By Jack Rueter

The Mordvin languages, Erzya and Moksha, are known for their subject and subject-object marking. The cellular structure and usage in the sibling languages diverge. Here, I discribe phenomena in Erzya.
The subject-object marking in Erzya involves ambiguity and non-ambiguity for 28 non-reflexive relations.
In the non-past indicatitve, these relations are represented by 15 formatives that can be divided into groups of ten non-ambiguous, 3 two-way ambiguous, and two six-way ambiguous formatives.

Non-ambiguity comprises pairs of specific singular arguments and singular subjects with third person plural objects.
Plural subjects with third-person objects are two-way ambiguous.
The remainder comprises two sets of six-way-ambiguous formatives.

Actually, the last set represents seven-way ambiguity, as the third-person-plural form represents an indefinite actor singular or plural.
Thus an example:
«Molʲan lučše vastomot karman, štobu kijak avolʲidʲizʲ nʲejtʲ.» 'Better yet, I'll go and meet you[sg], so that nobody[sg] will see you[sg].'
Problem: the indefinite pronoun (kijak[sg] 'anybody') has a plural counterpart (kitʲkak), and yet the non-specific, indefinite singular is referenced in the subject marking as third person plural. There is an overlap of formatives in four cells.
Questions: Should multiambiguity be seen as default object conjugation marking, and how is the plural indefinite prounoun used?


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Jack Rueter



Published: 2 May, 2022

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