Attributive "a" and Truncated Style

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Attributive "a" and Truncated Style
Release date July 26, 2011
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Source Naviteri
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Kaltxì nìmun, ma frapo.

I see there was some consternation about the headline of the last post! Since it's an important point, I thought I'd explain it here in a separate post rather than as a response to a comment.

Before anything else, though: Ayngeyä aysäplltxeviri seiyi oe irayo nìtxan ayngaru nìwotx! Thank you all for the comments! Whether bouquets, brickbats, queries, or corrections, they're all very much appreciated. (I still need to reply to most of the last batch, which I will as soon as I can.)

So . . . As you know, the last headline was:

(1) Txantsana Ultxa mì Siätll (Great meeting in Seattle)

And the question is, Shouldn't that have been:

(2) Txantsana Ultxa a mì Siätll

The answer is: yes . . . and no. Let me explain.

In standard Na'vi prose, you cannot omit attributive “a” in phrases like “the X in Y,” “an X from Y,” etc. To say “I really enjoyed the great meeting in Seattle,” you have several choices. The “full” form would be:

(3) Txantsana ultxa a mì Siätll lu soluneiu oer nìtxan.

This is equivalent to “ . . . the great meeting that was in Seattle.”

(You could, of course, have a different order for the modifiers:

(3a) Mì Siätll lu a ultxa atxantsan soluneiu oer nìtxan.)

You can also omit the lu, which is in fact the more common form:

(4) Txantsana ultxa a mì Siätll soluneiu oer nìtxan.

But (5) is not grammatical:

(5) *Txantsana ultxa mì Siätll soluneiu oer nìtxan.

(Here I'm using the usual linguistic convention of putting an asterisk or star before something that's ungrammatical or unacceptable. And perhaps some of you have seen this little bon mot that was popular in certain circles many years ago: “Linguists unite! You have only your *.” What can I say?)

Slä . . .

Languages often have different rules for things like headlines and titles (of books, articles, poems, stories, songs, movies, etc.). In fact, if you think about the English translation I gave, “Great Meeting in Seattle,” you'll realize that that's not grammatical in standard English conversation or writing. You'd have to add an article: “I really enjoyed the great meeting . . .” or “I heard there was a great meeting . . .” or even “That was some great meeting . . . !” For a headline, though, “Great Meeting” by itself is OK. We can call this style “Truncated Headline” style.

Na'vi has a truncated style as well. Now the Na'vi don't have books or newspapers or blog posts, but they do have stories and legends and songs, and truncated style is possible for their titles. One of the indicators of truncated style is the omission of attributive “a” where it would otherwise be necessary. Another is the elision (omission) of certain verbs. So in the case of our headline, the phrase in question might have been, as we've seen, txantsana ultxa a mì Siätll, but another possibility is that the headline comes from the full sentence Lolu txantsana ultxa mì Siätll, ‘There was a great meeting in Seattle”—or, with a different verb, ‘A great meeting took place in Seattle.'

To repeat the bottom line, though: in ordinary style, don't omit attributive “a.”

Sìlpey oe, fìtìoeyktìng lilvu law!