A Fieldwork Squib
|a.||round fruit, egg, nest, jug, etc.||-ba|
|b.||skin, paper, book, etc.||-ben|
|c.||seed, grain, star, viper, river, house, etc.||-di|
|d.||plantains, bird, insect, airplane, basket, tropical forest, etc.||-mo|
|e.||yuca, totora, etc.||-pa|
|f.||tooth, spoon, point, etc.||-!a|
|(2)||'cane' -as, 'piece of pottery' (tiesto) -bij, 'plant' -bo, 'mud' -bun, 'chivé' -cho, 'person' -e, 'location' -huaj, 'milk' -lo, 'thorn' -lej, 'straw' -mas, 'water' -mi, 'shell' -mo!, 'wind' -muj, 'feather' -mun', 'hadze' -pi, 'animal' -poi, 'clothing' -oj, 'hat' -to, 'dust like' -vas, 'hoof' -ve, 'wood' -vos, 'ashes' -vus, 'arm' -yin', etc.|
from the above data (and some more not given here) i had concluded that movima had "numeral classifiers", on the grounds that: (a) morphosyntactically they fit in that type, since there were examples given of classifiers on numbers (not shown here), and (b) semantically they did too, since it was possible to recognizable semantic groupings found in such systems, such as:
|(3)||(1a):||round fruit, egg, nest and jug,|
which could be a class of round objects
|(1b):||skin, paper, book,|
which could be the class of 'flat and flexible' objects
|(1e):||yuca and totora,|
which could, maybe, be a plant class
|(1f):||tooth, spoon, point,|
which could be taken to be a class of 'pointed objects'
a little chronological note is in order here: that was the analysis done in 1995, after working through a typology of classification systems (see craig 1986a,b, continued in grinevald 2000although from a 1993 manuscript) which relied heavily on pioneering work on numeral classifier systems of the 70s, that judy and judy could not have had access to.
it seemed that there was a semantic puzzle left, around two questions: (a) what to make of the heterogeneous classes, such as:
|(4)||(1d):||plantains, birds, insects, baskets and tropical forest|
|(1c):||seed/grain/star, but also viper, river, and house!|
meaning, what sort of dixon-lakoff type of analysis could be constructed to account for these groupings, on the chaining model of the classic dyirbal case of the "women, fire and dangerous things" (dixon 1982, lakoff 1986); and (b) why so many so-called "unique" classifiers as the examples of (2) seemed to be, when such classifierswhich by definition head a class of one nounare usually assumed to be few and of some cultural prominence.
the answer to this semantic puzzle turned out to be of a phonological nature. what elicitation work showed was that movima has a mixed system of "classification", with a limited subsytem which is semantically motivated, and a large open ended one, which comes from an apparently fairly productive system of truncation that produces "classifiers" with the last syllable(s) of the noun it refers to. the demonstration for this analysis was done in three steps:
1. by checking the word list of judy and judy, it became clear that the classifiers listed in (2) were indeed the last syllable of nouns, as double checked with the movima speakers, and illustrated in (5):
|-b'e||hub'e||'typical small river embarcation'|
2. by playing with adjectival phrases, where it turned out those so-called classifiers showed up too, one could also get the following kind of data, including then mass nouns:
|a.||sokosoko'-mi||'boiled (of water)'||tomi 'water'|
|sokosoko'-lo||'boiled (of milk)'||nonlo 'milk'|
|b.||sokosoko'-mi||'boiling (of water)'|
|palui-mi||'cold (of water)'|
|koyb'u-mi||'muddy (of water)'|
3. the most fun was actually bumping into a loanword unexpectedly, and finding confirmation of the process, although this time with the added twist that the "classifier" be this time two syllables long rather than one, as if to flag the word as a loanword (7a). confirmation of this two syllable requirement came with cases of reduplication when the word was too short (7b), as illustrated below:
|(7)||CLASS||from LOANWORD||from Spanish|
voilà! the movima system is therefore a mixture of phonological truncation with no semantic motivation and a few semantically motivated classes (for animals and plants, actually originally based on the truncation of generic words). It turns out to be, in this regard, a very typical amazonian type of system, as more recent research in this part of the world is beginning to show.
so here is how one counts some common objects in movima, and how come so:
(8a) is by 1syllable truncation: chad'o 'plate' and choramkwanto 'hat', and (8b) by 2syllable truncation (+reduplication) of loanwords: sapato 'shoe' and siya 'chair'. (8c) is by semantic grouping: -poy '4legged animal', from poy 'animal', here used for jochi 'pig' and waewae 'ant eater'.
and there is much more to this story, such as the alternative ways of counting objects, this one being only one of them, and most strikingly, the stunning intensity of the arguing between the two speakers who often disagreed, on even very simple cases, such as 'two benches'. intense enough that we needed to take breaks and walk around to cool off, and i almost lost the female speaker who walked out on us at one point. was it the long standing case of another south american language not really into counting, or that of two linguistic informants seeing their role differently, or that of a decaying system of an endangered language in chaotic variation?
i have also ignored here the whole issue of the use of these so-called movima classifiers, although today, in 2000, it may have become one of the most interesting aspects of that system, in that they are not, in fact, "numeral classifiers", but rather a system of "noun classes" (à la bantu but not as grammaticalized), and one could hardly justify the term classifier or class when the majority clearly don't classify and have nothing to do with categorization processes.
and so it is that interests evolve, field discoveries immediately look like old hat, and linguistics moves on. i just tried to share the kind of excitement this field encounter was for me, a special moment catching some of the spirit of the movima language, in the course of heated and exhilarating elicitation sessions, sitting between an articulate and domineering male "fluent semi-speaker" and a proud and stubborn female "old fluent" native speaker. just the kind of work that has been keeping some of us field linguists going.
so, happy birthday, jorge! hope i told this story clearly enough, there is so much to it that it was hard to keep it focused and short. in any case, thank you for good early mentoring and for steady friendship thereafter.
as in craig before, as in grinevald now
from cambridge to eugene to lyon
Craig, C. G. 1986a. Classifier languages. In R. E. Ascher, ed. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Oxford: Pergamon Press. 565569.
Craig, C. G. 1986b. Noun classes and categorization. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Dixon, R. M. W. 1982. Where have all the adjectives gone? and other essays on Semantics and Syntax, The Hague: Mouton. 157184.
Grinevald, C. 2000. A morphosyntactic typology of classifiers. In Senft, ed. Systems of Nominal Classification, Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 5092.
Judy, Roberto, and Judit Emerich de Judy. 1962. Movima y Castellano: Vocabularios Bolivianos No 1. SIL: Cochabamba, Bolivia. pp154.
Lakoff, G. 1986. Classifiers as a reflection of mind. In Craig, C. G., ed. Noun classes and categorization. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1352.