Case Markers (Prepositions)

This section is the first of several about noun phrases. I begin with a brief introduction to noun phrases in general; the rest of this section deals with the case markers/prepositions:

Overview of Noun Phrases

Noun phrases are units with nouns and associated words, which, in Skerre, includes adjectives, possessors, and preposition-like things called case markers. Noun phrases (commonly abbreviated as NPs), in one form or another, combine with verbal complex to form clauses.

The order of these elements within the noun phrase is as follows (parentheses indicate optional elements):

Case Marker NOUN (Modifier(s)) (Possessor) (Relative Clause)

This section will examine the first of these elements, the case markers. The previous two sections (7 and 8) examined the noun itself and the next section deals with possession. Quantifiers &mdash a special subclass of noun— and modifers are dealt in section 11. The relative clause is dealt with in the Subordination section (the Coordination section will detail how NPs are coordinated). Finally, the twelfth section (three sections away) will discuss another special subclass of nouns, the pronouns.

The Inventory of Case Markers

As noted above, there are words appearing to the left of the noun called case markers (though they are argubly just prepositions). Functionally, they relate the noun to the rest of the sentence. The following table shows the forms of case markers and their names (The links jump to the description of their functions below).

Case Marker Name (Abbrev.) Rough English Equivalent(s)
a absolutive (ABS) (none)
tsa ergative (ERG) (none)
i genitive (GEN) of
ya dative (DAT) to, for
te locative (LOC) at, in, on
soo ablative (ABL) from, out of, with
ni comitative (COM) with

Some examples of case markers in their pre-nominal position:

i keriyosir
GEN boy
of the/a boy

ya keriyosir
to the/a boy

The forms of the case markers are morphologically invariant (like prepositions in many languages).

Functions of Case Markers

The functions of the case markers are discussed below. The section is further complemented by the argument realization page, which discusses which predicates require phrases marked by which case markers.

The Absolutive

The absolutive (a) marks NPs that correspond to both English's subjects and objects. In intransitive sentences, such as the one below, the subject is marked with the absolutive:

Ewes a keriyosir.
PERF-sleep ABS boy
The boy slept.

In transitive sentences, it is the object that is marked with absolutive. This is shown below:

Eratin a keriyosir.
PERF-captured-TR[3SG.NOM] ABS boy
He captured the boy.

Note that a NP must be definite to be marked by the absolutive. If a verb has an indefinite object it will frequently enter into the demoted object construction.

The above are the only functions of the absolutive.

The Ergative

In transitive sentences, the subject is marked with the ergative case (tsa).The following is an example:

Eriihosin tsa keriyosir a yere.
PERF-CAUS-eat-TR ERG boy ABS dog
The boy fed the dog.

The ergative also marks noun phrases as "subjects" in nominalizations of transitive verbs, as in:

a wentoro tsa siisiret
ABS attack-PDT.NMLZ ERG PL~enemy
The attack by the enemy.

The behavior of these nominalizations is discussed further in the section on nomimalizations

The Genitive

The genitive (i) can only used with nouns. One of its principal uses is marking possession (or perhaps more precisely, relation), as will be discussed further in the possession section.

The genitive is also the most common case marker for marking the complements of nouns, in particular, with nominalizations and with quantifiers. An example is in the following:

a hiko i siyeren
a fact of life

See the pages on quantifers and nominalizations for more on these uses.

The Dative

The dative preposition, ya, in its prototypical sense, marks spatial destinations or goals, such as in the example below:

Equerat-wo ya Wiyekori.
PFV-travel=1PL.NOM DAT (place name)
We travelled to Wiyekori.

The dative can also mark temporal destinations, as in the example below, corresponding to some uses of English until:

Ekako-wo sata ya wekir.
PFV-stay=1PL.NOM there DAT today
We stayed there until today.

Beyond these spatio-temporal uses, the dative also has several other adverbial abstract uses. One of them is to mark beneficiaries, such as the for-phrase in the sentence below:

Eyerin-ha a tsowos ya Karak.
PFV-get-TR=1SG.NOM ABS spear DAT (name)
I got the spear for Karak.

Besides these above more adverbial uses, there are other uses when the dative preposition marks a phrase required by the verb. One such instance (and perhaps the prototypical use of the dative) is to mark recipients of 3-place verbs, as below:

Eyasin-ha a yoro ya sakar.
PFV-give-TR=1SG.NOM ABS ball DAT child
I gave the ball to the child.

As the above shows, the use of the dative to mark recipients means that the dative marks many of what are traditionally termed indirect objects.

The dative is also used for certain kinds of complements of the verb. The dative marks some of the E ('extension') argument of what some linguists call "extended intranstives." In Skerre, the class of "extended intransitives" are verbs of less transitivity, where the predicate has less affect on the complement than in 'canonical' transitive verbs.

Those "extended intransitives" taking a dative complement are those that, informally, have a "recipient." An example of a such dative-taking verb is nara, help, which takes the helped entity in the dative, as in:

Enara-ha ya keriyos.
PFV-help=1SG.NOM DAT man
I helped the man.

A list of verbs taking the dative is given on the argument realization page.

Finally, the dative is also the case of the complement of some nouns, though not many as the genitive. Most are nominalizations of dative-taking verbs.

The Locative

The locative, unsurprisingly, prototypically marks location. This includes the notions expressed by the English prepositions at, in, on, as in the following:

Ewes-ha te setsi.
PFV-sleep=1SG.NOM LOC tree
I slept in a tree.

Ekan-ha te Wiyekori. LOC (place name)
I was at Wiyekori.

Additionally, various other spatial ideas are expressed by relational nouns marked by the locative. The relational nouns, in turn, take a genitive object, as in the following:

te akik i sehan
LOC side GEN house
near the house
(lit. at the side of the house)

A more extensive list of relational nouns is given here.

Beyond this physical placement usage, locative te has other uses as well. First, it can have temporal uses corresponding to its spatial uses, locating an event at, in, or even during. Such a temporal use is shown below:

Kayakor a Tsotar te siqua.  
PROG-walk ABS (name) LOC morning  
Tsotar was walking in/during the morning.

Furthermore, it can be used for several abstract extensions of location. Probably the most location-like is means of transportation, as shown below:

Ewor-ti te wiyet.
PFV-go=1SG.NOM LOC boat
They went by boat.

It can also mark the medium of exchange:

Ehonen-ha a tsrahan te siya i teren.
PFV-buy-TR=1SG.NOM ABS INST-hunt LOC three GEN pelt
I bought a bow for three pelts.

With the directional affix hi-, it can mark path:

Ehiyakor-ha te yires.
PFV-along-walk=1SG.NOM LOC snow
I walked through snow.
(lit. I walked along in snow.)

Finally, it can refer to something of focus or concern, covering some uses of the English preposition about:

Eres-wo te tar.
PFV-speak=1PL.NOM LOC that
We spoke about that.

The locative is used as the case of the complement for a small number of verbs. One such verb is rintsa, remember, as in:

Rintsa-ha te Tsotar.
PFV-remember=1SG.NOM LOC (name)
I remember Tsotar.

One of the sections on argument realization details other verbs that take the locative.

In the same vein as the above use, the locative also marks the objects in the demoted object construction, such as in:

Ehos a keriyosir te hantsi.
PFV-eat ABS boy LOC meat
The boy ate meat.

This construction is discussed more in depth here. In a similar use, the locative is also used for the coding the base verb's object in a causative of a transitive verb. See here for more on that.

The Ablative

The prototypical meaning of the ablative syntactic marker (soo) is to denote spatial source, like the English preposition from. An example of this use of the ablative:

Equos-wo soo Wiyekori.
PFV-come=1PL.NOM ABL (place name)
We came from Wiyekori.

Similar to some of the previous prepositions, this can also have a temporal use. Soo, as one might expect, marks temporal source, akin to English since.

Esawen-ha te Wiyekori soo yan i tersa.
PFV-inhabit=1SG.NOM LOC (place name) ABL five GEN year
I lived in Wiyekori for 5 years. (lit. I lived in Wiyekori from 5 years.)

Soo can also mark the material that something originated from, as in the following:

Erir a tsrahan soo setsi ter.
PFV-make ABS bow ABL tree that
He made the bow from that tree.

Further uses of this preposition include inanimate causes, as shown below:

Esot a ana’ok soo sinaha.
PFV-die ABS grandmother ABL illness
Grandmother died from an illness.

Closely related to the inanimate cause use is an instrumental uses, where a soo-marked phrase denotes an instrument directly involved in the action, such as the tsowos, spear in the following:

Etsosin-ha a tsique soo tsowos.
PFV-kill-TR=1SG.NOM ABS deer ABL spear
I killed the deer with a spear.

In fact, inanimates can't be marked with tsa, but must be instead marked with soo. Thus, one cannot say:

* Etsosin tsa kak a tsique
  PFV-kill-TR ERG rock ABS deer
  Intended: The rock killed the deer.
But must instead say:

Eketsos a tsique soo kak.
PFV-AC-kill ABS deer ABL rock
The rock killed the deer.

Additionally, soo is the case complement for a very few number of verbs. See the argument realization page for a list. And lastly, soo is used for manner adverbials, such as:

Equeyi-ti soo sitorni.
PFV-arrive=3PL.NOM ABL NMLZ-be.swift
They arrived quickly.

The Comitative

The comitative has the meaning of accompaniment and corresponds with some uses of the English preposition with, such as:

Ewor ya toora ni kek-se.
PFV-go.PFV DAT market COM son=3SG.POSS
She went to the market with her son.

A similar kind of sense, although perhaps more argument-like, is shown below:

Ehenan-ti a riihoso ni Tsotar.
PFV-share-TR=3PL.NOM ABS food COM (name)
They shared the food with Tsotar.

Also, this syntactic marker was extended and grammaticalized into the NP coordination structure.

Relational Nouns

The following is a list of common relational nouns. Recall in their prepositional use, they are preceded by the locative case marker and followed by the genitive.

Skerre Noun N meaning Meaning in PP context
akik side next to
aros back behind
kata ground below
sisa face in front of
siyek middle between, in the middle of
tara head above, on top of
wisa place instead of

Forward to Section 10: Possession
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