Ikine

Glyph of the word 'ikine'.

ikine

  • (n.) hen

Ikine i iki eine.
“A hen is a female chicken.”

Notes: I’d like to diverge from my prepared remarks to talk a little bit about hens.

I’m a big, big fan of chickens—as I am of all animals, of course. And in dealing with chickens, it does become important, on occasion, to distinguish between a male and female chicken (most of the time to figure out whether or not the bird you’ve got is going to give you an egg). Languages have three strategies (among many possibilities, I imagine) for dealing with this eventuality:

  1. Separate Lexemes: hen “female chicken”, cock “male chicken”
  2. Masculine/Feminine Marker: niño “boy”, niña “girl” (had to stray from chickens—and English—here)*
  3. Prolix Expression: female chicken, male chicken

Kamakawi is somewhere in between 2 and 3. When necessary, one appends the iku for either “woman” or “man” to a noun to designate the female or male version of that noun. This comes from the prolix expression which was reduced over time, giving Kamakawi two suffixes: -ne (from eine) and -‘o (from hopoko [initially]). These suffixes, though, don’t have the status that, for example, -a and -o have in Spanish—that is, they have a function within the grammar, but they’re still kind of outsiders (like the -ee suffix in English).

The status of these things seem to be in flux in most languages, though. English, for example, started out with different words for the male and female versions of most domesticated animals (hen vs. cock, cow vs. bull, hound vs. bitch, etc.). Over time, one of these words took over as the word (or some third contender), and the others took on more specialized meanings (or simply fell into disuse). It seems to parallel the move away from an agrarian society to an industrial one, but I won’t make any claims.

In Kamakawi, then, you actually have terms that arise from constructions that, essentially, mean “male chicken” or “female chicken”, which erode over time and simplify—and these constructions can actually coexist with and are distinguished from the full prolix expressions “male chicken” and “female chicken” as shown in the example sentence above.

That’s my poultry-related digression for the year. I don’t feel bad for having used it up so soon, if you’re wondering. It’s always a good day when you can talk about chickens.

* Note: I recognize that this example is, in fact, one of two types, and the type shown here differs from Kamakawi’s. That is, in Spanish, one uses -o or -a with an otherwise grammatically ill-formed (and, in this case, unpronounceable) root. In Kamakawi, the suffixes are applied to a fully-formed word. This is slightly (though crucially) different from Spanish.

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5 Responses to “Ikine”

  1. Ka kavaka Keri ti:

    “Over time, one of these words took over as the word (or some third contender), and the others took on more specialized meanings (or simply fell into disuse). It seems to parallel the move away from an agrarian society to an industrial one, but I won’t make any claims.” That’s super interesting; I never would have thought of that. It would make a lot of sense if true.

    I liked this digressive poultry post =) Very interesting, and thought-provoking.

  2. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    Perhaps slightly more informative than my first poultry-related digression.

  3. Ka kavaka Anthony Docimo ti:

    surely this can’t be the last poultry-related digression of the year – you haven’t told us about *cooking* chickens.
    (unless that’s what “chicken cover” is…or is that for the feathers?)

    either way, this is very informative (agrarian\industrial, -a\-o & -ee, etc)

    thank you.

  4. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    Provided the appropriate circumstance arises, I may consider allowing another poultry-related digression to crop up in 2011. We shall see… ;)

  5. Ka kavaka Anthony Docimo ti:

    Yes!

    (and if inappropriate circumstances arise, sic the Zhyler on them…unless its a wife-related situation, in which case, take your time) :)

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