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Osage phonology and verbal morphology

Carolyn Faye Quintero, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This work represents the first analysis of the Osage language, a member of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan language family, spoken by a handful of elders of the Osage tribe, located mainly in northeastern Oklahoma. The phonology is characterized by a vocalic system of eight oral and three nasal vowels and includes distinctive vowel length. The consonantal system is interesting principally for its stop system, which includes a four manner series consisting of preaspirated or geminate fortis stops, postaspirated stops which emerge on surface as clusters made up of the stop plus the obstruentized or assibilated aspiration (depending on the following vowel), and a set of "plain" lenis stops, plus one voiced stop. The verbal complex in Osage is made up of derivational and inflectional material preceding the root, or occuring among parts of the root or parts of the stem. For the most part, derivational prefixes precede inflectional items. Inflectional markers include agent and patient forms, and the roughly parallel active-stative distinction is discussed. Under the topic of derivation, behavior of three similar markers of object reference (dative, reflexive possessive or "suus", and reciprocal-reflexive) is examined. In post-root position are markers of negation, plurality, iteration, aspect and mode, with indication of position (posture) of the subject of the sentence, as to standing, sitting, lying or moving. Certain markers also express presence/absence of subject when the sentence is uttered, or presence of the speaker of a finite sentence when the action took place. A brief treatment of the positional modifiers within the nominal system is included. Number is not expressed directly on nouns, and there is only a limited gender system made up of the positional articles. These postnominal articles indicate number in an interesting way, by using, for example, the 'singular, vertical, inanimate' article on a noun of 'singular, round/sitting' gender, thus signaling a collocation of the latter now interpreted as a member of the 'vertical' class.

Subject Area

Linguistics|American studies|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Quintero, Carolyn Faye, "Osage phonology and verbal morphology" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737573.