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The relator noun construction in Assamese

Gitanjali Bez

Abstract

This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of relator noun constructions in Assamese, an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the eastern part of India by a majority of people living in the state of Assam. The construction consists of a relator noun that functions as a head, and a genitive case marked noun that functions as a dependent. Semantically, most of the relator nouns encode spatial relation, such as place, path. However, some other relator nouns signal other relations, such as the ‘for’, ‘about’ etc. The occurrence of relator nouns is not an unusual phenomenon in Indo-Aryan languages. It has been analyzed as adpositions in many Indo-Aryan languages. However, I argue that the syntax of Assamese does not allow this analysis. It forms a distinct syntactic category, the behaviour of which is not similar to adpositions. Further, Assamese shares some close affinity regarding the relator noun construction with the neighbouring Tibeto-Burman languages such as Boro and Dimasa, rather than with the Indo-Aryan languages. Thus, this paper further investigates whether the resemblance occurs as a result of language contact or by accident.


Corresponding author: Gitanjali Bez, Department of Linguistics, Gauhati University, Guwahati, 781014, Assam, India, E-mail:

Acknowledgements

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Prafulla Basumatary and Krishna Boro for providing me the Boro data, Dhrubajit Langthasa for providing the Dimasa data, and Anukampa Ghagra for providing the Kokborok data.

Abbreviations

IA

Indo-Aryan

MIA

Middle Indo-Aryan

TB

Tibeto-Burman

1

first person

2

second person

3

third person

abl

ablative

acc

accusative

add

additive

adjv

adjectivalizer

advl

adverbializer

all

allative

caus

causative

clf

classifier

cond

conditional

contr

contrastive

dat

dative

dist

distal

emph

emphatic

erg

ergative

f

feminine

fam

familiar

foss

fossilized

fut

future

gen

genitive

hon

honorific

imp

imperative

infr

inferior

ins

instrumental

loc

locative

m

masculine

mod

modifier

neg

negative

nfn

non-finite

nmlz

nominalizer

pl

plural

postp

postposition

prs

present

pf

perfect

pfv

perfective

pst

past

quant

quantifier

rnc

relator noun construction

sg

singular

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Published Online: 2021-01-11
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

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