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On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 2:38 PM, Thomas Alexander <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> I came upon the following which V. Fromkin wrote in 1995.
> It's a description of proper nouns in the Paku language
> from Land of the Lost.  My question is whether this makes
> sense to anybody.
>
> --- Begin Quote ---
> All common nouns start with a vowel which is a
> noun-prefix¸ representing a semantic class.
> Paku which does mean ‘person’ is also a proper
> noun since it refers to a particular group of
> persons and therefore does not have a noun
> prefix, even when it is used in compounds such
> as the WH words (see below)
> There are three four classes.
>     a class -- human   a-bimi          ‘man’
>     i class -- non-human animate      e-gamba  ‘killer lizard’
>     o class --  collective or abstract     o-bimi              ‘manhood’
>     e class --  inanimate              e-bunda ‘cave’  e-ga ‘killer (like
> poison)
>     e.g.  mass nouns prefix :  o-   as in o-ta ‘fire’, o-su ‘water
> --- End Quote ---
>
> Note: I believe that "e-gamba" is a typo (and it should be i-gamba.)
> Note that Fromkin uses the word "human" throuout this document
> to mean "paku".
>
> Before reading the above, I'd come to the conclusion that
> the reason the word "paku" doesn't have a prefix indicating
> the semantic class is that the form of the word was dictated
> by the creators of the show (just as the names Marshall, Will,
> Holly, and Sleestak were.)  That is, the name was decided
> *before* Fromkin created the language and she just had to
> work with it.  In that case, the explanation in her 1995
> document sounds a bit like story-telling after the fact.  I
> am aware, however, that I could be flat wrong here.  Thoughts?
>
> Put another way -- does it make sense that a word
> meaning simply "person" could be a proper noun?


Yes, and there is natlang precedent. The Shoshoni word *nɨwɨ* means both
'person' and 'Shoshoni'. White people are not *nɨwɨnɨː*; they are *taiponɨː*.
This distinction, of course, didn't arise until the Shoshonis first
encountered white people, but it's there now, so you have a generic usage
"person" as well as a proper noun "Shoshoni."

Dirk