Ability and possibility in Tocharian A: The semantics of the verbs yāt- and cämp- and their derivatives

2020. №5, 76-90

Maksim V. Vyzhlakov
Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic; m.v.vyzhlakov@gmail.com


There are two verbs in Tocharian A that denote potential modality: yāt- and cämp-. Their forms, as well as the derived abstract nouns yātlune and cämplune, are usually translated almost identically. A thorough analysis shows that yāt- emphasizes the aspect of probability, external to the agent, whereas cämp- focuses on the inner ability or potency of the agent. Yāt- demonstrates a rather impersonal and inactive behavior even at the level of grammar, which can be seen in the distribution of forms and some specific syntactic constructions. This distinction is found in the derivatives as well. For instance, yātlune, unlike cämplune, is regularly described as not inherent to the owner, so it can be gained or achieved. While it is difficult to fi nd diff erences in the core semantics of these words (i.e., ‘ability’ or ‘power’), yātlune has, in addition, specific meanings, such as ‘possessions, property’ and probably ‘perfection’. The article also includes two supplemental parts. The first has to do with the adjective cämpamo, borrowed from Tocharian B, and its controversial Tocharian A counterpart cämpam. The second part deals with the lexicalized past participle yāytu and its probable synonym sākär. As the research will show,
both mean ‘obedient, docile’.

For citation:

Vyzhlakov M. V. Ability and possibility in Tocharian A: The semantics of the verbs yāt- and cämp- and their derivatives. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2020, 5: 76–90.


The author is very thankful to Loren A. Billings, Ilya B. Itkin, Anna V. Kuritsyna, Olga V. Lundysheva, Sergey V. Malyshev, Claudio J. Rodríguez Higuera, and the reviewers for their help and corrections. This work was supported by the SGS project “Metody lingvistické analýzy v Digital Humanities”, no. IGA_FF_2019_019, allocated to Palacký University Olomouc in 2015 due to the support of specifi c higher education research.