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  • Determiners, Nouns, or What?Problems in the Analysis of Some Commonly Occurring Forms in Philippine Languages1
  • Lawrence A. Reid

This paper deals with the problems inherent in determining the syntactic word class of the initial word in many common noun phrases in Philippine languages such as Tagalog ang, Ilokano ti, and Bontok nan. These forms have been variously called case-marking particles, construction markers, common noun markers, articles, determiners, specifiers, or simply proclitics. However, a good syntactic typology of the languages requires that a decision be made as to their word class, based not simply on functional characteristics, semantic features, or translation equivalents, but on their syntactic distribution. Under certain assumptions, these words would be determiners, with the immediately following word being the head noun of its phrase. However, the words that follow appear to be verbal, having the same form as in the predicate of a sentence, and this paper thus considers an alternative solution in which the words in question are specifying-nouns meaning 'the one' and are the heads of their phrases. Under this analysis, the immediately following words are verbal constructions that constitute relative clauses dependent on the specifying nouns. Corroborating evidence is found in the Talubin dialect of Bontok, in which the words in question require genitive clitics to be attached to them, rather than to an immediately following content word. Historical evidence showing that the forms in question were originally demonstrative nouns (and still function as such) supports their synchronic analysis as nouns.

1. Introduction.

Philippine languages and many of the Austronesian languages of Formosa and elsewhere characteristically have noun phrases that begin with one of a number of typically monosyllabic forms, exemplified by the well-known Tagalog forms ang, ng /naŋ/, and sa; Ilokano ti, ití; Bontok nan, ʔas, ʔad, and so forth, each of which introduces a common noun phrase with distinctive case marking, as in (1)-(3).2 [End Page 295]

(1) Tagalog
pumások ang babáe.
entered   ANG woman
'The woman entered.'

(2) Ilokano
immáy ti áso.
came   TI dog
'The dog came.'

(3) Bontok
linmayáw nan gayyəm=ku.
ran.away   NAN friend=1S.GEN
'My friend ran away.'

While the word that usually follows this initial form is normally identified as a noun, the initial form has received a bewildering array of labels in the literature on Philippine languages. This paper is an attempt to examine some of the synchronic and diachronic facts about these forms in order to determine in a principled way what their appropriate syntactic category is.

2. Previous Characterizations.

A survey of the literature on Philippine languages provides a great deal of information about the nature of the forms we are examining. They are typically translated as articles in English, and sometimes as prepositions, so it is not surprising that they are sometimes named as such in the literature: "articles" (Scheerer 1905:107; Vanoverbergh 1955:41; Lambrecht 1978:vii); "prepositions" (Akamine 1996:46).

In common with much other linguistic literature from Pāṇini onward (Lyons 1969:20), short, uninflectable forms such as these that do not fit neatly into any other part of speech have often simply been labeled as "particles" (McKaughan and Meiklejohn 1954:240; Forster 1964:36; Lee 1964:50; McKaughan and Macaraya 1967:x; Wolff and Wolff 1967: Lesson 3; Brichoux and Brichoux 1977:167; Rosaldo 1971:292); "article-like particles" (Lambrecht 1978:vii); "prepositional particles" (Akamine 1996:46).

Most authors, however, attempt to provide some indication of the distribution or function of the form in the label that they provide. They note that they begin the phrase: "introducing particles" (Hussey 1965:42); "phrase introducers" (Wolfenden 1971:62); or that they mark the following constituent as a noun or noun phrase: "marking particles" (DuBois 1976:39; Post 1992:xvii; Barlaan 1999:54); "noun-marking particles" (Headland and Headland 1974:xxx), "noun markers" (Johnston 1975:50); "nominal markers" (Brainard 1985:122); "phrase marking particles" (Porter 1979:39); "noun phrase markers" (Hussey 1966:35; Kerr 1988:46). Other authors note that the forms have something to do with identifying the construction of which they are a constituent: "construction identifiers" (Ehrman 1969); "construction markers" (Reid 1978; Yamashita 1992...


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