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Tundra Nenets inflection

by Tapani Salminen

Mmoires de la Socit Finno-Ougrienne 227

Publications of the Databank for Endangered Finno-Ugrian Languages 2

Helsinki 1997

155 p.

ISBN 952-5150-02-X

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Tundra Nenets inflection
Tapani Salminen
University of Helsinki, FIN

This study deals with the morphology of the Tundra Nenets language, spoken in Arctic Russia and north-western Siberia. It aims at a comprehensive description of Tundra Nenets inflection. The model of description is the so-called realizational, or non-morphemic one, and arguments are presented in favour of the adoption of this particular model. The general approach is, however, language-specific as well as synchronic.

Central problems in inflectional morphology involve its relationship with derivation, the status of morphophonology, and the interaction between inflection, lexicon, and syntax. It is argued that morphology must be recognized as an independent component of grammar, which incorporates morphophonology. Derivation and inflection are seen as basically united, although they can be distinguished by specifically morphological criteria.

The description of inflection covers the two major word classes, verbs and nouns, as well as the minor classes, i.e. personal pronouns and various groups of adverbs and postpositions. Special emphasis is placed on a rule format which would capture the relevant generalizations in a simple, readable manner. To meet the requirements of such a morphologically and morphophonologically complex language as Tundra Nenets, the rule system makes extensive use of the concepts of default and referral.


The most serious error appears on page 74, where the forms of the nouns myaq 'tent' and nyah 'mouth' in (6.3b) are correct but the inflectional features to the left of them are incorrect. Instead of

there should be
poss. 1sgmyaqmnyam
poss. 2sgmyaqlnyal
poss. 3sgmyatanyanta

On pages 94 and 112 it is claimed that the preterite occurs only in connection with four moods. It has turned out that to these moods should be added a fifth one, the imperfective approximative. Consequently, the number of mood and tense combinations rises to twenty-one, which causes changes in the relevant figures on page 96. In fact, there is a correct reference to the imperfective approximative preterite on page 98.

The other mistakes are less fatal:
on page 36 in table 3vowels plain plain vowels
on page 39 line 2normally occurrence only normally occurs only
on page 51 line 5contructs constructs
on page 53 last linenyani[h] nyanyi[h]
on page 54 line 14*nyngku nq *nyingku nq
on page 55 line 3and {ngko} which is attached and {hxo} which is attached
on page 61 line 21the comparative {rka} the comparative {rxa}
on page 67 line 15for certain vowel stem nouns, namely monosyllabic e~i- and for certain vowel stem words, namely monosyllabic e~i-stem words and
on page 70 last lineOn the hand On the other hand
on page 72 line 16t-prtya t-brtya
on page 80 second line of 6.2.1Their difference between The difference between
on page 83 line 8belongs to type belongs to type (iii)
on page 83 line 16other than habitive verbs other than habitive and future verbs
on page 90 line 15the intransitive laxn- the intransitive lxn-
on page 106 9th line after (15)imp. subj.2du todih imp. subj.2du todyih
on page 107 in (18)twngaxyudmta imp. subj.2du twngaxyudmta
on page 120 second line after (1)t-stem d-stem
on page 120 7th line after (1)there is alos there is also
on page 141 line 10me- Vtr. 'to salt' serota- Vtr. 'to salt'
on page 141 three times and page 142 twiceyabcb- Vtr. 'to bake' dur. yabcbngko- Vtr. 'to bake' dur. fut.
on page 15Castrn & Lehtisalo (1940), Lehtisalo (1947, 1960) Castrn & Lehtisalo (1940, 1960), Lehtisalo (1947)
on page 151[Lehtisalo, T.] 1960 Castrn, M. A. & Lehtisalo, T. 1960
on page 152 at Tereshchenko 1947Leningrad: Prosveshchenie Leningrad: Uchpedgiz
on page 152 at Zwicky 1989216-36 216--236

The word meaning 'garbage' is given as nyoxl on pages 35, 73 and 146 but the current transcription of the word is nyoxol; this change is based on the comment of my opponent professor Helimski. It is also possible that the rare word given as laxb on page 71 would better be laxb, as suggested by professor Helimski, which would reduce the number of b-stem nouns to three, but the former transcription is still retained in the morphological dictionary. The word given as suyu 'calf' on pages 87 and 121 should be syu instead. The word given as syaqni 'of the time' on page 138 should be syaqni; in the morphological dictionary, this word was transcribed as syaqni, which was later found to be incorrect as well.