Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jie Language, Part 3!!!

This video is in really bad quality, so I made an MSPaint of the important stuff and stuck it on the end.  See the last 30 seconds.

Just to reiterate: none of this is my own, this is a summary of Alexander Vovin's 2002 "Did the Xiongnu Speak a Yeniseian Language?"

Let’s look at the verbs for “come/go” and “catch” in Proto-Yeniseian.  Yeniseian verb morphology is mind-bogglingly complicated, so we’ll just go over the basics here.  Yeniseian verbs are conjugated by stacking up to eight pieces of information before the stem of the verb.  For example, suppose me and my friend have both put up our birchbark teepee.  We can say to each other in our satisfaction,

            “qu’s dbilbetn!”
            Birchbark teepee.1p.3p inanimate object.past.make/
            “Birchbark teepee I-it-did-do-we!
"We made a birchbark teepee!"

According to Starostin’s 1995 reconstruction, the verb stem for “come/go” is –jaq-.  We’re not sure on “catch” but Vovin points to modern Ket –kas—or –qos--, which would have been –kat--/--qot—in Pumpokol, an extinct southern Yeniseian language.  It makes sense that a crew of Yeniseian-speaking badasses marauding around in China would have a closer connection to South Yeniseian languages than North Yeniseian languages!

Anyway, let’s conjugate these verbs and see what we find!  First, let’s look at how Starostin reconstructed Proto-Yeniseian verbs:

Preverb p/t/k + object marker w/t/k + conjugation marker a/i/o + aspect/tense marker r/n + stem + plural marker *-n- (for 1pp and 2pp) + subject marker

Subject markers are as follows:
1ps –ŋ
1pp –ʒəng
2ps –(k)u
2pp -(k)ong
3psm –a
3psf –i
3pp –ang

Therefore, it seems plausible that Proto-Yeniseian would have had something like *tirjaqang.  It’s entirely possible that in the Jie language, if it were Yeniseian, -jaq- could have shifted to –jeq- or –ek-.  Perhaps some tweaking is acceptable here, since after all Jie and Proto-Yeniseian would have been separated by about 300 years and 1000 miles.  After all, (most) English speakers don’t still talk like it’s the 18th century.  

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