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«Cushitic Maarten Mous 1. Geographical distribution and speakers The Cushitic family consists of more than thirty languages spoken in Northeastern and ...»

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The passive requires the patient to have subject function and the agent need no longer be expressed as in the Konso sentence pair (38). But in Konso even intransitive verbs can be passivized (as is common among the languages of Ethiopia) as in example (39).

(38) anti inna kataata in erg-é I boy food 1 send-PF I sent the boy food b. kataata inna i érg-am-t-é food.F boy 3 send-PAS-F-PF Food was sent to the boy (39) urmalaa i áan-am-é market 3 go-PAS-PF The market was frequented.

An impersonal (unspecific) subject construction using the third person plural is commonly used and constitutes a functional competitor to the passive derivation. In Konso sentences describing pictures to elicit expressions for locational relations make abundant use of impersonal constructions to describe situations. Not only the agent but in fact the action is irrelevant in these sentences, (40).

(40) mataafaa shelfeeta kara xaay-e-n book shelf on put-pf-pl A book is on the shelf. (They've put a book on the shelf).

28.4. The Frequentative, Habitual Most languages have a derivation by reduplication that expresses plural action such as continuous, repetitive, or iterative action, or intensive or quick action. Plurality of the subject of an intransitive verb or of the object of a transitive one is a factor that may trigger the use of this derivation but there remains a choice for the speaker to indicate such plurality in this way or not. The reduplication applies to the initial syllable of the verb stem and can take several forms across and within languages: C1V1C1- forming a geminate as second radical in the derived verb (except for consonants that do not occur as geminates), e.g. Somali duudduub from dúùb ‘fold’ but jajab from jáb ‘break’ (Saeed 1999: 49-50, Banti 1988b). In Somali the vowel length in the reduplicant is identical to that in the original syllable, but most other languages, e.g.

Oromo (Owens 1985a: 84) and Dahalo, require this vowel to be shortened, e.g.

Dahalo gagaalij from gaalij ‘go home’ (Tosco 1991: 48). A second type of reduplication is C1V1C2-. Rendille has both, e.g. furfura from fura ‘be open’ and diddiiba from diiba ‘hand over’. In addition Rendille has aC1- geminate forming an

alternative derivation, e.g. ahhida or hidhida from hida (Pillinger and Galboran 1999:

33). The third common type of initial reduplication is C1V1-. Note that this can also occur as a variant of the other reduplications where the reduplication would lead to inadmissible geminate consonants or consonant clusters. Nevertheless, a separate C1V1- reduplication has to be recognized. It occurs, for example, in Dhaasanac where the vowel in the reduplicant must be long, e.g. fáafa’ from fá’ (Tosco 2001: 142), and in Boni where the vowel has to be short, e.g. sisii from sii ‘give’ and d’ud’uud’ from d’uud’ ‘consider’ (Heine 1977: 280-281). South Cushitic has C1V1- and C1V1C2reduplication with a difference in meaning, the former for frequentative and the latter for distributive/frustrative action (Kießling 1992: 192). Afar has a different type of

reduplication for intensive action and in the Aussa dialect for frequentative action:

The onset and the shortened rhyme of the final syllable is reduplicated and closed by the onset consonant giving rise to a geminate, thus CxVxCx- where x is the penultimate consonant and inserted before the final syllable, e.g. usussuul ‘laugh heartedly’ from usuul ‘laugh’, biyayyaak from biyaak ‘hurt’. If Cx is a geminate in the base, we get successive geminates, e.g. iggiggif ‘kill brutally’ from iggif ‘kill’. An

exception to this pattern is camcamm ‘throw hard’ from camm ‘throw’ (Bliese 1981:

127-128). Final reduplication is very common in South Cushitic where the last root consonant is reduplicated but only if the verb is derived or has a form that is identical to a derived verb; de facto, the penultimate consonant is reduplicated with an epenthetic a if the ultimate consonant is m, s or t, that is, a consonant that appears in one of the segmental verbal derivations; see (41) which also contains an example of initial frequentative derivation, long aa as “epenthetic” vowel to express habitual (Mous unpublished).

(41) Alagwa imperfective derivation (Mous unpublished).

‘ag ‘eat’ ‘ag-im future ‘ag-amim durative ‘ag-ag-im present progressive ‘ag-aag-im habitual ‘aga-‘agim frequentative A number of different reduplications are used to derive verbs in the imperfective domain; in some languages several reduplication types are used for the same broad function; in others, distinctions in function can be made for the various reduplications. There are also languages that use segmental means for the same functions. K’abeena has -ans, a fixed combination of passive and causative, for repetitive, iterative and frequentative (Crass 2005: 146); Dahalo has -ameemit for frequentative (Tosco 1991: 47), similar to the South Cushitic fixed combinations -maamiit, -maamiis, -aamiim for habituals.

Dullay and Konsoid have a singulative derivation that consists of gemination of the final consonant which expresses that the action is done once or a bit. Some examples from Ts’amakko are ‘ug ‘to drink’: ‘ugg ‘to sip’, kad’ ‘to climb’: kadd’ ‘to

climb with one movement’, ka’ ‘to get up’: ka’’ ‘to get up suddenly’, cox ‘to milk’:

coxx ‘to squeeze the udder once’. The singularity can refer to the number of objects, šab ‘to tie’: šabb ‘to tie one thing at one time’, d’iš ‘to plant’: d’išš ‘to plant one plant at one time’. Singulatives are preferred in imperatives (Savà 2005: 187). The derivation cannot apply to verbs that have a final geminate consonant, but some of those originate in this derivation. In Dullay there is free variation for a number of lexemes between single and double final consonant, far ~ farr ‘to die’ (Amborn et al.

1980: 117).

28.5. The inchoative and verbalizers The inchoative, or inceptive, derivations are de-nominal or de-adjectival verbalizers.

Several forms are attested within one language and across languages. The inchoative derivation is -aw(w), -uy or -um in Dullay (Amborn et al. 1980: 117-118), -ow in

Somali (Saeed 1999: 135-136), -ow or -aw in Rendille (Pillinger and Galboran 1999:

33), -uw in South Cushitic, -um in Konso, -a’, -aaw, or -ee in K’abeena (Crass 2005:


Verbalizing derivation in general contains verbal derivational suffixes such as causative or middle, depending on the meaning of the resulting verb, and often containing different vowels, oo or ee. The difference in the vowel is a relic of fusion with a preceding inchoative derivation. The typical verbalizing suffixes are -ees (K’abeena, South Cushitic), -ood (South Cushitic). In K’abeena there is also -aar (Crass 2005: 153).

29. Structure of the simple clause The coding of relationships between noun phrases and the predicate include coding on the verb, subject and object pronouns in an inflectional complex, case marking on the noun phrase, preverbal adverbial case clitics, postpositions, linear order with respect to an inflectional complex, incorporation by the verb, by verbal derivation, by pause and other intonational means.

The syntax of many Cushitic languages is primarily governed by pragmatic principles. In a number of Cushitic languages there is a subject clitic (selector, see section 27) which is independent of the verb and which plays a role in focus. For some of these languages the subject clitic marks the beginning of what has been termed the verbal piece or the verbal complex and which ends with the verb. Even though this syntactic unit may contain the object, it is not comparable to a verb phrase for various reasons in the different languages. One such reason is that non-objects and sometimes subjects also occur within the verbal piece. Languages in which such a unit can be recognised are Somali and the South Cushitic languages. These languages show signs of polysynthicity.

30. Syntactic categories and relations The syntactic relation of subject is expressed by inflection on the verb. The object is less uniformly encoded. Some languages have an enclitic object pronoun. In most Somali dialects this pronoun is empty for the third person. Despite gender and person (and sometimes number) agreement of the subject on the verb and, in some cases, of an object in an object pronoun, the subject and object are not always uniquely distinguished. Independent pronouns often do not distinguish between the subject and object and are not obligatory. In the northern languages the subject and object may be distinguished by word order. In the Lowland East Cushitic and South Cushitic languages word order is determined by information structure.

31. Position of the verb in the clause The verb tends to be final in the sentence. Most languages allow for material to appear after the verb for pragmatic functions, not only as an afterthought, e.g. Somali, Alagwa, Burunge. The position of the verb does not distinguish subject and object.

The position immediately before the verb is one for out of focus. Nouns can form a phonological and intonational unit with the verb for pragmatic reasons showings signs of noun incorporation; see Sasse (1984) for Boni and related languages, Kooij and Mous (2002) for Iraqw, Tosco (2004) for Somali, and Kießling (2007) for Alagwa.

See also section 37 on topic and focus.

32. Coding the second argument (object) The coding of the second argument, the object, is most straightforward for those languages that have accusative case. For example, in Awngi the object is marked by

the accusative case suffix:

–  –  –

However, the majority of the languages have a subject case system in which the object is not marked. In such languages objects may be defined on the basis that they can undergo passivization. Such is the case in Oromo: ‘me’ in (43a) is an object because it can become the subject of the passive verb of (43b), but ‘house’ in (44a) is not an object, because it cannot become the subject of a passive verb (as in 44b) (Owens 1985a: 167).

–  –  –

In other languages objects are the arguments that do not trigger agreement and thus are not subjects and that are not marked by case clitics or adpositions. Thus, the object is negatively defined among the arguments (Sasse 1984: 245). Grammatical relations tend not to be the most central organisational principle in Cushitic syntax.

In a number of languages objects are the arguments that can be referred to with object pronouns. Such is the case in the South Cushitic languages. For example, in Iraqw the feminine object pronoun a agrees with the object ‘beer’ (45), and replaces an understood object in (46).

–  –  –

33. Coding a third argument (adverbial case, postposition) There are two different ways to code a third argument in Cushitic. One is by means of an adverbial case clitic. This is either linked to the noun or syntactically linked to the verb in which case it may end up on the “wrong” nominal (anti-iconicity); see section 15 on non-core cases and clitics. The other manner is by means of an adposition (see section 16 on adpositions) which is sometimes a clitic.

The semantics of a case clitic can be quite diverse. For example, the case clitic =nu in Ts’amakko marks the beneficent (47), the representative (48), the goal (49), the purpose (50), the locative direction (51), and the basis for comparison (52) (Savà 2005: 103-107).

–  –  –

baq’q’ala miša=nu q’arra ki d’al-ad’-i (52) Baq’q’ala Miša=from before Sent.3 give.birth-MID-3SG.M.UNM ‘Baq’q’ala was born before Miša.’ Locatives are often expressed through a combination of locative nouns and adpositions or case clitics. In the following Konso example, the locational noun xati is followed by the clitic pa and again by a directional marker.

–  –  –

34. Clause chaining There are several strategies to link clauses. One common strategy is to have a series of subordinate predicates to the final main verb. An example from a long stretch of such subordinate verb forms or converbs is the following string in Awngi.

–  –  –

Another strategy is to concatenate clauses with a coordinating particle. This strategy is common in Konso stories. The clause-coordinating clitic -ka appears in the position after the subject in the second clause (see 55).

(55) [isheeta i xa’a-t-i-][ka dag’int-aadd-i yag’-at-i-] she 3 wake-F-PF-and body-3SG.POSS-3 wash-MID:F-PFhapurss-ati] [nes-att-i] [ka and dress-MID:F-PF rest:MID:F-PF sook-t-i ] [tiká (kara) saha-t-i][-ka sekkammaa-yyé house (inside) clean-F-PF-and here.after-SET leave-F-PF ‘She got up, washed herself, got dressed, cleaned the house and went out.’ (Mous 2006) (56) [arp-oo-se ana turaa xa'-ad-e] [ka aan-ee] [takal-ee pi'-e] elephant-REF-DEM me front flee-MID-PF and go-PF cliff-SET fall-PF [ka qeq-qep-e] and INT-break-PF [ka xosaltaa paay-e] [ka oppaa-ee-w paq-e] [ka twee].

and laughter start-PF and on-SET-too burst-PF and die:PF ‘That elephant fled from me and left and fell into the ravine and broke into pieces. And he (bedbug) started to laugh and likewise burst on it and (in doing so) died.’ (Mous 2006, example from Korra Garra 2003) Yet another common strategy is tail-head linking, which is common, for example, in Alagwa. In a story new entities are usually introduced in the post-verbal position, as is the case in the first sentence of (57); in the next sentence this previously introduced entity, ‘troughs’, now appears sentence-initially and with a referential demonstrative, while the new entity, ‘milk’, appears in the post-verbal position; in the next sentence this information in repeated and the sentence is marked as being background information. Such sequences and repetitions for cohesion are typical for narrative style (Mous 2001).

(57) i-n háts-is mlambabee;

S3-PF full-CAUS:3M troughs;

mlambabee-wá-d i-yaa háts-ir ilibaa.

troughs-P-DEM S3-PST full-3PL milk.

ilibaa ki hats-ir-íi;...

milk DEP-S3 full-3PL-BGND ‘He filled troughs. Milk filled those troughs. The troughs being filled with milk,...’

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