How the accusative became the relative: a Samoyedic key to the Eskimo-Uralic relationship?

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The Eskimo-Uralic hypothesis of a genetic link between Eskimo-Aleut and the Uralic languages is now reaching its second centenary. Two major problems with its advancement since Bergsland’s (1959) summary of its status are addressed in this article. The first of these is the lack of an obvious correlate of the ubiquitous Eskimo-Aleut (EA) relative case marker -m in Uralic; the other is the lack of an m-initial first person singular morpheme in EA to correlate with that of the Uralic languages. That the EA singular genitive/relative marker -m — as well as the instrumental/accusative singular -mək based on it — might be cognate with Uralic singular accusative -m was suggested already by Sauvageot (1953), but no firm conclusion on the matter has since been reached. This has remained a tantalizing possibility, despite the conflicting semantics. However, the remarkable morphosyntactic parallels between Eskimo-Aleut and Samoyedic in particular have grown more apparent with recent publications. A solution is proposed, linking the emergence of ergativity in the Eskimo-Aleut family with a reanalysis of the original nominative-accusative case marking system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Historical Linguistics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)72-92
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ID: 166283031