Ngerupic noun class

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Ngerupic noun class refers to the various noun class systems of the many Ngerupic languages spoken from Soltenna through Northern Ekuosia. Among present-day languages the system varies wildly, ranging from little-to-no noun class distinction (e.g. as in Termic), to classifiers (e.g. Quoncic, some Mañic), to extended systems (e.g. Umic and Ghonoid).

Throughout this article, noun classes will be referred to by the abbreviation G# (e.g. G1, G2, G9, G23, etc.), while the singular/plural noun class alternation in nouns will be using the abbreviation #/# (e.g. 9/10 for a noun which employs G9 in the singular and G10 in the plural).

Wa Ñi (Proto-Ngerupic)

In Wa Ñi, noun classes are marked on roots by a variety of processes, such as prefixes, suffixes, and tone changes. For example, class 10 is hà- on nouns which end in vowels, class 3 is -ni on all nouns, and class 8 is low tone on first vowel. Each noun in Wa Ñi has up to two noun classes, one for singular and one for plural. There is no plural marking apart from noun class alternations and some nouns do not alternate at all, usually nouns like kwo-ni ("the Sun", G3) that can't be pluralized, or ones like hà-wa ("water", G10) which don't really have number. Most if not all instances of nouns are marked for noun class, making it effectively obligatory.

In total, there are 10 noun classes, of which the odd-numbered ones are singular, and the even-numbered ones are plural. Class 11 (the tenth class, since there's no 4) is for natural pairs, and plurals of natural pairs. Examples of the noun class markers and their allomorphs will be given in the following table. The level of morphosyntactic and phonological integration between the noun class markers and the stems varies wildly between descendants, and in Wa Ñi itself some other morphology could intervene between a noun and its class marking (notably possession marking) and as such they are usually reconstructed as clitics.

Wa Ñi noun class allomorphy
Class Number Marking (Consonant final) Marking (Vowel final) Example
G1 singular none none mañ ("mother), ŋèru ("person")
G2 plural =pa =p mañ=pa ("mothers"), ŋèru=p ("people")
G3 singular =ni =ni cex=ni ("hand"), kwo=ni ("sun")
G5 singular =ey repeat last vowel with high tone tuŋ=ey ("mountain"), dukře=e ("callus")
G6 plural =re =re tuŋ=re ("mountains"), naa=re ("fields")
G7 singular =ke change last vowel to o, maintaining tone tyukdìm=ke ("sugarcane"), wuk=o ("word")
G8 plural first vowel gets low tone first vowel gets low tone tyùkdìm ("sugarcanes"), wùke ("word")
G9 singular none none ŋyuľ ("day"), dòkku ("relationship")
G10 plural hà= + =e hà= hà=ŋyuľ=e ("days"), hà=dokku ("relationships")
G11 dual/plural =co =co cex=co ("hands") (either a pair of hands or more than two hands), twi=co ("ears") (either a pair of ears or more than two ears)

Additionally, most nouns fall in one of a finite number of singular/plural alternations, which have more or less well defined semantic ranges attached to them:

Noun class semantic correspondences
Noun class Semantics
1/2 Mainly humans
3/3 Things that seldom or never occur plural, as well as some mass nouns
3/6 Body parts that are usually found in ones, as well as other things usually found alone
3/11 Body parts that are usually found in pairs
5/6 Plants and big things, as well as locations
5/8 Mainly for animals
7/8 Things which usually occur in masses, as well as body parts, animals and some plants and fruits
7/11 Body parts that are usually found in pairs
8/8 Animals that occur in swarms and bad things
9/9 Loaned proper nouns
9/10 Loanwords, abstract concepts, derived nouns, as well as things usually found in masses and large locations
10/10 Mass nouns
11/11 Pairs

Outside of the noun phrase, it is important to note that the obligatory pre-verbal subject pronoun in Wa Ñi had to agree in noun class with the subject noun, if one is present. This resulted in verbal agreement being sensitive to noun class in the branches were it arose, and noun class otherwise having a relatively close relationship with the pronoun systems.

Ghonoid

Kwangic

Proto-Kwangic

The reflexes of Wa Ñi noun class markers in Proto-Kwangic are usually analyzed as independent words. This is corroborated by the changes in their usage; They are no longer effectively obligatory, being used only when the noun is definite or when it is modified by quantifiers or demonstratives. Additionally they are also used pronominally for anaphora, referring back to previously mentioned nouns of their respective noun class. In this new usage they are conventionally called "Classifiers".

Proto-Kwangic classifiers
Wa Ñi class Number Word
G1 singular a
G2 plural pa
G3 singular ni
G5 singular he
G6 plural ri
G7 singular yn
G8 plural nha
G9 singular tu
G10 plural
G11 depends on word saŋ

Several of them are descended from Wa Ñi pronominal forms (G1 a, G5 he and G9 tu), are ambiguous between reflexes of the class marking proper and pronouns (G2 pa, G10 , G11 saŋ), or seem to be derived from stacking two such morphemes (G8 nha < *en a), showcasing the functional merger between pronouns and noun class markers that happened during P-Kwangic's development

While they retained the singular/plural alternations of Wa Ñi, several processes seem to have been underway during the Proto-Kwangic stage. Firstly the G11 classifier saŋ, which did not straightforwardly correspond to singular or plural, was being replaced by G7 where with singular reference and G10 where with plural reference. Much more fundamentally however, was the introduction of a new set of classifiers, derived from various nouns and generally relating to the shape of the object, that were increasingly used with tangible inanimate nouns. These new classifiers did not alternate according to number, and as their frequency increased they seem to have put increasing pressure on the system of number alternations.

Middle Kwang

By the Middle Kwang period the system of shape-based classifiers had greatly expanded and only 6 classifiers derived from Wa Ñi noun class remained out of at least 24 attested classifiers; ni for large land vertebrates, dogs and cats (singular), from the G3, he for small land vertebrates (singular), from the G5, ri for all land vertebrates (plural), from G6, yng for marine animals, floppy things and bags, nha for liquids, bodies of water, swarms, masses and fire, from the G8, and tu the most generic classifier, from G9. While the classifiers dedicated to human referents (ngy and aq) still retained the singular/plural alternation, they were innovations from "person" and the third person plural inalienable possession marker, respectively.

Usage wise the classifier is obligatory if anything precedes the head noun in the noun phrase. It may also be used alone to express ‘one’ or a specific indefinite. Its pronominal usage has been obsoleted by the upheaval of the pronoun system into a complex tiered system centered about politeness and relative status.

Standard Kwang

The system of singular/plural alternation fully collapsed as classifiers and pronouns once again coalesced in the development of Standard Kwang, with the classifiers being used also as third person pronouns as politeness and status became less relevant in everyday life than they were in the Middle Kwang period. Additionally they are obligatory whenever a modifier precedes the noun in the noun phrase, having a complex syntactical interplay with possession marking, with all usage relating to definiteness or specificness since bleached.

Etymologically related to Wa Ñi noun class markers seem to have survived only he (<~ G5) for land vertebrates and tu (<~ G9), the generic classifier.

Xuni Kwang

Xuni Kwang preserves the singular plural alternations in animals, having simplified the Middle Kwang human classifiers into qoƅ (< MKW aq), but preserving hayз (< MKW he) for small animals (smaller than a cat) and ndeч (< MKW ni) for large animals in the singular, and ñžeз (< MKW ri) for all animals in the plural. Of the classifiers that go back to Wa Ñi, Xuni Kwang preserves also noз (< MKW nha) for fluids and tiз (< MKW tu) as the generic classifier.

Macro-Cere

Mañic

The Mañic languages drop the plural noun classes, and with it the distinction between plural and singular. Some languages, such as Hlung, innovate a novel plural.

Many Mañic languages drop noun class entirely. Some retain semantic noun class for the purpose of verb agreement; e.g., Hlung, Maypaw, and Nichoh verbs mark whether their arguments are animate or inanimate. In Hlung, noun class markers from Mañi have become fossilized parts of the noun root. In Ndxiixun, the noun class markers have been dropped, but their effects on the tone of the root remain, leading to more complex tonal distinctions.

Mañi

Mañi noun class allomorphy
Class Marking (by adjacent phoneme) Example
Oral consonant Oral vowel Nasal consonant Nasal vowel
G3 =ni ach=ni ("sky" < *ati), kùʼa=ni ("root" < *kùxa), nųm=ni ("moon" < *ľum), łą̀ą=ni ("platform" < *tròo)
G5 =e lengthening of final vowel =e lengthening of final vowel pař=e ("basket"), uuchawxaʼi=i ("iris flower"), xų̀nųm=e ("rooster" < *kyùrum), chùùną=ą ("hen" < *kyùùdo)
G7 =ko =ŋgo iʼichuł=ko ("crab"), kmąŋgwa=ko ("pearl" < *kwokwa), ŋùłųŋ=ko ("monkey" < *ŋùkluŋ), tłąłą=ŋgo ("slug" < *tlotlo)
G9 none kuřìip ("friend"), otłantła ("island"), nąmmą ("forest" < *ľomwò), įąŋ ("ginger" < *iaŋ)
G10 hà= hą̀= hà=tawu ("glass" < *toľu), hà=uza ("blood" < *uca), hą̀=mařiì ("bark"), hą̀=įññi ("soil" < *yeññi)

The Mañi language merges classes G1 and G9 into a new class which takes the verb and possessive agreement of G9, and is thus denoted G9. Classes G10 and G11 are merged into a class which frequently, although not exclusively, denotes semantically dual or plural nouns. Even by this point in the development of the Mañic languages, semantic associations with noun classes had largely eroded due to mergers. Loanwords from other languages (e.g. the words uchawxaʼi=i "iris flower", iʼichuł=ko "crab", or otłantła "island", all hypothesized to be loans from the Xuni substrate language) were assigned classes based on phonological shape.

North Awarahl languages

Old Yachiroese, under early Kwangic influence, restricted the usage of Mañic noun class markers to a few environments, namely alongside the definite article ò and in possessive structures. Due to these syntactic restrictions, the markers fused more readily into the definite article or the possession markers than with the nouns, resulting in a system of gendered articles and possession tables but no class marking in nouns in other circumstances.

Modern Yachiroese lost G7, seeming to merge it into G9. Additionally, the possession marking became affixed into the possessed noun, creating a paradigm of possession marking suffixes.

Yachiroese possession affixes
Possessed →
Possessor ↓
G3 G5 G9 G10
G3 -(V)yon -(V)hon -(V)chmon -(V)hon
G5 -(V)yoo -(V)hoo -(v)oo -(V)hoo
G9 -(V)ŋ -(y)i -(V)to(o) -(V)te(e)
G10 -(V)yo -(V)ho -(V)chmo -(V)ho

Although properly determining cognation is difficult due to the innovativeness of Ît-ie diachronic and synchronic phonological processes, these likely correspond to the Ît-ie possessive determiners.

Ît-ie possession determiners
Possessed →
Possessor ↓
G3 G5 G7 G9 G10
G3 ni u ngau u
G5 ti keè ka ie ka
G7 ni teè teè e ta
G9 ti pe te pe
G10 ti ke ke ke

Additionally, here are the gendered definite articles in these two languages. In Yachiroese these also double as third person pronouns, while Ît-ie has a different set of pronouns.

Yachiroese and Ît-ie definite articles
Yachiroese Ît-ie
G3 òn
G5 òò òkà
G7 N/A oe
G9 ò oèmà
G10 òkà

Yachanóoli

In Yachanóoli, noun class marking has fused with the stems. In Mañi inalienable nouns, which were obligatorily possessed, possession marking has fused too, in between the stem proper and the noun class marking (e.g. ngèe'íni is from the Mañi possessed form ñèʼini rather than the plain ñe). Classes 9 and 10 have merged, employing G9 marking (i.e. zero) but G10 semantics, as this merged class assumed G10 "mass" semantics, with its members being plural by default. From this arose the usage of òo, from the Mañi definite article ò, as a singulative marker, which spread from this (very large) merged 9 and 10 class into all Yachanóoli nouns. De facto, Yachanóoli nouns have a singular ending in -òo and a plural ending that reflects the Mañi noun class markers.

Iqkowóqtínllí

Ndeñoid

Ounyu

Termic

Thyakwo-Magalese

Umic

Ungic

Wanjic

Further Reading