Kamis, 15 Januari 2009

hamah MAYBRAT GRAMMAR. a language of bird's Head peninsula

Klaus Thoden - Interrogatives in Maybrat

Interrogatives in Maybrat
Maybrat (or Mejprat or Mai Brat) is a language located in the northwestern part of Irian Jaya
(i.e. the Indonesian part of New Guinea), on the Bird’s Head peninsula. It is spoken by a total
number of 22,000 speakers which is a high number of speakers compared to other Papuan
languages. The word order is SVO with the interrogatives remaining in situ, which means
that, unlike English or German, they are not moved to the head of the sentence. Another
characteristic is the existence of serial verb constructions. These are rows of verbs that share
one argument. An example is found in sentence (9).

Formation of the interrogatives
Interrogatives consist of a base and a question suffix which is either -yo, -ye or -ya/-ja. The
differences in the vowels are of lexical nature and not determined phonologically or
morphologically. The base can be prefixes and pronouns that relate to the interrogative
category or syllables without a meaning as in the simplex awija ‘who’. It is, however, not the
possible to construct new interrogatives by adding a question particle to any prefix. The group
of interrogatives is a closed group.

awija ‘who’
In spite of the existence of -ja, which marks the word as an interrogative, awi is not an
existing morpheme in Maybrat. awija is a simplex.

(1) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
awiya ø-skie amah
who ø-build house
‚Who built the house?‘
Based on awija are the interrogatives for POSSESSOR and THING. This is quite logical as all
three ask for entities. The simplex is prefixed by the respective morphemes.

r-awija ‚whose‘
r is similar to the possessive prefix ro-.
(2) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
ku r-awija m-awia
child POSS-who 3U-cry
‚Whose child cries?‘

p-awija ‚what‘
p is the nominal prefix po-, meaning ‚thing’.
(3) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
pi y-ko y-no p-awija e?
man 3M-roast 3M-do NOM-who hey
‚Hey what does the man roast?‘
Klaus Thoden - Interrogatives in Maybrat
The former pronoun cannot be used for asking what was said, as in English ‘What did you
say?’. In Maybrat, the category MANNER takes care of that as is illustrated in (4).
(4) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 117)
y-awe fi-ye
‚What does he say?‘

tiya ‚how much/many‘
Like awi in awija, the stem ti in tiya has no meaning or has lost it.
(5) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
rae m-ana tiya
man 3U-head how.many
‚How many people?‘

titiya ‚when‘
In this case, the first syllable ti could be the temporal adverb for past tense ti even if it is not
necessarily a past tense which is expressed with titiya. It only indicates that the word has a
temporal context. The literal translation would be ‘how much past’.
(6) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
titiya n-ama
when 2-come
‚When will you come?‘

e. g. kai tiya ‚how long’ (noun + tiya (QUANTITY))
Questions for EXTENT are asked with the interrogative pronoun for QUANTITY, tiya, preceded
by the noun of which the extent is questioned, in this case kai ‘time’.
(7) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 118)
anu n-hu to m-ato to n-kuo kai tiya
2P 2-stay LOC 3U-hole LOC 2-feast time how.much
‚How long do you stay inside there and feast?‘

fiye ‚how‘
The syllable fi can be identified as the demonstrative pronoun fi- which has the meaning of
‘similar to’.
(8) Maybrat (Dol, 1999: 117)
t-no fi-ye
‚How do I do it?‘

Klaus Thoden - Interrogatives in Maybrat

royo ‚which‘
ro is a relative clause marker. It is used in questions with a choice between more than one
answer. There seems to be no connection between this use and the use as relative clause
marker, it is completely autonomized.
(9) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 117)
nuo n-ama terima agama ro-yo
2S 2-go receive religion REL-INT
‚Which religion do you accept?‘

toyo ‚where‘ (specific)
woyo ‚where‘ (general)
miyo ‚where‘ (presentative)
There are three different interrogatives for LOCATION: to- is the same as the demonstrative
prefix te- which refers to a specific place as in (10):
(10) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 116)
n-amo to-yo
2-go area.N-INT
‚Where are you going?‘
woyo refers, alike to the corresponding demonstrative pronoun we- does, to a rather general
direction or location. The example insinuates that the addressee has no clear goal.
(11) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 116)
m-amo wo-yo
3U-go location.GEN-INT
‚Where does she go?‘
miyo is only used in nominal sentences (‘Where is…?’).
(12) Maybrat (Dol 1999: 117)
m-apo mi-yo
‚Where is she?‘

Klaus Thoden - Interrogatives in Maybrat

Concerning categories, Maybrat is close to English and German except for the fact that there
is no interrogative for REASON. This must be expressed by other constructions which are not
explicitly described by Dol (1999). The interrogative pronouns can be divided into three
groups. The first group of interrogatives are constructed by productive morphemes and the
question particle.
1. fiye how
royo which
toyo where (specific)
woyo where (general)
miyo where (presentative)
In the second group, the question particle -ya is still recognizable, but awi- is no meaningful
morpheme. The derivations r-awija and p-awija are constructed componentially with prefixes.
2. awiya who
r-awiya which
p-awiya what
In the third group, the basic interrogative cannot be divided into two meaningful morphemes.
The case of titiya is a matter of interpretation. What is interesting is the semantic field of tiya
covering the questions for QUANTITY, TIME and EXTENT.
3. tiya how much/many
titiya when
x tiya how x

GEN general location
INT interrogative affix
LOC locative
M marked personal morpheme
N nearness prefix
NOM nominal attributive
P plural
PERF perfect tense
POSS possessive prefix
PRESTT presentative
REL relative clause marker
S singular
U unmarked personal morpheme

Dol, Philomena. A grammar of Maybrat. Leiden 1999.

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