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The Australian National University

Kusunda Typology

Typological overview

The following notes have been abstracted from Watters (2006), and will be periodically updated as we continue to analyse our own data.

    There are very few case marking affixes in Kusunda, but an affix -da occurs as a distinguishing morpheme in numerous systems. In some cases a single etymological source can be plausibly inferred – -da is a local case marker, the marker of an animate object in transitive clauses, and occurs in some complement clauses. In other cases, different morphemes that just happen to be homophonous must be assumed – -da is a plural number agreement in verbs, a marker of incompletive aspect, and a morphological causative.

    • Our data shows that the 'causative -da' is in fact the purposive marker, related to the dative case marker.

    Syntax in Kusunda follows a basic SV, AOV constituent order, with alternative orders used to mark specialized pragmatic notions. This is common in the linguistic area.

    • Having tested pragmatic possibilities, we are confident that the alternative orders are not related to pragmatic variation, as is the case in, for instance, Nepali.

    Subject NPs are often deleted in running discourse, the person and number of the subject actant being recoverable from obligatory person–number agreement markers in the verb. In terms of grammatical case marking, Kusunda follows a nominative–accusative case marking alignment – something unusual for the languages of the region.

    Verbs in Kusunda divide broadly into Class I and Class II. In Class I verbs, person agreement is marked by prefixes and number by suffixes, whereas in Class II verbs both person agreement and number is marked by suffixes. Class I verbs are old with a lot of irregularity in the paradigms and an abundance of suppletive forms. The majority of verbs belong to Class II. Such verbs can be thought of as “non-inflecting,” i.e. all inflection falls on an auxiliary based on the verb ‘to make, to do.’ Class II intransitive verbs are basically bereft of person marking, with a new, innovative person marking distinction developing in some contexts.

    • The evidence is that 'Class II' verbs are in fact syntactically nouns, which occur with an inflecting light verb.

    The basic TAM system in Kusunda makes a binary distinction between realis and irrealis. Class II verbs have also developed a past tense distinction, a distinction that is generally missing from Class I verbs.

    • The past tense is only present in one verb, 'go', which has a suppletive stem.

    There are derivational operations in Kusunda whereby inherently intransitive verbs can be made transitive, and inherently transitive verbs made intransitive – the latter a kind of “middle” derivation. Both operations are morphological, and causativization always yields a Class II verb. Periphrastic causatives are also possible, in which case the caused event is embedded to the causativizing matrix verb ‘to make, to do.’

    • We have found no evidence for any morphological derivation on verbs.

    Verb subordination (or embedding) occurs in numerous Kusunda structures – relative clauses, verbal complements, periphrastic causatives, and applicatives. A striking feature in Kusunda, unusual for the typology of the region, is that such embedded structures appear not to be nominalized (although our so-called ‘neutral’ verbs are possible candidates for nominalization; see §8.1 and §9.1.2). Most subordinate structures are fully finite and their embedded status is signalled entirely by their syntax. (In mutating verbs, subordination is also marked by mutation.)

    Some, but not all, clause chains in Kusunda are marked by converbs. Unusual, however, is that converbs in Kusunda do not mark sequential events, but “overlapping” ones. Sequential chains are marked by a series of fully finite verbs. Certain periphrastic causatives, as well as some complements (like ‘teaching how to do something’) are marked by overlapping converbs. A structure which on the surface looks deceptively like the benefactive in surrounding languages, is, in fact, only an overlapping converbal structure. The benefactive, at least for some non-inflecting (Class II) verbs, is marked by the auxiliary ‘give’ in place of the auxiliary ‘make, do.’ In most cases, however, it requires no derivational machinery and is formed simply by the addition of a dative argument.

Updated:  9 December 2012/Responsible Officer:  Mark Donohue /Page Contact:  Mark Donohue