Where can we find a morpheme for ourselves?

Where can we find a morpheme for ourselves? The diachronic emergence of egophoricity in Mangghuer
Keith Slater, SIL, University of North Dakota
Thursday, February 22, 2018,  4:45 PM,  Reed 108

Egophoric systems with binary indexing distinctions have been described for a number of languages of Northwest China’s Amdo Sprachbund. These systems are conceptually extremely similar, though the distinctions have been disparately labeled direct vs. indirect, self person vs. other person, volitional vs. non-volitional, etc. Published descriptions of these systems generally focus on their semantic/pragmatic characteristics, and little has been said about the historical origins of the morphological markings which they employ. In this paper I trace the formal emergence of the binary opposition, which I refer to as a distinction between subjective and objective perspectives, in Mangghuer and other Shirongolic languages. Comparative Mongolic evidence, along with evidence from other Amdo Sprachbund languages, enables me to identify four historical processes in the development of the synchronic Mangghuer system. Three of these processes clearly involved reanalyses of inherited Mongolic verbal morphology, while one involved phonetic material of uncertain provenance. An important observation is that in nearly all of the historical changes described here, including those found in Mangghuer and those that we observe in other languages, the objective category is singled out as the formally more marked member of the subjective vs. objective opposition.

Keith W. Slater is a descriptive linguist whose work focuses mostly on Mangghuer, a Mongolic language spoken in Northwest China's Amdo Sprachbund. In addition to grammatical description, his research interests include language change (especially contact-induced changes), and the publication of natural texts. Dr. Slater is Adjunct Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for the Linguistics Program at the University of North Dakota.

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