Jabechasqvi wrote:What are some ways in which polysynthetic languages typically form dependent clauses as opposed to independent ones? Vohpenonomae said that some of the languages he studied drew no distinction between independent clauses and relative ones. He really commented on adverbial clauses or anything like that as far as I can recall. I have read that some polysynthetic languages, at least, have entirely separate verb paradigms for different kinds of clauses.
Actually, I originally thought about including a section on this -- but then the whole project spun out of control and I was like, "screw it." Plus I haven't actually looked into this question in any depth at all. So all I can go by is how it's done in the polysynthetic languages I have some familiarity with.
In these cases, subordination seems to quite often be marked at least partly with verbal inflection, as one might imagine given how verb-centric polylangs often are. In Algonquian languages, there's a distinct inflectional paradigm for dependent verbs, called the "conjunct" verbal order (though subordination of various kinds is frequently marked in addition with verbal prefixes and with subordinating adverbial particles and conjunctions). For example, Ojibwe Giishpin gimiwang, gaawiin niwii-pi-izhaasii
, "If it rains
, I'm not going to come" (with the subordinating conjunction/particle giishpin
, "if", and the verb gimiwan
"to rain" inflected with the inanimate third person singular conjunct suffix -g
Muskogean languages like Koasati (sect. 5.5 above) have various subordinating suffixes as well (as exemplified by the consequence suffixes and others given above). They also have switch-reference
suffixes, which mark whether the subject of a following or dependent verb is coreferent with the subject of the preceding or matrix verb (these go in suffix slot 14 in Koasati). For example: athómmak yomáhlin chalakkí hokáhchok
, "They called the wandering Indians
Cherokees" (with the different subject marker -n
on the verb yomáhli
, "to go about").
There's some languages with much more intricate switch-reference/subordination systems, but the ones I know of aren't really polysynthetic. I don't know if that's a general pattern or not. A number of Amazonian languages use nominalizations (or nominalization-like processes) to form relative clauses and other subordinate clauses, but again many Amazonian languages are only moderately synthetic (and some are closer to English or German-level synthesis).
But, I can give some examples from Nambikuara
, which has a crapload of subordinating suffixes (I've omitted the superscript numbers marking tones, because they're way too distracting):
, "attention switch"
, "normal sequence"
, "expected climactic sequence"
, "contra-expected climactic sequence"
, "high probability"
, "low probability"
, "immediate sequence" (/present participle)
, "delayed sequence"
, "immediate response"
, "delayed response"
Some examples of these in use (where "TNS" stands for various combinations of tense, aspect, evidential, etc. suffixes):
ãuxinahẽla = "After I ate the meat
, I slept" (= meat eat-1sg-katṵ sleep-1sg-TNS)
ko̰nxainnxahẽla = "I didn't know about their coming home
" (= come.home-3pl-jũta know-3pl-1sg.NEG
sata̰ainnahẽla = "Grating the manioc
, they set it aside" (= manioc grate-sxã set.aside-3pl-TNS)
Unfortunately, the grammar doesn't actually specify what all of these descriptions MEAN... which kind of reduces the usefulness. But whatever.
[NB: These Nambikuara examples are from Menno Kroeker (2001). "A Descriptive Grammar of Nambikuara." International Journal of American Linguistics 67