Grammar And Context 2013


Gerson Klumpp

Four Functions of Komi Possessive Suffixes

Gerson Klumpp

University of Tartu


The manifold functions of Komi possessive suffixes have always attracted the attention of resarchers (Budenz 1870, Schlachter 1960, Prokusheva 1992, Nikolaeva 2003, Leinonen 2006, and others). Modern Komi descriptive grammar refers to the category in question with the terms indan-asalan suffiksjas ‘demonstrative-possessive suffixes’ (ÖKKM 2001), resp. opredelenno-prityazhatel’naya kategoriya ‘determinative-possessive category’ (SKYa. 1955). This two-part designation is ought to cover separate functions as, e.g., with the suffix of 3rd person singular in the possessive noun phrase juyslön ńimys ‘the name of the river’ in (1): in ńim-ys ‘its name’, the px. may be read as indicating the possessor of the name, but in ju-ys-lön ‘of the river’, it indicates the possessor as determinate, or given. (In the same function it occurs also in medlöśyd ńim-ys ‘the most beautiful name’ at the end of the example.) The designation may also cover the pragmatic use of the 2nd person singular suffix as, e.g., in the second line of (1) where it follows the caritive converb: gögörvo-tög-yd ‘without [we] understanding it’. Its function here is not that of indicating the subject on an infinite verb form, but common ground management in the sense that the speaker encodes the information that both interlocutors do not understand the meaning of the Lithuanian river name Šventoji (‘the saint’) as given. Finally, a function apart from possessor and givenness marking is the focus marking function of the accusative form of 2nd and 3rd person suffixes (-tö, -sö) as, e.g., with mijanly-sö ‘for us’ in in the second line of (1).

      (1)       Ju-ys-lön                      pö            ńim-ys                 Šventoji,
                  river-PX3SG-GEN      QUOT      name-PX3SG      Š.

                   zev          ťeškoď        ńim.
                   very         funny           name

                   Mijan-ly-sö,                           gögörvo-tög-yd,                       ťeškoď,
                   we-DAT-PX3SG:ACC           understand-CAR-PX2SG       funny

                   a       ľitovec-jas-ly,                      gaškö           i,
                   but     Lithuanian-PL-DAT          perhaps      also

                  med-löśyd           ńim-ys.
                  SUP-beautiful     name-PX3SG

                  (from Ivan Toropov: “No-o, bia bordajas!”,

The paper traces the development of Komi possessive suffixes from possessor markers to markers of givenness, and further, from markers of given direct objects to focus markers (side tracks included). Special attention is paid to the distinction of focal from topical direct objects in Komi, as well as in other Uralic languages (cf., e.g., Serdolbol’skaya & Toldova 2012, Dalrymple & Nikolaeva 2011).


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