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Na'vi Linguistics Practicum: Topicals (I)

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As I write this there is still a good deal of fuzziness about how and when we can use Na'vi's topical case in new situations.  We do of course have some set phrases where the topical is standard, as in expressions of thanking and apologies, for example.

 Fìskxawngìri tsap'alute sengi oe.
 I apologize for this moron.

 Sìpawmìri oe ngaru seiyi irayo.
 I thank you for the questions.

We're safe using such expressions on our own.

In a July Blog post, Frommer let us know that another use of the topical is marking "inalienable possession."  English doesn't distinguish different sorts of possession very much, but this sort of distinction is very common among Human languages.  Inalienable possession is basically possession for those things which, in theory, cannot ever not be yours. The most common words to require inalienable possession marking are blood relatives: my mom can never not be my mom.  Body parts are next in line to require inalienable possession marking, followed by objects you have created (if I write a book, for example, that book is mine inalienably, even if other people have physical possession of it).

At this point, I want to quote Frommer:

--- Quote from: Frommer ---Note that in sentences like this that involve possession, especially "inalienable possession," the –ri form (i.e. the topic marker) is slightly more idiomatic than the possessive pronoun, although both are correct.
--- End quote ---

Note carefully that he is not saying that the topical is the required form for inalienable possession, just preferred.  Notice his use in the Hunt Song:

  Oeri tìngayìl txe'lanit tivakuk Let the truth strike my heart
  Oeyä txe'lan livu ngay Let my heart be true.

There's no metrical reason to prefer oeyä in the second line, but it does bring it back into a parallel structure with the rest of that verse.  (There is a subtle interpretation possible here about the switch, but I'd rather wait for confirmation from Frommer before airing that.)

Moving on to the "practicum" part of this, I'm going to give a bunch of frames below you can use to practice this inalienable use of the topical.  This is a nice place to start, since so often with the inalienable use, there's clearly an interest or participation of the individual in the topical.  For example, from the film:

  Ngari hu Eywa salew tirea, tokx 'ì'awn... Your spirit goes with Eywa, your body remains...

Clearly the "you" addressed is seriously involved in the proceedings.

Two Assumptions

First, I very strongly suspect that you only get one topical a clause, just as you only get one subject or direct object.  So, I expect other uses of the topical to override the inalienable use.  In "I apologize for my son," for example, the needs of the apology construction will result in the use of a genitive possession,

 Oeyä 'itanìri tsap'alute sengi oe.

Second, in every single prose example we have from Frommer, the topical goes at the start of the clause, even in inalienable constructions where the possessum (the thing possessed) is deep in the clause — see the Ngari hu Eywa...example above.  Our single exception occurs in poetry.  This pattern matches what is very, very common in Human languages, too, so for now I strongly advise keeping the topical at the start of the clause.

Note that in Frommer's examples, topicals still do follow conjunctions.  I include srake as one of the things a topical probably follows, based on other things said about that.

For Practice

Here are some frames for practice.  Most of them will give you good practice in learning body parts.  I give a full sentence, and then an example with a gap, followed by some suggested things to fill in.

  Oeri re'o tìsraw si.  My head hurts.
  Oeri ____ tìsraw si.  (arm) (hand) (foot) (etc)

Etc., etc.  If you have a friend to work with, or a teacher from NgayNume, you could pair off saying body parts (in English) and getting the correct sentence back (nìNa'vi).  Le'eylan could draw pictures for things like...

  Oeri nantangìl tsyokxit frolìp!  The viperwolf bit my hand!
  Oeri nantangìl ______ frolìp!   (leg, butt, etc...)

Or, you could do question answer patterns:

  Srake ngari hì'angìl sngolap keyit? Did a bug sting your face?
  Kehe, oeri tsal ke sngolap keyit. No, it didn't sting my face
  Srane, oeri tsal sngolap keyit.  Yes, it stung my face

  Srake ngari hì'angìl sngolap _____? (finger, toe, knee, etc).

Some Possibilities

So, the things I've listed above is just a small taste of the sorts of practice you can give yourself once you have a model you feel confident in.

Here is a few more sentences, without translation, for you to think about.  All of these could be the basis of more practice frames like I gave above.

  Fìutralìri ayvur txur lu nìtxan.
  Pori torukìl 'oleko tsmuket.
  Yayori 'om lu mesyal.
  Fori ye'rìn päheiem syay.
  Yerikìri oel nìsyiä kxetset.

Have fun!

Sìlpey oe, tsnì ayngari oel tìsraw ke seykilvi eltut!

Ma wm.annis, ngeyä 'upxareri atxantsan oe ngaru seiyi irayo!*  

This is so incredibly useful!  I love the explanation, the examples, and the exercises! 

--- Quote from: wm.annis on November 18, 2010, 05:55:19 pm ---Sìlpey oe, tsnì ayngari oel tìsraw ke seykilvi eltut!

--- End quote ---

Tse, slä fì'u lu tìsraw asìltsan!*

--- Quote ---Re: Na'vi Linguistics Practicum: Topicals (I)
--- End quote ---

Dare I hope this is the first of many Practicum posts?   :)

'Oma Tirea:
Seems really useful.

--- Quote from: wm.annis on November 18, 2010, 05:55:19 pm ---
 Fìskxawngìri tsap'alute sengi oe.
 I apologize for this moron.

 Sìpawmìri oe ngaru seiyi irayo.
 I thank you for the questions.

--- End quote ---

Doesn't the topical highlight the "for" in both cases?


--- Quote from: Sxkxawng alu 'Oma Tirea on November 19, 2010, 04:34:45 pm ---Doesn't the topical highlight the "for" in both cases?
--- End quote ---

Nope — that "for" is just a side effect of English idiom.  We have no way to apologize for something except to put that something in the topical.


--- Quote from: Tirea Ikran on November 19, 2010, 09:49:05 am ---Dare I hope this is the first of many Practicum posts?   :)
--- End quote ---

I don't know about many, but there will be more of them.


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