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Person as an inflectional category

Johanna Nichols EMAIL logo
From the journal Linguistic Typology

Abstract

The category of person has both inflectional and lexical aspects, and the distinction provides a finely graduated grammatical trait, relatively stable in both families and areas, and revealing for both typology and linguistic geography. Inflectional behavior includes reference to speech-act roles, indexation of arguments, discreteness from other categories such as number or gender, assignment and/or placement in syntax, arrangement in paradigms, and general resemblance to closed-class items. Lexical behavior includes sharing categories and/or forms and/or syntactic behavior with major lexical classes (usually nouns) and generally resembling open-class items. Criteria are given here for typologizing person as more vs. less inflectional, some basic typological correlations are tested, and the worldwide linguistic-geographical distribution is mapped.

Acknowledgements

Supported in part by a grant from the Russian Academic Excellence Project 5-100 to the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. I thank audiences at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, the LSA Linguistics Institute (University of Chicago, 2015), the University of Helsinki, the Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, and the University of Amsterdam for comments and questions on early versions of this work. Three anonymous reviewers helped greatly to improve the final version. Special thanks to Frans Plank for his patience with this article, and more importantly for founding, building up, and maintaining LT as the venue of choice for an article such as this one. And for writing Plank (1985), the intellectual cornerstone for work on person.

Abbreviations

1/2/3

1st/2nd/3rd person

a

agentive argument of transitive verb

abl

ablative

acc

accusative

adj

adjective

art

article

dat

dative

desid

desiderative

erg

ergative

excl

exclusive

f

feminine

fgr

falling tone grade

gen

genitive

incl

inclusive

ind

indicative

iness

inessive

lig

ligature

m

masculine

n

neuter

neg

negation

nom

nominative

o

patientive argument of transitive verb

obj

objective conjugation

obl

oblique

pf

perfective

pl

plural

poss

possessive

pst

past

ptcpl

participle

pv

preverb

s

single argument of intransitive verb

sbj

subjective conjugation

sbjv

subjunctive

sg

singular

tam

tense/aspect/mood

th

thematic

Different glossings of same-named items from different sources were harmonized.

Appendix

A The 42 survey items in questionnaire form

[1]Person of A indexed on verb.
[2]Person of O indexed on verb.
[3]Person of possessor indexed on possessum (head of possessive NP).
[4]Auto-person: the person of an independent pronoun is indexed on the pronoun itself, as a separate morpheme from the root.
[5]Person of the possessor of an argument indexed on the verb.
[6]Person of external possessor indexed on the verb.
[7]Possessive relative: the person of a gapped subject of a relative clause is indexed on the head noun.
[8]Person is marked on or attracted to the negative morpheme, which is separate from the lexical verb.
[9]Generic pronoun base: the independent pronouns share the same root, which does not contain person as part of its meaning.
[10]*Unique root per person or person-number, with person as a lexical property of the root.
[11]Roots or stems rhyme, alliterate, etc. along person or number lines.
[12]*There is no closed class of pronouns.
[13]*Pronouns have the same cases (i.e., case categories) as nouns.
[14]*Pronouns have the same case morphology as nouns.
[15]*Pronouns have the same root or stem flexivity as nouns.
[16]Pronouns have different number categories from nouns.
[17]*Pronouns have the same number markers as nouns.
[18]Any multiple marking of person per argument.
[19]A and O markers are formally identical.
[20]Person is the outermost verb inflection.
[21]Person is the outermost noun inflection.
[22]Inclusive/exclusive distinguished in independent pronouns.
[23]Inclusive/exclusive distinguished in verb person indexes.
[24]Inclusive/exclusive distinguished in noun possessive indexes.
[25]Inclusive/exclusive distinguished in auto-person on pronouns.
[26]Person and number discrete or factored out in independent pronouns.
[27a]Person and number discrete or factored out in verb person index for A.
[27b]Person and number discrete or factored out in verb person index for O.
[28]Person and number discrete or factored out in noun possessive indexes.
[29]Person and number discrete or factored out in auto-person on pronouns.
[30]*Noun genders distinguished in independent pronouns.
[31a]*Noun genders distinguished in verb person index for A.
[31b]*Noun genders distinguished in verb person index for O.
[32]*Noun genders distinguished in 3rd person independent pronouns.
[33a]*Noun genders distinguished in 3rd person verb index for A.
[33b]*Noun genders distinguished in 3rd person verb index for O.
[34]*Inherent (lexical) gender in pronominals.
[35]*Natural gender (not noun genders) distinguished in independent pronouns.
[36]*Natural gender (not noun genders) distinguished in 3rd person independent pronouns.
[37]*Natural gender (not noun genders) distinguished in verb person index for A and/or O.
[38]Verb person index(es) cumulative with TAM.
[39]Person involved in hierarchical marking on verbs.
[40]Person involved in inverse marking on verbs.
[41]Conjunct/disjunct marking on verbs.
[42]Person determines access to (hierarchical, promiscuous) number marking on verbs.
  1. * marks lexical properties; the others are inflectional.

B Survey item responses from four sample languages

Somali has both lexical and inflectional person, Russian mostly lexical, Mandarin little of either, and Cree mostly inflectional

SomaliRussianMandarinCree
11101
21001
31001
40001
5n.d.00n.d.
6n.d.00n.d.
70000
80.5000
90001
101110
110001
120000
131100.5
141000
15n.d.00n/a
16000.50
1700.510
18n.d.00n.d.
190000
201101
211001
221001
231001
241001
25n/an/an/a1
260011
270.5001
280001
29n/a001
30n/an/an/a0
310100
320100
331000
341000
350000
360100
370100
381100
390001
400001
410000
42000n/a

C Languages surveyed, by continent

LanguageStockLexInfl%Infl
Africa
TamazightAfroasiatic: Berber5.06.50.57
Arabic (Modern Standard Arabic)Afroasiatic: Semitic5.09.00.64
Dongolese NubianNubian3.06.00.67
Koyra ChiiniSonghai2.01.0
JamsayDogon1.01.5
MandinkaMande1.00.0
KunamaKunama3.010.00.77
FulaNorth Atlantic2.013.00.87
FurFur3.01.50.33
HausaAfroasiatic: Chadic: Hausa7.09.00.56
KanuriSaharan3.05.50.65
GumuzGumuz3.07.00.70
UdukKoman2.06.00.75
GoemaiAfroasiatic: Chadic: Angas-Gerka2.01.0
YorubaBenue-Congo1.01.0
EweKwa2.06.00.75
MaaleTa-Ne-Omotic2.00.0
HaroTa-Ne Omotic5.04.00.44
GbeyaAdamawa-Ubangi1.04.00.80
IkKuliak2.54.50.64
LogbaraCentral Sudanic: Moru-Madi0.02.0
TurkanaEastern Nilotic4.02.00.33
SomaliAfroasiatic: Cushitic5.010.00.67
LangoWestern Nilotic1.010.50.91
NgitiEastern Central Sudanic1.59.00.86
LugandaBenue-Congo3.06.00.67
DahaloAfroasiatic: Cushitic5.04.50.47
SandaweSandawe3.07.00.70
!KungJu1.01.0
NamaKwadi-Khoe7.05.00.42
Taa (!Xóõ)Tuu (!Ui-Taa)3.04.50.60
Europe
EnglishIndo-European: Germanic2.02.0
IrishIndo-European: Celtic2.54.50.64
FrenchIndo-European: Italic4.04.50.53
ItalianIndo-European: Italic4.03.50.47
CatalanIndo-European: Italic3.08.00.73
GermanIndo-European: Germanic5.03.00.38
NorwegianIndo-European: Germanic2.01.00.20
SwedishIndo-European: Germanic2.00.50.20
SloveneIndo-European:Balto-Slavic5.03.50.41
Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (standard)Indo-European:Balto-Slavic5.03.50.41
BulgarianIndo-European:Balto-Slavic5.05.00.50
MacedonianIndo-European:Balto-Slavic5.05.00.50
RomanianIndo-European: Italic3.04.00.57
GreekIndo-European: Greek4.06.00.60
AlbanianIndo-European:Albanian5.55.50.50
BasqueBasque6.05.50.48
IngushNakh-Daghestanian: Nakh6.03.00.33
AvarNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.52.50.42
GodoberiNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian5.52.00.27
BotlikhNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.01.00.25
HunzibNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.50.00.00
LakNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.54.00.53
Akusha (standard)Nakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.06.50.68
IcariNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian4.57.50.63
LezgiNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian2.01.00.33
TsakhurNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.01.00.25
KryzNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian2.02.00.50
ArchiNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.51.50.30
UdiNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian2.01.00.33
XinalugNakh-Daghestanian: Daghestanian3.51.00.22
KabardianWest Caucasian1.58.00.84
AbkhazWest Caucasian3.58.50.71
GeorgianKartvelian2.04.50.69
SvanKartvelian2.06.50.76
Laz (Pazar)Kartvelian2.05.00.71
OsseticIndo-European: Iranian3.04.00.57
PersianIndo-European: Iranian1.06.00.86
Eastern ArmenianIndo-European: Armenian3.06.50.68
TurkishTurkic3.08.00.73
HungarianUralic: Finno-Ugric2.05.00.71
LithuanianIndo-European: Balto-Slavic5.03.00.38
RussianIndo-European: Balto-Slavic7.53.00.29
Saami (generic)Uralic: Finno-Ugric3.08.50.74
FinnishUralic: Finno-Ugric3.07.00.70
EstonianUralic: Finno-Ugric3.07.00.57
North-Central Asia
ErzjaUralic: Finno-Ugric2.012.50.86
MariUralic: Finno-Ugric2.08.00.80
UdmurtUralic: Finno-Ugric
KomiUralic: Finno-Ugric3.09.00.75
MansiUralic: Finno-Ugric3.04.00.57
Khanty (Northern)Uralic: Finno-Ugric1.56.00.80
NganasanUralic: Samoyedic2.09.00.82
Tundra NenetsUralic: Samoyedic2.57.00.74
SelkupUralic: Samoyedic1.58.50.85
KetYeniseian5.08.00.62
YakutTurkic2.57.50.75
MongolianMongolic2.08.00.80
ManchuTungusic3.03.00.50
NanaiTungusic3.08.50.74
EvenkiTungusic2.514.00.85
EvenTungusic2.514.00.85
YukagirYukagir2.55.00.67
ChukchiChukchi-Kamchadal3.58.00.70
ItelmenChukchi-Kamchadal1.55.50.79
Siberian Yup’ikEskimo-Aleut2.58.50.77
AleutEskimo-Aleut0.09.01.00
AinuAinu0.012.51.00
NivkhNivkh3.511.50.77
JapaneseJapanese3.51.00.22
South and Southeast Asia
WaigaliIndo-European: Indo-Iranian2.05.00.71
BurushaskiBurushaski5.07.00.58
PalulaIndo-European: Indo-Iranian: “Dardic”2.01.50.43
MandarinSino-Tibetan: Sinitic2.01.5
HindiIndo-European: Indo-Iranian1.50.00.00
Hakha LaiSino-Tibetan: Kuki-Chin2.013.00.87
KhariaAustroasiatic: Munda3.08.00.73
Lhasa TibetanSino-Tibetan: Bodish5.02.00.29
BelhareSino-Tibetan:Kiranti4.011.00.73
BrahuiDravidian2.03.50.64
PaiwanAustronesian1.04.00.80
ThaiTai-Kadai2.00.5
TagalogAustronesian2.02.00.50
Great AndamaneseGreat Andamanese1.08.00.89
CambodianAustroasiatic1.51.0
KolamiDravidian5.04.00.44
AcehneseAustronesian3.011.00.79
SemelaiAustroasiatic3.05.50.65
Car NicobareseAustroasiatic2.06.00.75
New Guinea
MaybratWest Papuan3.05.00.63
WaremboriAustronesian: Lower Mamberamo1.010.50.91
MeyahEast Bird’s Head1.09.00.90
AbunAbun2.00.0
HatamHatam1.07.00.88
Inanwatan/SuaboInanwatan2.09.00.82
SentaniSentani1.05.50.85
KuotKuot3.09.00.75
BarupuMacro-Skou5.07.00.58
ImondaBorder3.52.00.36
DaniDani1.09.00.90
MaliBaining5.07.50.60
AlamblakSepik3.05.50.65
YimasLower Sepik-Ramu2.04.00.67
UsanAdelbert Range1.07.00.88
MianMacro-Ok5.56.00.52
KobonEast New Guinea Highlands: Kalam1.54.50.75
AmeleMadang2.05.50.73
TauyaMadang-Adelbert: Brahman3.010.00.77
KombaiMacro-Ok1.09.00.90
AsmatMacro-Ok1.03.50.78
Salt-YuiChimbu-Wahgi2.06.00.75
HuaEastern Highlands2.06.50.76
KewaEngan-Kewa3.05.50.65
MotunaSouth Bougainville4.012.00.75
KiwaiKiwaian1.06.50.87
AbuiTimor-Alor-Pantar1.013.00.93
MenyaAngan2.55.50.69
BiluaBilua3.09.00.75
TeiwaAlor-Pantar1.09.00.90
LavukaleveLavukaleve3.013.50.82
Koiari (Grass)Koiarian0.01.01.00
KamberaAustronesian1.013.00.93
TawalaAustronesian0.014.01.00
Yelî DnyeYelî Dnye2.09.50.83
RapanuiAustronesian1.02.0
Australia
DyirbalPama-Nyungan1.03.00.75
JinguluMirndi2.57.00.74
KayardildTangkic3.03.00.50
DjapuPama-Nyungan1.53.00.67
Bininj Gun-wokGunwingguan3.012.50.81
UradhiPama-Nyungan1.51.0
MawngIwaidjan3.010.00.77
TiwiTiwi3.06.00.67
MarrithiyelWestern Daly4.06.50.62
Ngan’gityemerriSouthern Daly6.010.00.63
UngarinjinWororan2.08.50.81
BardiNyulnyulan3.012.50.81
KuniyantiBunuban1.08.00.89
WarlpiriPama-Nyungan4.08.00.67
MartuthuniraPama-Nyungan2.01.00.33
PitjantjatjaraPama-Nyungan2.00.0
DiyariPama-Nyungan2.02.00.50
WembawembaPama-Nyungan1.010.00.91
Western North America
Central Alaskan Yup’ikEskimo-Aleut3.04.00.57
HaidaHaida1.05.50.85
NisghaTsimshian0.07.01.00
Kwak’walaWakashan0.015.01.00
NuuchahnulthWakashan1.08.50.89
YurokAlgic1.08.00.89
HupaAthabaskan0.55.00.91
ChimarikoChimariko2.08.00.80
KarukKaruk1.06.50.87
YukiYuki-Wappo3.55.00.59
Eastern PomoPomoan2.02.50.56
Kashaya PomoPomoan4.53.50.44
WappoYuki-Wappo2.01.0
WintuWintun2.08.00.80
KlamathKlamath-Modoc3.03.00.50
TakelmaTakelma-Kalapuya1.08.00.89
Hanis CoosCoos0.013.01.00
WishramChinookan3.015.00.83
KlallamSalish1.07.50.88
HalkomelemSalish1.07.00.88
ThompsonSalish1.05.00.83
MaiduMaidun2.07.00.78
Ineseño ChumashChumashan1.07.00.88
Southern Sierra MiwokMiwok-Costanoan1.09.50.90
WashoWasho0.015.01.00
YokutsYokuts2.04.00.67
KumeyaayYuman2.010.50.84
CupeñoUto-Aztecan4.012.00.75
TümpisaUto-Aztecan2.03.00.60
Eastern North America
SlaveAthabaskan1.09.00.90
Nez PerceSahaptin1.08.00.89
HopiUto-Aztecan1.54.50.75
ZuniZuni0.53.00.86
AcomaKeresan0.013.01.00
KiowaKiowa-Tanoan0.09.01.00
WichitaCaddoan2.03.00.60
LakhotaSiouan0.08.01.00
TonkawaTonkawa3.06.50.68
ChitimachaChitimacha1.04.50.82
TunicaTunica4.011.00.73
AtakapaAtakapa1.06.00.86
TimucuaTimucua2.09.00.82
KoasatiMuskogean2.08.00.80
CreekMuskogean0.06.01.00
SenecaIroquoian2.011.00.85
CherokeeIroquoian1.012.00.92
CreeAlgonquian0.517.00.97
PawneeCaddoan0.015.51.00
NatchezNatchez0.06.51.00
Mexico and Central America
SeriSeri1.07.00.88
RarámuriUto-Aztecan2.05.00.71
YaquiUto-Aztecan2.07.50.79
CoraUto-Aztecan1.08.50.89
ChichimecOtomanguean1.012.00.92
Totonac (Filomeno Mata)Totonac-Tepehuan1.012.00.92
PurépechaPurépecha3.06.00.67
OlutecMixe-Zoque0.516.50.97
Chalcatongo MixtecOtomanguean4.511.00.71
Highland ChontalTequistlatecan1.09.00.90
HuaveHuave0.011.01.00
TzutujilMayan1.04.00.80
PipilUto-Aztecan2.07.50.79
South America
Canela-KrahoMacro-Ge1.08.00.89
PirahãMuran2.02.00.50
SanumaYanomaman3.012.00.80
HupNadahup3.02.50.45
HixkaryanaCariban2.012.00.86
ApurinãArawakan3.06.00.67
ShuarJivaroan2.05.50.73
PaezPaesan5.04.00.44
YaguaYaguan2.010.00.83
MacushiCariban4.013.50.77
UrarinaUrarina1.58.00.84
Shipibo-ConiboPano-Tacanan: Panoan2.00.00.00
IskonawaPano-Tacanan: Panoan2.02.00.50
Awa PitBarbacoan1.57.50.83
MochicaMochica3.03.00.50
CholonCholonan4.09.00.69
KarajáMacro-Ge3.58.50.71
WariChapakuran4.08.00.67
KwazaKwaza2.55.50.69
NambikuaraNambikuara2.010.00.83
JaqaruAymaran2.010.50.84
CavineñaPano-Tacanan: Tacanan2.06.00.75
CayuvavaCayuvava0.07.51.00
MovimaMovima3.08.00.73
MoseténMosetén6.07.00.54
YurakareYurakare1.05.00.83
AymaraAymaran4.012.00.75
Alto PerenéArawakan4.07.50.65
Yanesha’Arawakan1.08.00.89
Huallaga QuechuaQuechuan3.011.50.79
ChipayaUru-Chipaya6.05.00.45
KadiwéuGuaycuruan1.05.50.85
MatacoMatacoan1.011.50.92
XoklengMacro-Ge4.01.00.20
GuaraníTupian2.011.00.85
MapudungunMapudungun0.011.01.00
Gününa KüneChon0.014.01.00
  1. Lex, Infl=total points for lexical and inflectional properties. %Infl=the percent of the sum of Lex and Infl that is inflectional (calculated only where the total is high enough to make percentages meaningful).

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Published Online: 2017-12-7
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

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