Pabappa wrote: ↑
09 Jun 2020 02:54
Sal, you may be thinking of Elamite, not Sumerian. Elamite has person marking on animate nouns.
Oh, right, yes, Elamite. Damnit. So close!
Looking into it, it seems that nobody really knows what the hell is going on with Elamite. It has this person marking, both on heads and on modifiers (agreement) - indeed, it may primarily be there to parse phrases. But sometimes not on heads and only on modifiers. This may be syntactic, or lexical (indeclinable nouns?). And sometimes there's double agreement, for no apparent reason, and sometimes plural person marking on an inanimate. And the same markers are on some verbs, if indeed they are verbs. Is there suffixaufnahme? Who knows? Is it related to definiteness? And it's used as a derivational process - is this the same as person marking, or different? It seems like everyone has guessed a slightly different explanation for what is going on - but we don't have enough data to work it out.
Now that cedh's mentioned Nahuatl: oh, yeah, there's a bunch of NA languages in which most if not all 'nouns' look a lot like verbs, including potential person marking.
From reading a little about Elamite, here's some possible routes that come to mind for how to get "person marking" on nouns...
1. They're verbs
Verbs often have person marking. So if there's widespread use of verbs as arguments, a lot of your arguments will have person marking - but not necessarily other verbal marking (because they're not the main verb of a clause). So "I, the king" is 'actually' "I am kinging". Perhaps a few 'true' nouns lack person marking?
2. They're deictics
Imagine that the deictics 'this' and 'that' get stuck onto their nouns. Then we get "This king" (I, the king) and "that king" (you, the king). But perhaps the deictic can also have a more literal sense (if, for instance, you're actually holding a king, maybe 'this king' refers to them, not you)
3. They're inalienable possessives
If we imagine that most nouns are a bit more abstract in core meaning, there's not that much difference between "I, the king, command it" and "My kingly status commands it". The complication is that these possessives agree in person with the possessum, not the possessor - but that is attested.
4. They're copulas
Or rather, the copula is zero, but is marked for person, and can attach as a clitic to a noun. So "I, the king" really translates to "I am the king".
Just a few ideas, anyway.