.

If a thing (or a part) is to be used for a purpose known to the speaker but not to be divulged to the listener, or for a complex purpose requiring explanation, and the speaker has heard of the purpose from the owner, it takes the classifier –ìy.

The above may be considered the basic possessive classifiers. These are supplemented by a range of ‘evidential’ possessive classifiers. These classifiers state not the function, but the origin, of the possession. The system is small and closed:

–          if the item is possessed by a female as a hereditary possession in the female line, it takes the classifier –angi.

–          if the item is held by a male but has been inherited through, and officially owned by, the female line, it takes the classifier –yung.

–          if the item has been found by the holder, or if the speaker is not personally aware of the origin of the possession first-hand, it takes the classifier –tam.

–          if the item has been given to the holder or acquired through conquest, it takes the classifier –marung.

–          if the item has been bought or traded for, it takes the classifier –i.

–          if the item has been acquired through sexual favours, it takes the classifier –at.

–          if the item has been given to the holder for safekeeping, it takes the classifier –bèn.

It is not always clear when to use basic classifiers and when to use evidential classifiers. In general, evidential classifiers are used when the possession has been doubted either by the speaker or the audience, or when the speaker (truthfully or rhetorically) wishes to pre-emptively quash suggestions of impropriety (or to ironically suggest them).

It may sometimes be desired to indirectly possess a dependent noun – usually because the possessor in question is not the ‘true’ possessor. In this case, the dependent noun takes a prefix, usually ira- or unun-, and a suffix, -yàng. For example: sungurnay is “your leg” (ie the one you were born with), but iramurnaryàng ìbyik is “the human leg that you are going to eat”.

When the possessor is to be stated explicitly, they follow the classifier: sisanto ajèhu kòma, “the dildo the young woman pleases herself with”. The possessor may, as with direct possession, be in the ergative, accusative, or direct cases. It may also be in the lative – indicating direct current physical contact.

Different classifiers take different possessive declensions – these must be learnt.

“Possession” in indirect possession frequently includes metaphorical forms of possession, and also possession by instruments. Possession by instruments tends to imply a greater uncertainty regarding possession; when this occurs, the possessive prefix matches the implicit true possessor, not the instrument. For example, sūy anyik outāo literally means “the bowl’s noodles for eating”, but requires that there be some other absent human who owns the noodles – whereas sūy āyik outāo is truly ascribing ownership to the bowl. The instrumental meaning can be made more explicit by in turn possessing the instrument: sūy anyik outāo artimyu means the same thing as sūy anyik outāo, but emphasises the ownership of the bowl, and by extension of the noodles: the shorter form could be used without a particular owner in mind, whereas the longer form emphasises that there is a particular owner (though they may not be known). Thus, sūy anyik outāo could be used to indirectly invite a stranger to eat (“oh, they’re someone-or-other’s noodles and they’re for eating”), whereas sūy anyik outāo artimyu makes clear that the noodles are definitely claimed. [It should be noted that the choice of classifier also plays a role here: sūy angayik, “somebody’s noodles for eating” is practically an invitation to eat, whereas sūy angaho “somebody’s noodles for… I’m sure whoever owns them knows what they are for” is an emphatic prohibition.

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