Phrase structure in Skolt Saami

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This page deals with the internal phrase structure in Skolt Saami.

Noun Phrases

In Skolt Saami, the head of the phrase can be described by its dependents, in this case, specifically pre-dependents, as they always appear before the noun in a hierarchical order. The order is as follows: demonstrative determiner, possessive noun, numeral or adverb of degree (Quantifier), adjective and/or participle and finally the head noun.

	[tõid		kue’htt		sue’jj] [1]
	DEM.PL.NOM	two	 	birch.SG.GEN
	these two birch trees
	[demonstrative + numeral + head noun]

The demonstrative determiner follows the numeral, with the head noun at the end. Focusing on the inflection of the noun, the phenomenon of syncretism in the case of genitive singular and nominative plural in Skolt Saami is easily recognized. It would be possible to gloss “birches” as either one. Since the noun functions syntactically as the subject however,and the demonstrative article has been glossed in plural, it seems reasonable to gloss the head noun as nominative plural so that both components are in agreement. In the case of adjective pre-modifiers, there are no inflections to match the gloss on the head noun. Instead they are glossed in a special attribute form and case and numeral are only marked on the head.

	teä 	võ’ll′ji		[vuõssmõs 	ča’ppes		heäppaž] 	ool [2]
	then 	jump.P	ST.3SG		[first		black		horse.SG.GEN]	onto
	then he jumped onto the first black horse
	[numeral + adjective + head noun]
	[tõn 		põõrt 		nõmm ] 		leäi		Jänkälä [3]
	[DIST.SG.GEN	house.SG.GEN	name.SG.NOM ] 	be.PST.3SG	Jänkälä
	that’s house’s name was Jänkälä
	[[demonstrative + possessor] + head noun]

In this case “name” is the head noun and appears after “that” and “house’s”, which shows that the possessive NP can also be pre-modified (here: with the demonstrative).

	Rottu		[tõid			saa‘mi		puõccid ] [4]
	tear.PST.PL	[DIST.PL.ACC		Saami.PL.GEN	reindeer.PL.ACC]
	they tore the reindeer of those Saami to pieces
	[demonstrative + possessor + head noun]

In Skolt Saami, both demonstratives and possessives can appear in noun phrases, the presence of one need not exclude the other. In the above example “those” and “reindeer” are glossed in accusative but “Saami” is in genitive. The possessive comes after the demonstrative but before the head noun. Additionally the head can be modified with a subordinate clause, i.e. a relative clause, as in:

	 mon 		vääldam		tu’st		tän			pää’rn [5]
	[kåå’tt		lij		šõddâm ]
	[REL.SG.NOM	be.PST.3SG	be.born.PST.PTCP]
	I'll take from you this boy, who has been born

Adpositional Phrases

Adpositional phrases in Skolt Saami consist mostly of postpositions. There are also some prepositions, which can only stand before the noun that they modify. Finally there is a third group of adpositions which come either before or after the noun. Whether these have a specific function or take on a different meaning depending on the position is unclear. Adpositions require genitive cases in all their constituents. The adpositions themselves however need not be the head of the adpositional phrase; instead they can serve as an adverb. The term “adposition” is term used predominantly in Scandinavian studies, as they have not only pre- & postpositions, but also circumpositions.

	vue’lj			[muu	 	mie’ldd] [6]
	leave.IMP.2SG	 	1SG.GEN 	with
	leave with me!
	Btuk		te’be 		puä’tte 	[mie’ldd] [7]
	DIST.NOM.PL  	EMP  		come.PRS.3PL 	with
	They just come along

In some cases, as mentioned previously, the adpositions acts as an adverb instead of serving as the head of a phrase. The first example above shows how “with” is the head of the phrase as it is in Genitive. However, in the second example, “with” is at the end of the sentence without governing the other elements in the phrase and can therefore not be considered the head in this instance.

	Semman 	 išttõõđi 		[kâskka 	miõut] [8]
	Simo 	sit.REFL.PST.3SG 	middle 		tussock.SG.GEN
	Simo sat himself down in the middle of a tussock

In a prepositional phrase the prepositions come before the noun in the genitive case.

	Mij		leeiʹm		täʹst		[Ciuttajooǥǥ		ââlda] [9]
	1PL.NOM		sein.PRÄT.1PL	PROX.SG.LOC	Siutta+Fluss.SG.GEN	nahe
	'Wir waren hier, nahe am Fluss Siutta'

In the postpositional phrase the postposition comes after the noun in the genitive case.

a)	Ǩiurrâl 	[põõrt  	pirr] 	 	leʹjje 		telttaa [10]
	Kiureli.GEN 	house.SG.GEN 	 around 	be.PST.3PL 	tent
	there were tents around Kiureli's house
b) 	Laaʹrkaž 	pâi 	[pirr 	tool] 		âʹte 	vaaʹʒʒi [11]
	Laaʹrkaž 	just 	around fire.SG.GEN	then 	walk.PST.3SG
	so Laaʹrkaž just walked around the fire 

In the above examples we see an instance of the adposition being both pre- & and postposition (The semantic or syntactic purpose this serves is currently unknown.) In a) not only is the subject in genitive, but the whole phrase. “Kiureli” is glossed as genitive since he is the possessor of the house, which isn’t due to the postposition. In example b) the same adposition is used as a preposition before the noun it governs, in genitive.

Works cited


  1. Feist 2010: 209.
  2. Feist 2010: 209.
  3. Feist 2010: 209.
  4. Feist 2010: 210.
  5. Feist 2010: 349.
  6. Feist 2010: 307.
  7. Feist 2010: 307.
  8. Feist 2010: 314.
  9. Feist 2010: 307.
  10. Feist 2010: 316.
  11. Feist 2010: 316.

See also

Survey articles on Skolt Saami linguistic structures: