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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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35. Negation Negation is marked in several different ways. Negation may be marked in the selector, i.e., the preverbal inflectional complex. This is the case in Arbore, Dhaasanac, Somali, Boni (58), Dahalo, Iraqw, and Konso (59); and in South Cushitic specifically for prohibitive use (60). Negation may also be expressed by using a specific negative verbal conjugation, as is the case in most languages. The two options may be both present in the same language, as is the case for Konso and Iraqw.

In Oromo negative verbs are formed by prefixing a particle hin to the verb which receives a high tone on the first syllable and the dependent suffix is used for the imperfective (61) (Owens 1985a: 66-67). Dullay uses subjunctive paradigms for the negative; in Konso one of the negative paradigms has the subjunctive ending o but differs from the subjunctive tonally. Zaborski (2005) provides an overview of such negative conjugations in Cushitic and discusses such negative paradigms for Beja, Afar, Rendille, and Arbore.

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(61) hin-déem-u NEG-go-DEP ‘He is not going.’ (Oromo, Owens 1985a: 66) Negative verb paradigms may develop out of a periphrastic construction involving a negative auxiliary verbs such as rib ‘to refuse’ in Beja, wee ‘to lack’ and hinna ‘not be’ in Afar (Zaborski 2005: 697), and kaaħ ‘be absent’ in Iraqw and ba ‘be without’ in Alagwa and Burunge (Kießling 2002: 382-389).

36. Questions There are several ways to form questions. Iraqw can be taken as an example of a language that has three different kinds of question formation. Questions are often formed by questioning intonation with or without additional segmental material. In Iraqw yes/no questions are formed by questioning intonation (rise in pitch followed by an incomplete fall) and the addition of a predicative suffix to the verb which is usually the final element of the clause (62). Content questions are often formed by the use of a question word. In Iraqw these are sentence-final as complements of a cleft construction with a general word as head of the relative clause sentence-initially (and the complement of the cleft can be left out) (63). Another manner of question formation is by prefixing m to the selector, the preverbal inflectional complex. This asks for an object of the verb or of the case clitic, e.g. (64) and (65) in Iraqw.

(62) loosí ga dôo -i beans O3:O.F cultivate:3M:INTER-3:PRED ‘Does he cultivate beans?’ (Mous 1993: 287).

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K’abeena (Crass 2005: 284) and Oromo (Stroomer 1988) combine questioning intonation with a full realisation of the final whispered vowel. K’abeena may have an additional question suffix ndo for a leading yes/no question (66) and the question word in situ for information questions and no question intonation is needed (67). In the Agaw languages the questioned element is marked by the particle ma in yes/no questions; the interrogative pronoun in content questions is either sentence initial or precedes the verb; in addition a particle is added sentence-finally (Hetzron 1976: 38

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(68) küt aûl gŭayìtir-aá you where you:will:settle-QUES ‘Where will you settle?’ (Agaw, Hetzron 1976: 39) Question words are sentence initial and marked as topics in Somali and Oromo (69) (Sasse 1977: 348-349).

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37. Topic and Focus The syntax of Cushitic languages is primarily pragmatically organised. Focus constructions are common and often involve cleft constructions, as in (70) for Khamtanga. Appleyard (1989) points out that this is an areal phenomenon for Ethiopia and shared with Amharic and Tigrinya.

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One of the possible functions of the inflectional complex, the selector (see section 27 above), is that of indicating the (type of) focus. In Somali the selector, or indicator particle, is attached to the focus marker. In the following examples the type of focus marker indicates the type of focus: subject focus (71), verb phrase focus (72) or complement focus (73).

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(73) Cali wax-uu cunay moos Ali FM-he ate:he banana ‘Ali has eaten a BANANA.

Languages with a separate inflectional complex preceding the verb have the option to utilise the position between the inflection complex and verb for backgrounding or out-of-focus expression. Iraqw is such as language; compare (74a) and (74b) where the coffee is backgrounded in (74a).

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This phenomenon comes close to object incorporation, although true object incorporation is still different in Iraqw, as it requires a bare noun object without the construct-case marking (as in (75)). The properties of Iraqw noun incorporation are discussed in Kooij and Mous (2002). Noun incorporation for Somali is discussed in Tosco (2004). Sasse (1984) shows the out-of-focus function of noun incorporation in Bayso, Burji and Boni (see also Sasse 1981). The examples in (76) show the different focus types in Boni where the non-focus position in immediately before the verb.

–  –  –

c. hác-idohoo biyo á-ta’aka SGLTV-woman water verb.FOCUS-drink:IMPFV:3F ‘The woman DRINKS water.’ (Boni, Sasse 1984: 252-253) Cushitic languages make ample use of focus clitics to indicate several types of focus/contrast on specific phrases. In Oromo, for example, the preverbal clitic hin indicates that both the subject and the predicate are focussed (77), whereas a post NP clitic -tu indicates contrast (78); the particle d’a is used for contrast on PPs (79) (see also Clamons et al. 1993).

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There is a topic position preceding the sentence and followed by a pause in, for example, Iraqw and Somali. In the Iraqw example (80) the first noun phrase, the road (that was magically cut in the lake) is the topic but it does not reappear as the subject (lake) or the object (them, the cannibal clan) in the remainder of the sentence.

(80) balbal-dá’, tlawi gi-na bara-dí harakí‘ road-DEM4 lake O3:O.P-PAST in-DEM4:DIR return:3SG.F ‘About that road, the lake returned them into it.’ (Iraqw, Mous 1993: 274).

In Somali a subject that is not in focus is realised as a left-hand (sentenceinitial) external (extra-sentential) topic (Frascarelli and Puglielli 2007: 123):

–  –  –

Sentences may be marked to have no pragmatically motivated internal structure. Tosco (2001: 263-266) shows that such “topicalized sentences” are characterised by the use of a subject pronoun (and not a focus subject pronoun) in Dhaasanac. Such sentences are characterised by the use of waa in Somali (see Ajello 1995).

38. Complex sentences Several events are often combined into one sentence in which the final verb is the main verb and the preceding verbs are converbs, that is, they are less finite, reduced in person and/or tense marking and possibly marked for subordination. For example, in Oromo pre-final perfect verb forms with the same subject tend to be marked either prosodically by a High tone or by a suffix -ti plus vowel lengthening of the preceding;

with different subjects a gerund/converb/perfective in náan is used (Banti 2006).

–  –  –

The Dullay and South Cushitic languages use clauses with consecutive tenses following the main clauses instead of such “converb” constructions, as is clear from

the first lines of a Burunge story:

–  –  –

Nominalized verbs retain the ability to have an object in Iraqw. In (84) the verbal noun is within the verbal complex in object position, but its logical object precedes the verbal complex and is referred to with an object pronoun, which is excluded if an object of non-verbal origin precedes the main verb.

(84) aníng ‘ayto'o a doo ár áa’ 1SG maize O.F cultivating:F:CON like ‘I would like to cultivate maize.’ (Iraqw, Mous 1993)


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onore di Tristano Bolelli, ed. Roberto Ajello and Saverio Sani, pp. 1-28. Pisa:


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Appleyard, David. 1986b. Agaw, Cushitic and Afroasiatic: the personal pronoun revisited Journal of Semitic Studies 31(2): 195-236.

Appleyard, David. 1987a. A grammatical sketch of Khamtanga I, II. BSOAS 50: 241Appleyard, David. 1987b. Reinisch’s work on Agaw and its significance today. In Leo Reinisch: Werk und Erbe (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse, 492.), ed. Hans Mukarovsky, pp. 97-106.

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Hans Mukarovsky, vol. 2, pp. 12-38. (Beiträge zur Afrikanistik, 57). Vienna: AfroPub.

Appleyard, David. 1988a. The Agaw languages: a comparative morphological perspective. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Ethiopian Studies (vol 1.), ed. Taddese Beyene, pp. 581-92. Addis Abeba: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

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