Thursday, 24 November 2016

-mut vs -mik

I've been noticing for a long time, even before I studied linguistics, that those from my generation on get confused about the grammatical differences and use of the case endings: -mut and -mik.

A case ending, in Inuktitut, is a syntactic marker that specifies a noun in the Direct Object slot of a complete sentence (ie, these markers normally indicate that the phrase is transitive and requires another phrase to complete its grammaticality).

The case ending, -mut, occurs like this:

ilinniarvingmut   'to the school'

ilinniarvingmut isiqtuq              'he went into the school'

Jpt-mut   'to Jpt'

Jpt-mut tuniguk                         'give this to Jpt'

Ottawa-mut   'to Ottawa'

Ottawa-mut aullalauqtuq          'she left for Ottawa  (ie, travelled to)


the case ending, -mik, is used this way:

inungmik   'a person'

takujunga inungmik                  'I see a person'

qilliqtumik   'a shiny thing'

qilliqtumik piuksaqtuq               'he likes the shiny thing'

aqugiuqsanirmik   'the ability to drive (a vehicle)'

aqugiuqsanirmik ilinniaqtunga   'I'm taking a driving course'


What prompted me to write this is that I just heard on the CBC radio an announcement in Inuktitut:

qarisaujalirinirmut illiniarniq   'a course to operate computers'

when the intended meaning was:

qarisaujalirinirmik illinniarniq   'a computer course'

The differences are somewhat subtle, especially when 'a course to operate computers' sounds ok to Inuktitut and English ears, but these differences are significant. That is, there is an unintended shift from "grammatical space" into "physical space".

What I mean is that 'to operate computers' doesn't mean 'to learn how to operate computers' but refers to a direct object (ie, a single noun element) labelled "operate-computer(s)" that one can actually, physically go to.

Mind you, the grammatical meaning (in Inuktitut) may be reclaimed by changing the notion/idea of "operating a computer" (denoted by [-nir-]) into an actual physical space (denoted by [-ving-]):

qarisaujalirivingmut    'to the computer lab'

but, then again, (learning how to) operate a computer, is clearly different from a computer lab.


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