Subordination and Mood in Western Abenaki

Emmon Bach
UMass(Amherst) / SOAS
SSILA Summer 2011

Alternative title: Some more other verb forms in Western Abenaki [cf. online below]

  1. Introduction:
  2. In this presentation we will look at Joseph Laurent's picture of the verbal system of Western Abenaki against a backdrop of the contemporary picture (Bloomfield, Goddard, and others).

    Many (all?) languages regiment differences between main and subordinate clauses and between straightforward assertions and other kinds of expressions. There are two main ways of expressing grammatical differences in natural languages: structural and inflectional. Other resources: lexical, intonational, etc.

  3. Structural Categories:
  4. Functional categories:

    For example: S, S̅, X, XP,...

    Auxiliaries etc.

  5. Inflectional Categories:
  6. For example: indicative, subjunctive, interrogative, conjunct, subordinative,..., ergative, absolutive etc.

  7. Subordinator + inflection
  8. Example:

      American English:
    1. Let me remind him, lest he forget.
    2. "lest its drift be lost on us"
    3. British English:
    4. "lest its drift is lost on us"
    5. -- Roger Owen , Times Literary Supp. 14 May 1982 cited online in Merriam-WEbster's dictionary of English usage
    6. Let me remind him, lest he forgets.

  9. Western Abenaki
    1. Western Abenaki (Eastern Algonquian)
    2. Location: formerly in (present day) New England (Vermont, New Hampshire), presently in Québec (Odanak) with scattered individuals in New England (Vermont, New York, New Hampshire). Algonquian one of the larger language families in North America, both in geographical spread and number of languages. Distantly related to two California language: hence, Algic.

      General structural characteristics: rich inflectional and derivational morphology. Syntax: free word order. Except: Wackernagel (2nd) position phenomena (see below). Typical (relatively simple) phonology, but vd vs vl consonants, unusual in Algonquian. Relatively long history of linguistic analysis (starting with French missionaries, contrast with English). Written records go back several centuries. Cf. References Online

      About Joseph Laurent (Sozap Lolô) Western Abenaki linguist and educator: 1884 New familiar Abenakis and English dialogues. (JL84) Laurent's analysis of his language reflected in paradigms and labels (see below).

      Example sentence:

      1. K'wajônôbena waligijik asesak?
      2. `Have we some good horses?' JL84: 70
        K'- wajônô - bena wali -gijik ases - ak
        we(incl) - have - (we incl) good(changed conjunct) - part - horse - pl

      Algonquian: Verbal Categories (modern analyses, Bloomfield and others)

      Orders: Independent, Conjunct, Imperative, (sometimes a fourth order for Jussive etc), within Independent and Conjunct further Modes: Indicative and Subjunctive/Subordinative

      (further distinctions: tense / affirmative / negative, definite / indefinite object (transitives) (Eastern Alg)

      Crosscutting pattern of inflections determined by membership of arguments to the big gender classes: Animate, Inanimate, yielding four basic types:

      1. AI: Animate Intransitive (subject)
      2. II: Inanimate Intransitive (subject)
      3. TA: Transitive Animate (object)
      4. TI: Transitive Inanimate (object)

      The personal inflections differ as between Independent and Conjunct Orders: In Independent they register as prefixes and suffixes, in Conjunct only as suffixes. Many special details.

      Some examples:

      1. kdaloka `thou workest' k(d)- aloka Independent Indicative Present
      2. kdalokabena `we (incl) work' k(d)- aloka -bena Independent Indicative Present
      3. alokaan `thou workest' aloka -an Conjunct Indicative Present
      4. alokaagw `we (incl) work' aloka -agw Conjunct Indicative
      5. kdalokab `thou workedst' k(d)- aloka -b(en) Independent Indicative Preterite

      And many more.

      Laurent's analysis of his language: verbal paradigms

      Laurent's own organization of some verbal categories is markedly different from that of the traditional modern Algonquianist schemes, just outlined .

      Here are some of Laurent's adjectival and verbal categories, with examples first from the paradigms and explicitly labeled examples:

      Two clitics: -ji Future and -ba Conditional

      Formally, these two items stand outside the inflectional system. They are cliticized onto the first word of a sentence. In one section of the book, Laurent shows that he is perfectly aware of their status by exhibiting (in a manner reminiscent of Ken Hale's writings on Warlbiri) examples of "transposition of the affixes "ji" and "ba." (Cf. LeSourd Ms.)

      Transposition of the affixes "ji" and "ba" (JL84: 119):
      `I would go to New-York if I had money,'

      1. N'-d-elosaba New-York wajônemôshôna môni, or:
      2. New-Yorkba n'-d-elosa wajônemôshôna môni,
      3. Môniba wajônemôshôna n'-d-elosa New-York,
      4. N'-d-elosaba New-York môni wajônemôshôna,
      5. Môniba wajônemôshôna New-York n'-d-elosa,
      6. Wajônemôshônaba môni n'-d-elosa New-York,
      7. W'ajônemôshônaba môni New-York n'-d-elosa .

      8. *Wajônemôshônaba n'-d-elosa môni New-York,

      These examples are not a complete "scramble" of the words, but respect the clausal organization. For example, there is no example like (13) (which I think it is fair to star). Nevertheless, Laurent incorporates these clitics regularly into his paradigmatic lists. The same goes for the preverb or auxiliary item kizi `already' or `perfect' or `past' (see examples below, and discussion in the final part of this presentation). What this shows (I believe) is that Laurent's implicit organization of paradigms is notional (semantic) or functional rather than formal.

      In the following, I give Laurent's designations in italics. (Warning! these examples are AI "possessive" verbs meaning `to have a cow', there is no separate syntactic constituent for `cow.' Side note: notice that the word for cow, like many words from the agricultural domain are based on the plural form of the English source, cows.)

        1. Present
          1. N'okaozemi. `I have a cow.'
        2. Imperfect
          1. 'Okaozemob. `He had a cow.'
        3. Future
          1. N'okaozemibenaji. `We shall have a cow.'
        4. Second Future
          1. N'okaozemiji kizi, or, Kiziji n'okaozemi. `I shall have had a cow.'
          2. [There are few examples of the second ordering.]

      3. Laurent's "conditional" designates all forms with the aforementioned clitic -ba:

        1. Present
          1. N'okaozemiba. `I should have a cow.'
          2. 'Okaozemoakba. `They would have a cow.'
        2. Past
          1. N'okaozemibenobba . `We should have had a cow.' JL84:129

      5. Here Laurent includes 1st and 3rd person injunctives. No special comment to be made here. But I can't refrain from giving the delightful imperative:

      6. Okaozemi! `Have a cow!' AI Imperative 2 JL84:129
      7. [EB my exclamation marks!]

      9. This designation is used for Independent and Dubitative (Conjunct) Subordinative/Subjunctive forms\;

        1. N'okaozemin . `That I may have a cow.' AI IndSub 1 Present JL84:130 n- [w- [kaoz-em]]+i/e -n(a)
        2. Kizi n'okaozemin. `That I might have had a cow.' AI IndSub 1 Past &c., after the above tense, commencing by kizi. JL84:130
        3. N'okaozeminaza. AI IndSub Preterite 1 Imperfect `That I might h. a cow.' JL84:130 n- [w- [kaoz-em]]+i/e -n(a) -za

      11. Laurent's designation is used for conjunct forms:

        1. Wskebi wajônok telaps. * `Perhaps I have a trap.' TA ConjIndc (Indefinite) Present1-3 JL84:156 wajôn- (-ô) -og
        2. Wskebi wajônokza tôbi.
          `Perhaps I had a bow.' TA ConjIndc (Indefinite) Preterite 1-3 Imperfect JL84:156 wajôn- (-ô) -og -za

      12. Adjective / Verbs
      13. Conjunct forms used attributively (participial forms) are treated separately by Laurent:

        1. Waligijik ases(ak) . `Fine horses .' AI ch conj part 3p JL84:69
        2. Waligek wigw“m . `A fine house .' II ch conj part O JL84:69

      As just noted, Laurent's designation "Subjunctive" is invoked for the Independent and Conjunct Non-Indicative forms in paradigms. What these categories have in common is the use of -za/-ssa/-shan forms for the second Tense forms labeled ( Imperfect). In the Independent Indicative examples the Imperfect is always marked with -b(an). In our other two sources, we do not find such a neat distribution.

  10. Final Thoughts
    1. Upstairs, Downstairs
    2. Is there a structural basis for the choice of Order? This position has been advocated by Richards for Wampanoag (2004) and Brittain (2001) for some other Algonquian languages. The idea that crucial syntactic distinctions are governed by or correlated with structural differences has been a dominant idea since Emonds' work in the seventies, distinguishing "root" and "non-root" (structure-preserving) transformations (1976). Something like this idea is probably the source for the terminology Independent vs Conjunct (Phil LeSourd, p.c.) but establishing this definitely requires philological work that I have not done. Structural differences of this sort undoubtedly underlie the use of "Subordinative" for the second category within each of the two major Orders.

    3. Mood, Mode, Modality, Force
    4. Not incompatible with the previous position, is the idea that the contrasts of the four types we are concerned with here are based on semantic distinctions, of the sort suggested by the words at the head of this section.

    5. Features vs Structures
    6. In any event, it seems to me that the encoding of the complex and crosscutting morphological architecture of the Algonquian Verbal system will not be neatly captured by any single hierarchical scheme. I think it is worth considering Chomsky's strictures in Aspects against trying to model inflectional properties of words as linear sequences of separate "pieces" and arguing that features are a better mechanism, as they do not lead to arbitrary decisions about the order of elements.

    7. A different model: Word and Paradigm
    8. The Word and Paradigm model pursued by Peter Matthews and more recently by Jim Blevins and others offers a different way of looking at linguistic structure. I suggest that Laurent's own description of his language might fit better into this kind of model. But doing a serious job of pursuing this line would takes us well beyond the limits of the current discussion.

    9. Both: Categories and Features
    10. Instead of (e.g.)
      NegP etc.:

      CP [Sub: Neg] etc.

      Common to LFG, CPSG, HPSG, (Combinatory) Categorial Grammar, etc., etc.

      Instead of (e.g.)
      move α (or whatever)
      feature percolation principles (government, agreement) etc.
      Cf. e.g. Bach 1983 (and numerous alternatives)


Bach, Emmon. Western Abenaki Verbs:
Bach, Emmon. 2000 Some Other verbforms in Western Abenaki: Paper given at SSILA summer meeting, Santa Barbara, 2000.
Bach, Emmon. 1983. On the relationship between word-grammar and phrase-grammar. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. 1.65-89. Beach, Jesse 2004. The Morphology of Modern Western Abenaki. Dartmouth College Honors Thesis: Program of Linguistics & Cognitive Science. Boas, Franz. 1911. Tsimshian. In Franz Boas, ed., Handbook of American Indian Languages (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 40), vol. 1: 283-422 (Reprinted 1969: Humanities Press/Anthropological Publications, Oosterhout, NB.) TSIMSH Brittain, Julie. 2001. The Morphosyntax of the Algonquian Conjunct Verb: A Minimalist Approach. New York: Garland (Routledge). Cinque, Guglielmo. 1999. Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press. Downing, Bruce. 1970. Syntactic structure and phonological phrasing in English, Ph.D dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Emonds, Joseph. 1976. A transformational approach to English syntax: Root, Structure Preserving, and Local Transformations. New York: Academic Press. Kayne, Richard S. 2005. Some notes on comparative syntax, with special reference to English and French. In Guglielmo Cinque, and Richard S. Kayne, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Syntax (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 3-69. Laurent, Joseph. 1884. New familar Abenakis and English dialogues. Quebec: Leger Brousseau. (JL84) Pollock, Jean-Yves. 1989. Verb movement, universal grammar and the structure of IP. Linguistic Inquiry 20:365-424. Lesourd, Philip S. [Ms 2011] The Syntax of Second Position in Western Abenaki Indiana University [Earlier version presented at WSCLA16 (UMass (Amherst)] Richards, Norvin W. 2004. The syntax of the conjunct and independent orders in Wampanoag. IJAL 70, no. 4: pp. 327-68.