Ket

Ket. By Edward J. Vajda. (Languages of the world/materials 204.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. 99. ISBN 9783895862212. €44.

Reviewed by Jason Brown, University of British Columbia

The last remaining member of the Yeneseic family, Ket is a language spoken in north central Siberia. In this volume, Edward Vajda’s grammar examines the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of Ket.

Ket has a system of five phonemic tones (glottalized, falling, high-even, rising-falling, and rising-high-falling) that are historically derived from simplified consonant articulations. Phonetically, the tonal prosody of Ket is based on the number of syllables in a word, the tonal melody, the voice quality, the vowel duration, and the vowel quality. Additionally, Ket has seven vowels (after tonal effects are controlled for), twelve consonants, and several active phonological processes such as palatalization, voicing and devoicing, and spirantization.

Ket nominal morphology consists primarily of suffixation. Because the language has few derivational affixes, new nouns are usually formed through compounding. Every noun belongs to a gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and animacy (animate, inanimate) class. Additionally, Ket has a rich system of twelve cases.

The verbal morphology of Ket can be quite complex. The verbal inflectional categories consist of tense, mood, and agreement marking. Several productive subject-object agreement patterns exist: nouns and verbs are both inflectionally marked. V describes the productive derivational categories including causatives, iteratives (i.e. semelfactives), and inceptives (i.e. inchoatives).

Finite verbal morphemes are made up of bases and incorporates, although there are also lexical affixes such as adpositions and a durative marker. Additionally, there is a class of pseudo-actant markers, which resemble agreement affixes but do not cross-reference an argument. Rather, these affixes mark valency-change (i.e. applicative, an involuntary causative) and heightened intensity (i.e. iterativity). Unproductive uses of pseudo-actant markers also occur in Ket.

V discusses the morphosyntactic properties of verb stems and verbal modifiers. Although the form of some infinitive stems of verbal modifiers can be traced to their finite counterparts, many others are suppletive and differ altogether from the finite forms.

A head-final language, Ket’s word order is subject-object-verb. V outlines both simple and complex sentences (e.g. coordination, subordination) as well as the use of particles and interjections. He also includes a chapter dedicated to the semantics of the lexicon. The book concludes with a Ket text complete with interlinear glosses and a translation.

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