Valence in Classical Trevecian – part 1/3

Part 1: Basic Valence Particles

1.1 Introduction

Classical Trevecian is the language of the Taršemâ, the Holy Book of Olerism, a monotheist religion spread through large areas of the continent of Burnath. It was spoken in the lands of the present Trevecian Empire between approximately the 8th and 12th centuries (700-300 years before the current Burnath event horizon), when the Taršemâ was composed and codified. The language is extremely important for Olerists everywhere, since continuous recitation of portions of the Taršemâ in their original form is a religious duty for all local Olerist temples (sayhâna). But the language is also interesting due to its rather peculiar noun class system, which requires agreement between a verb’s arguments and isolated valence particles that specify the number and type of core arguments of a verb. The system was inherited to a greater or lesser extent in most modern Trevecian languages descended from Classical Trevecian (which now form a dialect continuum), and has analogues in most related languages of the Gero-Trevecian family.

1.2 Noun class system

Classical Trevecian divides nouns into six basic classes:

Class 1: human beings;
Class 2: instruments and body parts;
Class 3: plants, materials, certain animals (especially those considered “less animate”, such as fish);
Class 4: most animals;
Class 5: weather phenomena;
Class 6: geographical features, human groupings, rituals, buildings, places, abstract nouns, etc.

Membership in a class may limit the ability of a noun to occur as a certain type of verbal argument (see below). Apart from this, the most important overt representation of noun classes is in the type of valence particle that is required when nouns from a certain class occur as verbal arguments. The noun class system also influences attributive constructions and pronominal reference, but these features are not discussed here.

1.3 Valence particles

The number of arguments of a verb is signalled by specialized valence particles that usually immediately follow the verb (which is usually in the second position in the sentence). Valence particles vary for the class which the verb’s specific arguments belong to. For instance, the particle kan agrees with both an Agent and a Patient belonging to Class 1 (A1.P1), whereas the particle sîm agrees with a Class 1 Agent and a Class 4 Patient (A1.P4):

kîmas žaman kan kûf
king kill A1.P1 man
“the king killed ] man”

kûf žaman sîm šîm
man kill A1.P4 horse
“the man killed a horse”

Some valence particles fulfill more than one function in this respect. For instance, the particle kan is also used when both the Agent and the Patient belong to Class 4 (A4.P4):

urên žaman kan šîm
wolf kill A4.P4 horse
“the wolf killed a horse”

Apart from specifying agent-patient relations, valence particles also specify the role of nouns in single-argument clauses. For example, the particle žårs agrees with a Class 1 noun as a single-argument Patient (P1) of a semantically transitive verb, in a type of “middle” construction, whereas the particle dorh agrees with a Class 1 noun as Experiencer (E1):

kûf žaman žårs
man kill P1
“the man was killed”

kûf gêba korh
man fall E1
“the man fell”

Finally, some particles signal the presence of an Oblique verb argument belonging to Class 2 (there are no particles that would specifically mark Obliques of other classes). Thus, the particle kari agrees with a Class 1 Agent, a Class 1 Patient, and a Class 2 Oblique (A1.P1.O2):

kîmas žaman kari kûf kôman da
king kill A1.P1.O2 man dagger INSTR
“the king killed the man with a dagger”

Valence particles are thought to have developed by fusion of combinations of earlier noun classifiers which varied for the grammatical role of nouns.

1.4 Class restrictions for core arguments

With regard to class membership of core arguments, the following restrictions may be observed:

1) Nouns of Class 5 only occur as single-argument Patients of transitive verbs:

kâr ñatû ten
rain throw P5
“it rained” (lit. “rain was thrown [down]”)

2) Nouns of Class 2 may never occur as Experiencers.

3) Nouns of Classes 2, 3, and 6 may never occur as Agents of transitive verbs.

1.5 Summary of valence particles

There are 12 valence particles in total. They are listed below, together with their functions, ie. the kinds of agreement they normally mark.

kan – A1.P1, A4.P4
kari – A1.P1.O2
sith – A1.P2, A1.P3, A1.P6
sîm – A1.P4
sîri – A1.P3.O2, A1.P4.O2
dorh – A4.P1, E1
ñuyh – A4.P2, A4.P3, A4.P6
žårs – P1
mas – P2, E4
– P3, P4, P6
ten – P5
– E3, E6

The particles are also summarized in the tables below.

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