Positional auxiliaries

Mandan employs positional auxiliaries specifying the stance as sitting, lying, standing or moving, like other Siouan languages. Semantically implicit is durative aspect, which makes them candidates for aspect marking.  Rankin refers to Kennard (1936: 30-31), according to whom "the morphemes hãk, nãk and mãk refer to the position of the object as standing, sitting, or lying (respectively), at the moment he is conceived as performing an action. They might literally be translated as 'in the act of'." He continues specifying that "These elements also form independent verbs, and take the place of the verb to be or exist. Consequently all objects are classified according to form. Tall objects stand, round objects sit, and flat or long objects lie. If the object is standing stationary -tɛ is used, if moving hãk is used." The tæ/hãk distinction corresponds to the Degiha the/thã distinction.

In Mandan, "positional auxiliaries (...) mostly have an aspectual function: rãk 'sit'; rãk-œ 'abide:sit'; wãk 'lie'; wãk-œ 'abide:lie'; hãk 'stand'; hãk-œ 'abide:stand'. The first members of the pairs (...) simply reflect a stative meaning, while the second have a durative or continuous meaning." (Mixco 1998, cited by Rankin 2004: 205)

(1)    á̃•we o=šrí-ha• wá̃•tah í̃=xti-t rá̃•k-œ    e•-t ...
       all  scatter   river  tip.LOC abide.SIT
       'they all scattered upstream' (lit. 'they were scattering upstream')

(2)    rãwá̃ʔk e-rã ta -súk-œ i=rú̃p-ak  kœ'ʔœ-rĩ  wá̃•k-œ   -ak
       man    DEM  his-boy   two  -D/S have -S/S abide.LIE-D/S
       'a man had two (young) children'

Note: D/S stands for 'different subject in the following clause', and S/S stands for 'same subject in the following clause'.

The sit, stand, lie auxiliaries rãk 'sit', wãk 'lie', hãk 'stand' respectively, tend to have a perfective meaning, according to Rankin. Mandan uses the positionals to signal perfective — herein differing from other Siouan languages — and continuative aspect.

Noun classification by positionals in Mandan

Mandan employs positional roots together with a deictic particle for noun classification; they could be treated as deictic classifiers (Aikhenvald 2000, by Rankin) with a positional dimension.

(3) a. re-wãk        'this lying'
    b. re-rãk        'this sitting'
    c. ãʔt-e•-wãk    'that there lying'
    d. ãʔt-e•-hãk    'that there standing'
       (Mixco 1998:40)

According to Mixco, wã•kahe is the irregular plural of all three singular positionals. Position is neutralized and all three are — at least etymologically — 'lying' in plural. Quintero's analysis for Osage positional language elements use may be revealing in this respect: a group of objects (plural) regarded as a whole may behave differently than a single object: while a pole may 'stand', a row of poles (e.g. a fence) 'lies' in the landscape horizontally, or a round apple 'sits' on the table, while a pile of apples 'stands' (cf. → Osage noun classification system based on positional configuration part 1).

The positionals can be employed with nouns, therefore becoming positional noun classifiers:

(4) a. óti-hãk       'this.STA lodge'
    b. máta-mak      'this.LIE river'
       (Kennard 1936)

This post is part of a series on positional elements distinguishing 'sit/stand/lie/move' on this site. To access the other articles, please select the category 'Positionals' under Linguistics/Grammaticalization.