A Study of Hiaki Determiners and Agreement

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Just like in many other languages, basic Hiaki noun phrases can consist of a pronoun, a proper name, a simple noun, or a determiner-noun sequence. Determiners are words like “a” and “the” in English and uu, ume, and uka, among others, in Hiaki. In Hiaki, noun phrases are different depending on whether they are subjects or objects (called nominative and accusative by linguists), and the determiners within noun phrases will also vary. Furthermore, accusative (object) nouns are usually marked with the suffix –ta. Here are some examples of Hiaki noun phrases:

Nominative Accusative
inepo “I” nee “me”
Hose “Jose.nom” Hose-ta “Jose-acc”
uusi “child.nom” uusi-ta “child-acc”
uu uusi “the.nom child.nom” uka uusi-ta “the.acc child-acc”

Noun phrases wherein one thing is possessing another thing can be a bit more complicated. The possessor noun is marked with a genitive suffix, which marks possession, unless the possessor is a pronoun; there is a special set of possessive pronouns. Interestingly enough, the genitive suffix is exactly the same as the accusative suffix; they’re both -ta. When the possessor is a pronoun or a proper name, the pattern is very straightforward.

Nominative Accusative
in miisi

my.gen cat.nom

“my cat” (subject)

in miisi-ta

my.gen cat-acc

“my cat” (object)

Hose-ta miisi

Hose-gen cat.nom

“Jose’s cat” (subject)

Hose-ta miisi-ta

Hose-gen cat-acc

“Jose’s cat” (object)

However, when the possessor is a bare noun, the possessed phrase can take only one determiner, which must precede the possessor:

uu uusi-ta miisi
the.nom child-gen cat.nom
“The child’s cat” (subject)

*uu uusi-ta uu miisi
the.nom child-gen the.nom cat.nom

*uusi-ta uu miisi
child-gen the.nom cat.nom

Furthermore, Hiaki has number agreement between nouns and their determiners, so if a noun is plural, its determiner is also plural:

Singular Plural
uu uusi

the.nom.sg child.nom.sg

ume uusi-m

the.pl child-pl

uu miisi

the.nom.sg cat.nom.sg

ume miisi-m

the.pl cat-pl

This then raises questions about the facts of determiner number (whether the determiner is singular or plural) in phrases consisting of a determiner, possessor, and a noun. The expectation is that the determiner will agree with the noun and that it won’t matter whether the possessor is singular or plural, but that is not the case:

Uu pahko’ola-ta tenevo-im si kuusi. *ume
the.nom.sg pascola-gen.sg rattle-pl very loud *the.pl
“The pascola’s rattles are very loud”

Hunume yoeme-m kaaro au=koove-k. *uu
that.pl man-pl car.sg.nom 3sg.to=lose-pfv *the.nom.sg
“Those men’s car lost it (the race)”

Hose ume sontau-m trooke-ta nasonta-k.
Hose the.pl soldier-pl truck-acc.sg broke.tr-pfv
“Jose broke the soldiers’ truck”

In the first of these above examples, we can see that a plural head noun tenevoim does not trigger the plural determiner, and the sentence would be wrong if you used ume instead of uu. In the second example, the plural possessor yoemem does trigger the plural determiner hunume and the singular head noun kaaro does not control the number of the determiner. We can see the same pattern of a plural possessor sontaum and a plural determiner ume with a singular head noun trooketa in the third example.

This paper investigates this phenomenon and seeks to understand the underlying structures of Hiaki noun phrases in sentences like those above.