LINGUIST List 17.1521

Wed May 17 2006

Books: Language Description, Ket: Vajda

Editor for this issue: Svetlana Aksenova <>

Directory         1.    Ulrich Lueders, Ket: Vajda

Message 1: Ket: Vajda
Date: 17-May-2006
From: Ulrich Lueders <>
Subject: Ket: Vajda

Title: Ket Series Title: Languages of the World/Materials 204 Published: 2006 Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Author: Edward J. Vajda, Western Washington University Paperback: ISBN: 3895862215 Pages: 109 Price: Europe EURO 39

Ket is the only surviving member of the formerly widespread Yeniseic familyand one of the world's more intriguing language isolates. Its phonology,vocabulary, and grammar differ strikingly from the surrounding families. Asystem of five phonemic tones, apparently derived from simplified consonantarticulations, mark the beginning of each phonological word.Agreement-related inflections reflect a tripartite noun-class divisionbased on animacy and gender. The polysynthetic verb contains ten positionclasses and involves a variety of distinct agreement patterns:active/inactive, ergative/ absolutive, nominative/accusative, and two thatemploy redundant subject markers. Each stem selects one of these strategiesas part of its lexical makeup. The co-indexed subject and object NPs arezero-marked regardless of the verb's agreement type. Incorporation affectscertain intransitive subjects, as well as objects, instruments, anddirectional adverbs. Important derivational categories include event number(punctual vs. iterative) and transitivity, with transitive and intransitivestems normally differing in some formal way. Causatives, inceptives, andeven infinitives are distinct lexemes rather than grammatical forms ofanother 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 conveyother temporal and modal nuances. Most morphemes are roots or grammaticalinflections. With so few derivational affixes, compounding is the mostprevalent technique of lexeme creation. Redundant inflections also play arole in stem formation. This is manifested most obviously in the verb, butoccurs in the noun too.

Despite its isolate status, Ket shares certain areal features with itsUralic, Turkic, and Tungusic neighbors. These include a nominal paradigmcontaining a dozen cases and a propensity to use postpositions or casesuffixes as clausal subordinators.

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

This book contains the first full-length description of Ket to appear inEnglish. It covers all aspects of the phonology, morphology and syntax ofSouthern Ket (the dialect with the most speakers), and briefly discussesthe traditional culture and its characteristic vocabulary. Also included isa previously unpublished folktale with interlinear morpheme glosses and anEnglish translation.

Linguistic Field(s): Language Description
Subject Language(s): Ket (ket)
Written In: English (eng )

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