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Section 2: The Noun Phrase

2.1. Determiners

In Tokana, every referential noun phrase (see below) is introduced by a determiner. A determiner may occur as a noun phrase by itself, or it may be the head of a complex phrase containing one or more nouns, together with modifiers (e.g. relative clauses, prepositional phrases, etc.). Compare the following:

te "it, that"
te halma "the book, this/that book"

In these examples, te is the determiner. Notice that when te occurs by itself, it corresponds to a pronoun or a demonstrative in English ("it", "that"), and when te is accompanied by a noun, halma "book", it corresponds roughly to the definite article in English ("the").

Determiners indicate the person, number, and animacy of the noun phrase, as well as whether it is specific or non-specific. In the above examples, te marks the noun phrase as being third person, singular, inanimate, and specific. Compare these examples with the ones given below, where ten marks a noun phrase as third person, plural, inanimate, and specific, and se marks a noun phrase as third person, plural, animate, and specific:

ten "they/them, those"
ten halma "the books, those books"

se "they/them, those"
se ikei "the dogs, those dogs"

If a noun phrase is referential, then it must be headed by a determiner, and if it is non-referential, then it lacks a determiner. By 'referential noun phrase', I mean (roughly) a noun phrase denoting a particular entity or group of entities which the speaker has in mind. For example, compare the following sentences, which differ only in whether the object noun phrase "a book" has a determiner:

Me he kypesa halma
1s:Abs is look:for book
"I am looking for a book"

Me he kypesa mo halma
1s:Abs is look:for 3sN:Abs book
"I am looking for a (certain) book"

In the first sentence, where the object noun phrase halma "book" has no determiner, the speaker does not have a particular book in mind; instead, any book will do. However, in the second sentence, where the object is headed by the non-specific determiner mo, the speaker has a particular book in mind which s/he is looking for.

Consider also these examples:

Itai kotoi mun ehte moiha siane
3sI:Dat room-Dat 3pN:Abs three girl enter-Cpl
"Into the room came three girls"

Itai kotoi ehte moiha siane
3sI:Dat room-Dat three girl enter-Cpl
"Into the room came three girls"

In the first sentence, mun ehte moiha "three girls" denotes a certain set of three girls. Whereas in the second sentence, ehte moiha "three girls" denotes just any set of three girls. The speaker of the second sentence does not know (or does not care) which particular girls entered the room; s/he is interested only in how many girls there were.

Provided it is referential, a noun phrase in Tokana will always be headed by a determiner, regardless of its internal structure. Thus determiners are required with proper names, possessed noun phrases, and quantificational expressions - noun phrase types which in English do not normally take a determiner:

ne Sakial "Sakial" [name of a person]
te Tenmothai "Tenmothai" [name of a place]

te katia "the house"
te katiami "my house"
te katiani Sakial "Sakial's house"

ne kekua moiha "each girl"

Tokana has eleven determiners, which are listed below in their absolutive case forms. In parentheses I have indicated the abbreviations used for each determiner:

Singular Plural
First Personme (1s)kim (1p)
Second Personke (2s)kyin (2p)
Third Person Animate (Specific)ne (3sA)se (3pA)
Third Person Inanimate (Specific)te (3sI)ten (3pI)
Third Person Non-Specificmo (3sN)mun (3pN)
Reflexive/Reciprocal tio (Refl)

(1) The first and second person determiners correspond to first and second person pronouns in English (I, me; we, us; you).

(2) In the third person, Tokana distinguishes between animate and inanimate specific determiners, and non-specific determiners (which may be used with both animates and inanimates). The animate determiners are used with noun phrases denoting people and animals; while the inanimate determiners are used with all other noun phrases:

ne "he, she"
ne moiha "the girl"
ne eithe "the horse"

se "they"
se moiha "the girls"
se eithe "the horses"

te "it"
te katia "the house"
te uhin "the song"

ten "they"
ten katia "the houses"
ten uhin "the songs"

The specific determiners (ne, se; te, ten) are used when the noun phrase refers to an entity which is already present in the discourse - that is, an entity which has been previously mentioned in conversation (e.g. "the house we were talking about"), or which is present in the environment where the sentence is being uttered (e.g. "that house over there"), or which is otherwise identifiable to the listener based on previous knowledge (e.g. "the house where your friend lives"). The non-specific determiners (mo, mun) are used to introduce a new entity into the discourse. Compare the use of ne mikal "the boy" and mo mikal "a boy" in the sentences below:

Ma inlotka kuole ne mikal
1s:Erg yesterday meet-Cpl 3sA:Abs boy
"I met the/that boy yesterday"

Ma inlotka kuole mo mikal
1s:Erg yesterday meet-Cpl 3sN:Abs boy
"I met a (certain) boy yesterday"

In the first sentence, the speaker is referring to a particular boy who is under discussion, or who is otherwise familiar to the listener; whereas in the second sentence, the speaker is referring to a previously unmentioned boy, thereby introducing a new (potential) topic of discussion into the discourse.

Note, however, that the distinction between specific and non-specific noun phrases in Tokana does not correspond exactly to the definite/indefinite distinction in English (the boy versus a boy): While most indefinite noun phrases in Tokana would be marked with a non-specific determiner, there are a handful of cases in which an indefinite noun phrase requires a specific determiner - namely, when the indefinite denotes a subset of a previously mentioned set of entities. For instance, the partitive noun phrase "four of the boys" in the following sentence requires se because it refers to a subset of a familiar group (namely the group denoted by "the boys"):

Ma inlotka kuole se kin mysi mikalu
1s:Erg yesterday meet-Cpl 3pA:Abs four of-3pA:NA boy-Abl
"I met four of the boys yesterday"

Compare this sentence with the one below, where the boys do not belong to a familiar set:

Ma inlotka kuole mun kin mikal
1s:Erg yesterday meet-Cpl 3pN:Abs four boy
"I met four boys yesterday"

(3) Finally, the reflexive/reciprocal determiner tio corresponds to the reflexive and reciprocal pronoun forms of English (e.g. myself, himself, herself, each other). See 2.1.5 for discussion.

2.1.1. Independent determiners and the five cases

Noun phrases in Tokana are marked for case (where the case which a noun phrase takes indicates something about the role that noun phrase plays in the clause). There are five cases in Tokana:

Ergative (Erg)
Absolutive (Abs)
Dative (Dat)
Locative (Loc)
Ablative (Abl)

Although nouns take suffixes for certain cases (as discussed in 2.2.3), it is only on the independent determiners (i.e. determiners that occur as separate words) that all five cases are distinctively marked. The table below gives the case paradigms for each of the independent determiners:

1s2s 3sA3sI3sNRefl
Erg
Abs
Dat
Loc
Abl
ma
me
imai
iman
imaul
ko
ke
ikoi
ikon
ikoul
na
ne
inai
inan
inaul
ta
te
itai
itan
itaul
mu
mo
imoi
imon
imoul
---
tio
itioi
ition
itiul
1p2p3pA3pI3pN
Erg
Abs
Dat
Loc
Abl
kima
kim
ikime
ikimna
ikimul
kyina
kyin
ikyine
ikyinna
ikyinul
sa
se
isai
isan
isaul
tena
ten
itene
itenna
itenul
muna
mun
imune
imunna
imunul

In section 3.5, I discuss the five cases with respect to the different verb classes in Tokana. Here, though, I offer a general summary of the uses of each case, with examples:

(1) Ergative and Absolutive: As I discuss in section 3.5, the ergative case is typically associated with the agent role, while the absolutive case is associated with the theme role. Ergative case marks the subjects of most transitive verbs, while the direct object appears in the absolutive:

Na moiha kahte ne mikal
3sA:Erg girl hit-Cpl 3sA:Abs boy
"The girl hit the boy"

Te katia lhon tiespun ne miahtemi
3sI:Abs house there build-Past 3sA:Erg grandfather-1s:NA
"My grandfather built that house"

In addition, the absolutive case is used to mark the subjects of most intransitive verbs, although some intransitives take ergative (or dative) subjects. Compare the following:

Ne mikal inlotka itskane
3sA:Abs boy yesterday arrive-Cpl
"The boy arrived yesterday"

Na mikal muelhun immiote lohe
3sA:Erg boy sleep-Past in:whole day-Dat
"The boy slept all day"

As a general rule, absolutive case is associated with that class of intransitives which linguists call 'unaccusatives' (e.g. arrive, die, grow, be sick), while ergative case is associated with the class of 'unergatives' (e.g. sleep, run, dance). However, because of the possibility of terminological confusion (using 'ergative' case to mark 'unergative' subjects seems counterintuitive), I will avoid these labels here.

(2) Dative: The dative case is typically used to mark recipients with ditransitive verbs like uthma "give" and lasta "send". Note that nouns in the dative case are marked with the suffix -e (see 2.2.3):

Ma uthme pami inai mikale
1s:Erg give-Cpl food 3sA:Dat boy-Dat
"I gave food to the boy"

Ma laste kihun inai Hane
1s:Erg send-Cpl letter 3sA:Dat Han-Dat
"I sent a letter to Han"

Dative case is also used to mark the subjects of certain transitive and intransitive verbs which denote mental activities (e.g. verbs of perception and emotion):

Inai moihai kesta
3sA:Dat girl-Dat happy
"The girl is happy"

Inai Hane hiela ne moiha
3sA:Dat Han-Dat see 3sA:Abs girl
"Han sees the girl"

Imai muthoti mà itsanku
1s:Dat understand-Neg what say-Dep-2s:NA
"I don't understand what you say"

In addition, the dative case is used with stative predicates to mark the participant from whose point of view the situation described by the predicate holds:

Imai tiyla uimamni Sakial
1s:Dat seem love-Dep-3sA:NA Sakial
"It seems to me that Sakial is in love"

Inai Hane tiapa hostanapi
3sA:Dat Han-Dat easy dancing
"Dancing is easy for Han"

Inai Hane, te mas lhai tsuò ankaila
3sA:Dat Han-Dat, 3sI:Abs soup here too Rel-hot
"This soup is too hot for Han"
or "As far as Han is concerned, this soup is too hot"

Lastly, the dative case is used to mark the objects of certain verbs and prepositions. Here the dative case may indicate a goal or direction (with verbs and prepositions denoting motion), a location in time, an instrument, etc.:

Na Elim puite itai Tenmothaie
3sA:Erg Elim ride-Cpl 3sI:Dat Tenmothai-Dat
"Elim rode to Tenmothai"

Kima eta niokta anali tuhsai
1p:Erg go return before-3sI:NA winter-Dat
"We will return before the winter"

Sa mikal tsitspe konome te kopo
3pA:Erg boy smash-Cpl hammer-Dat 3sI:Abs pot
"The boys smashed the pot with the hammer"

Consider also these examples, with bare nouns in the dative case:

eta moke
go home-Dat
"go home"

muelha lohe
sleep day-Dat
"sleep during the day"

Finally, notice the use of dative case in the following sentence:

Ni ulumahi Tokanai?
Qu speak-3sI:NA Tokana-Dat
"Do [you] speak Tokana?"

The verb uluma means "speak" in the sense of "communicate" or "use and understand language". This verb takes a dative object which indicates the instrument - viz. the particular language or medium of communication - by means of which the act of speaking is carried out.

(3) Locative: Locative case is used to mark the subject (possessor) of a handful of verbs denoting a possession relation (e.g. he "be/have", yma "have"; see section 3.5). Note that nouns in the locative case are marked with the suffix -na (section 2.2.3):

Iman he halma
1s:Loc is book
"I have a book" [lit. "At me is a book"]

Inan Elimna yma kote luan
3sA:Loc Elim-Loc have black hair
"Elim has black hair"

Locative case can also mark the possessor within a noun phrase:

te halmani Elimna
3sI:Abs book-3sA:NA Elim-Loc
"Elim's book" [i.e. the book that Elim has with him]

Otherwise, locative case is used with a variety of prepositions and verbs to indicate location:

Te halma pamai totsatna
3sI:Abs book on-3sI:NA table-Loc
"The book [is] on the table"

Na Sakial sulhtahi Tenmothaina
3sA:Erg Sakial live-3sI:NA Tenmothai-Loc
"Sakial lives in Tenmothai"

Kima tahun mokna
1p:Erg stay-Past home-Loc
"We stayed at home"

Ne mikal he kespa moliena mo kopo
3sA:Abs boy is carry hands-Loc 3sN:Abs pot
"The boy is carrying a pot in [his] hands"

(4) Ablative: The ablative case is used with a number of verbs and prepositions to indicate a source, origin, or reason. Nouns in the ablative case are marked with the ending -u (section 2.2.3):

Kima laisne lhiane tsuahai Uilumau
1p:Erg just:now come:here-Cpl from-3sI:NA Uiluma-Abl
"We just arrived here from Uiluma"

Se ete muelha ysam kahpahou
3pA:Abs go-Cpl sleep after sunset-Abl
"They went to sleep after sunset"

Ne moiha suhianehi kotou
3sA:Abs girl go:out-3sI:NA room-Abl
"The girl went/came out of the room"

The dative, locative, and ablative are collectively known as the "oblique" cases, since prepositions in Tokana assign one or another of these cases to their objects. Additional examples of the oblique cases can be found in section 4.1, which discusses prepositional phrases.


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Section 2.1 continued.