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Yaghnobi copular clauses March 19, 2007

Posted by Bahrom in Linguistics, Semantics, Syntax, Yaghnobi.

I just finished writing the first draft of an article on Yaghnobi copular clauses. I’m posting it with the hope that I can get some feedback on my description and analysis. The article is attached here:

 Yaghnobi Copular Clauses  See the update at the end of this post for a revised version of this article.

Here is an overview of the article:

The basic sequence of elements in copular clauses is subject-predicate where the subject is an NP and the predicate consists of a nominal element followed by a copula. (By subject, I mean the noun phrase that is being described, and by predicate I mean the description. I am not using the term subject in the sense of a grammatical relation.) The nominal element can be an NP, a locative NP, or an adjective. The first section of the article describes the morphology of copulas: conjugation for number, tense, and person, and contractions.

There are two copulas in the Yaghnboi language. The first, xæst ‘be’, is used in sentences describing location, equation, proper inclusion, and attribution. The other, аst ‘be, have’, is used for possession and existence. The second section of the article describes each of these copular functions.

Update 7/27/08: I have incorporated the valuable comments and critique I received from readers of this blog and have rewritten this article as a chapter in my MA Thesis, Aspects of Yahgnobi Grammar. You can download the revised version here: Copular Clauses.


Givon, T. 2001. Syntax, An introduction. Vol. I. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Payne, Thomas E. 1997. Describing Morphosyntax: A guide for field linguists. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.



1. birdswords - March 23, 2007

I’m in the process of making major revisions to this article. I discovered a number of errors in this draft, so be sure to come back and get the new version which I hope to post soon.

2. Etienne - March 27, 2007


Interesting! A few comments and questions: page 1: glossing OR as “they are” might make the reader think it can only be used with animate subjects, which your own following example belies: I’d leave OR unglossed. A “there” is missing before the “is no plural form”. In the footnote, same page: “No data are”, not “no data is”. Pages 1-2: in the gloss, what does QTY mean? On a related topic: I’d use “PL”, not “P”, to indicate “Plural”; Page 3, section 1.4: “copula”, not “coupla”. And does “na” behave differently in copular and non-copular sentences? This should be specified.

A little nitpick: in 2.6 (i: farbeh sutur) and the first example on page 5 (i: kuhiston -i) the numeral/indefinite article (a reflex of Iranian AIVAS, I assume) has the form i:, but in the second example in 1.3 (page 2), “man i sutur oi”, its form is i (no lengthening). If this is a typo, it should be corrected: if not, the difference should be explained.

Finally, one question: the last example of section 2.4 contains some good old Indo-European material (the words for “wolf”, “cow” “horse”) but I was wondering whether “xirs” for “bear” is indeed a reflex of Indo-European *h2rtkos (cf. Sanskrit “rksah”).

Anyway, thanks for a nice and informative article.

3. آستان - March 28, 2007


To Yaghnobi for bear – xirs, it is a Yaghnobi borrowing from Tajik “xirs”. Etymology of Persian “xirs” comes to a Middle Persian “x(i)rs”; cf. Avestan “areša” *[r.ša], Ossetic “ars”, Shughni “yurš.”, Sariqoli “yürx´”. Origin of Persian /xir-/ if of Middle Persian pronunciation of vocallic /r./ as */xr./.

4. آستان - March 28, 2007

Sogdian for bear is ‘ššh */e(š)ša/

5. birdswords - March 28, 2007


Do you know what the Sogdian word was for ‘bear’? And, thank you very much for the helpful etymological information!

6. آستان - March 29, 2007


for Yaghnobi “one” – it is “ī” /i:/ it’s etymology goes as far as proto-Iranian *aiwa-, in Sogdian we have */i:w/ or */yu/.

To the etymology of “kun-” : the dictionary of Andreyev-Peshchereva shows: kun- : íkta/iktá/kúnta : kárna : kárak/karák” (i.e. ) in Sogdian “to do” was “kwn- : ‘krt-/’kt-” – it in probably not a borrowing, in some other Iranian languages it is similar as an irregular verb.

Finally the Indo-European reconstruction of “bear” – h2r.tktó-s – in Indo-Euroean there were three laryngal sounds, simply transcribed as h1, h2 and h3 – they influenced a quality od vowel */e/ : *eh1 > *ē; *ah2 > *ā; *eh3 > ō; *h1e > *e; *h2e > *a; *h3e > *o. The laryngals dissapeared as consonants in all IE languages exept the Anatolian branch…

7. birdswords - March 29, 2007


Thank you for your comments and questions. In regard to:

The glossing of OR- that’s a good point, this form of the copula can be used with both animates and inanimates, I will gloss it as ‘are’ rather than ‘they are’.

The gloss QTY is used for -i which is an obligatory suffix on items (both animate and inanimate) that are counted. Any time a noun is preceded by a number this suffix is required. This is different from the plural suffix -t. For example: du xar-i a-tir, ‘Two donkeys went.’; xar-t a-tir-or, ‘(The) donkeys went’; and i: xar a-tir, ‘a donkey went.’

The prefix na- is used to negate all verbs, not just copulas. For example it is also used with the light verb kun ‘do’: ax iranka ark na-kun-tʃi:, ‘He won’t do that kind of work.’ (although this may be a bad example since kun appears to be borrowed from Tajik). Here’s another example with the intransitive verb nid ‘sit’: nutʃi na-nid setʃi nid, ‘Don’t sit low, sit high.’ (Meaningː “Don’t sit in a place of low honor, sit in a place of high honor”.)

Thanks for pointing out the inconsistency in my transcription of the numeral/indefinite article iː. I am actually still uncertain whether this is really lengthened. My language consultant felt that it was long and transcribed it that way himself, but the length of these segments is not consistently long when I measure them in praat (the phonetic analysis software I use). There may be some kind of phonological conditioning going on here that I haven’t found yet.

I am not familiar with the historical etymology of the numeral one/indefinite article (proto-Iranian AIVAS) in the Iranian language family. Could you elaborate on this a bit?
Also, I am not familiar with the transcription system you are using, for example, what is the 2 in h2rtkos?

Thanks again for the very helpful comments and for catching some typos and misspellings too. I’ll be posting a revised version of this article soon.

8. Etienne - March 29, 2007


I was about to write to answer your questions, but alas, Lubomir beat me to the punch as far as the meaning of h2 in Indo-European is. I may have something to add on *AIVA-S (sometimes transcribed *AIWA-S). Basically, Proto-Indo-European had a root *oy with the meaning “one”, to which various suffixes could be added: *oy-nos is the source of the numeral “one” in several Indo-European languages (including English “one”, as well as the indefinite article “a(n)”), as well as Greek OINOS “one (in dice)”; a form *oy-kos is the source of Sanskrit EKA “one”, and *oy-wos yielded proto-Iranian *AIWA “one” (as well as Sanskrit EVA “just so”, and Ancient Greek OIOS “alone”). Persian YEK goes back to AIWA-KA, whereas the Sogdian + Yaghnobi forms go back to uncompounded *AIWA: Pashto YAU, and the Ossetic forms YEU (Digor)/YU (Iron), seemingly also go back to *AIWA.

For more information on the topic, I recommend Ronald Emmerick’s chapter, “Iranian”, in Jadranka Gvozdanovic’s INDO-EUROPEAN NUMERALS (DeGruyter, 1992) from which I drew the above information.

9. Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst - April 4, 2007

Many thanks for your interesting article and for the English translation of part of Hromov which I’m sure will be very useful.
Just some comments on the article. Maybe you should number the sample sentences to make it easier to refer to them.
You describe or paraphrase the function of -i as ‘QTY’, ‘GEN’ and ‘LOC’, based on your understanding of its function. Grammatically, it would be simpler to just call it the ‘oblique’ because it is an inflectional ending with a bundle of functions.
In the sentence ‘This river doesn’t have fish’ you analyse dairo-i as ‘river-LOC’ but add ‘(possession)’ after your translation. This is a good example of the bundle and the resulting incertainty.
Maybe the sentence man kat yaghnob xaest (also) means ‘My house is Yaghnob’, i.e. ‘Yaghnob is may home’?

10. birdswords - April 9, 2007

Desmond, thank you for the helpful comments.

I understand the point you are making about glossing -i simply as OBL rather than making an interpretation as to the particular function. The uncertainty as to whether -i has a LOC or GEN function in the sentence ‘This river doesn’t have fish.’ is well taken- especially given the semantic affinity between possession and location. On the other hand, I think that the QTY function can be differentiated from LOC, and GEN by the structure of the sentence and hence is not subject to the same kind of interpretive uncertainties.

The suffix -i has an amazing array of functions. I have identified ten different grammatical functions for this one suffix. These functions include subject marking (with imperfective aspect) and object marking (with perfective aspect), in addition to a variety of oblique functions. I have compiled quite a bit of data on the synchronic use of this suffix and plan to write a paper on it in the future, but first I need to do some research on the history of this suffix.

My English translation of the sentence man kat yaghnob xaest is based on the Tajik translation given by my language consultant: khonai man dar yaghnob ast ‘house of me in Yaghnob is’. But, your question shows me that I need to do a better job of supporting my claim that there is a difference in the functions of aest and xaest. This sentence was not actually a good choice for illustrating the locative function of xaest, since there is no -i suffix on yaghnob as there would be if it weren’t a proper noun! For some reason the -i suffix does not occur on proper nouns or pronouns. So, I’ll choose a better sentence in the next revision of this paper.

Thanks again for your comments. They have helped me think more carefully about my analysis and presentation.

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