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Title: Ket
Written By: Edward J. Vajda
Series Title: Languages of the World/Materials 204

Ket is the only surviving member of the formerly widespread Yeniseic family
and one of the world's more intriguing language isolates. Its phonology,
vocabulary, and grammar differ strikingly from the surrounding families. A
system of five phonemic tones, apparently derived from simplified consonant
articulations, mark the beginning of each phonological word.
Agreement-related inflections reflect a tripartite noun-class division
based on animacy and gender. The polysynthetic verb contains ten position
classes and involves a variety of distinct agreement patterns:
active/inactive, ergative/ absolutive, nominative/accusative, and two that
employ redundant subject markers. Each stem selects one of these strategies
as part of its lexical makeup. The co-indexed subject and object NPs are
zero-marked regardless of the verb's agreement type. Incorporation affects
certain intransitive subjects, as well as objects, instruments, and
directional adverbs. Important derivational categories include event number
(punctual vs. iterative) and transitivity, with transitive and intransitive
stems normally differing in some formal way. Causatives, inceptives, and
even infinitives are distinct lexemes rather than grammatical forms of
another stem. The only verbal inflectional categories are tense
(past/non-past), mood (indicative /imperative), and agreement in person,
class, and number with at most two grammatical terms. Particles convey
other temporal and modal nuances. Most morphemes are roots or grammatical
inflections. With so few derivational affixes, compounding is the most
prevalent technique of lexeme creation. Redundant inflections also play a
role in stem formation. This is manifested most obviously in the verb, but
occurs in the noun too.

Despite its isolate status, Ket shares certain areal features with its
Uralic, Turkic, and Tungusic neighbors. These include a nominal paradigm
containing a dozen cases and a propensity to use postpositions or case
suffixes as clausal subordinators.

Ket is spoken today by a few hundred of the 1,200 Ket people, mainly in
remote areas near the Yenisei River in the Turukhansk District of Russia's
Krasnoyarsk Province. Most speakers are adults who know Russian fluently too.

This book contains the first full-length description of Ket to appear in
English. It covers all aspects of the phonology, morphology and syntax of
Southern Ket (the dialect with the most speakers), and briefly discusses
the traditional culture and its characteristic vocabulary. Also included is
a previously unpublished folktale with interlinear morpheme glosses and an
English translation.

Publication Year: 2006
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Ket
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 3895862215
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 109
Prices: Europe EURO 39