The Sibe Converb V-maq: Is it an Areal Feature?

Arthur Chen

The Sibe Converb V-maq: Is it an Areal Feature?

(63rd Annual Meeting Ulaanbaatar, 2021)

The converb V-maq in Spoken Sibe can behave like many other converbs in serving as a subordinate predicate, but it can also combine with some auxiliary verbs to express aspectual meanings. This converb seems to have no obvious equivalent in Written Sibe or Manchu, and its origin has not been explained in research literature. Some native speakers of Sibe who have also studied Written Manchu associate the suffix -maq with the (postverbal) functional word manggi in Manchu, noticing similarities between them. However, upon closer examination one can also notice syntactic (as well as semantic) differences.

Previous research may not address this issue but nonetheless can still possibly provide useful insight. Ramstedt (1952) mentions an adjectival (and deverbal, too) suffix of a Tungusic language (without specifying which) -mak; he observes that it only occurs with the (auxiliary) verb o- ‘to become’, denoting sudden or random events. However, it seems that this structure cannot be found in other descriptive grammars of Tungusic languages. On the other hand, a similar structure is described in a grammar of Dagur: (V-)maak(an) bol- (the latter is the verb ‘to become’), denoting an event that is soon to happen (this structure is absent from Mongolian, which is Dagur’s close relative). Though the Sibe suffix -maq is not used in precisely the same way, one cannot help wondering whether an areal feature is involved in this case, considering that the Sibe used to live in the proximity of the Dagurs.

This paper, while not claiming to confirm the true origin of the Sibe suffix -maq, wishes to draw attention to a wider linguistic area in which this suffix might be one small piece in connection with others.