Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session




From the introduction: "My purpose in this study is to explore ways in which speakers of Southeastern Tepehuan talk about persons, places and things, the semantic notions generally associated with nouns. Although in English we are accustomed to expressing such ideas as quantity, quality, orientation, or possession of an item with a noun phrase, we cannot assume that in other languages semantic categories will always correspond to the expected syntactic categories as we know them in English. For instance, in Southeastern Tepehuan adjectival ideas are always expressed as predicates. On the other hand, some surface dependent clauses which at first appraisal seemed to be descriptive relative clauses embedded in a noun phrase, might not be part of the noun phrase at all, but independent predicates, subordinate only in discourse perspective.

"Not only is the correspondence between semantic an syntactic categories skewed (from an English speaker's point of view), but so also are the classes within one type of semantic category. We discover that within the set of adjectival ideas some seem to be viewed as being somehow noun-ish and occur syntactically as predicate nouns. In the Tepehuan mind, moreover, the complete set of nouns is separated into subsets of countable and non-countable nouns in a very different way from English. For instance, in Tepehuan one cannot pluralize or de-pluralize the word for flower; it is inherently a group in Tepehuan perception. Additionally, things or relations fall into two sets as to how they are marked for possession, depending upon whether or not they are held in a status relation. Some items may never occur in the language without possession; others may never show direct possession because of semantic class constraints."

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