Tuesday, 19 December 2017

19th Lexember Word

urmés [uɾˈme̞ˑɕ], intransitive verb: “to be/become named, to have/receive a name”

As I explained yesterday, names are very important in traditional Mountain Folk culture, And children spend quite a few years nameless, only receiving a name when they are three to four years old. The naming ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies in one’s life in their culture, and the fact that one has got a name is an important enough characteristic that urmés is a relatively common word to use in Haotyétpi.

Urmés really simply means: “to have/receive a name”, i.e. “to undergo the naming ceremony” (dynamic meaning) or “to have undergone the naming ceremony” (static meaning). What it doesn’t mean is “to be called”, i.e. it cannot be used to ask about someone’s name. That is done using the expressions =ku ayét (=ku is a quotative clitic, and ayét is the antipassive of yét: “to say, to tell”).

In terms of morphology, urmés is formed by using the root of yesterday’s noun usé, together with the verb-forming suffix -mes, which is used to form verbs that indicate that something is attached (literally or metaphorically) to something else. The change from s to r is due to sandhi, as s always changes before a nasal stop. Although in this case the sandhi is slightly irregular, as normally s fully assimilates before a nasal, so we would have expected the verb to be *ummés. And indeed, some Haotyétpi dialects have ummés. But the most common form of this verb is urmés, so it’s the one I use here.

An interesting use of urmés is that since being unnamed is a mark of someone being a baby or a very young child, accusing an adult of being unnamed is saying that they have the intelligence of such a young child, i.e. they’re an idiot! Hence the following question, which when used by a Haotyétpi speaker sounds pretty much like “what are you, 12?” when used by an English speaker:

Inurmés hure n’ ás?: “Are you (even) named?”

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