Volume 44, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0731-3500
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Two 2nd person verbal indexation forms are reconstructed back to Proto-Trans-Himalayan (PTH): a suffix #- (Bauman 1975DeLancey 19892014H. Sun 19831995van Driem 1993Watters 2002), and a prefix #- (Watters 2002Jacques 2012DeLancey 2011a2014). While #- is in paradigmatic distribution with other suffixal forms, the prefixal position of #-raises the question of its functional origin.

DeLancey (2011a2014: 23) suggests hypothetically that #- finds its origin either in a non-finite nominalization or in an irrealis nominalization, “ideal for an impersonal 2nd person use: ‘One might [speak]’ rather than ‘You will [speak].’”

Through the comparison of cognate - possessive and - nominalizer prefixes found in rGyalrongic, Kuki-Naga (Ao), and Sinitic, I propose that 2nd person #- can be traced back to a nominal possessive modifier such as or : a -type of R-impersonals (Malchukov & Siewierska 2011). Spreading to verbs, #- was used as a nominalizer indexing the notional S or A argument. With nouns and verbs alike, the referent of the possessor, whether 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, was specific (Siewierska 2011: 62), accessible in discourse, anaphorically or deictically, regardless of the presence of a coreferential overt noun-phrase. The prefix #- started to be used in particular to address 2nd person indirectly, a development likely triggered by pragmatic motivations, i.e. politeness, before being reanalyzed as a 2nd person indexation marker.


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Keyword(s): 2nd person indexation; nominalization; possessive; Proto-Trans-Himalayan; R-impersonal
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