Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

The Curious Case of Auxiliary -Many'a in Lwitaxo

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

The Curious Case of Auxiliary -Many'a in Lwitaxo

Article excerpt

Lwitaxo, one of the Luhya languages of Kenya, has an auxiliary verb of the form -many'a that occurs in compound constructions that express either a generic reading ("normally do V") or a culminative reading ("ended up Ving"). This verb is identical in form to the lexical verb -many'a '(come to) know'. However, while there are attested cases of KNOW verbs grammaticalizing as habitual/generic auxiliaries, there are no such attestations of KNOW verbs grammaticalizing as indicators of culmination. The author proposes that auxiliary -many'a is the unique result of a convergence of factors-sound change, morphophonological analogy, and semantic reinterpretation-that led an original auxiliary, -mala 'finish', to shift in form to resemble lexical -many'a.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

In Lwitaxo1 (JE.411 [ida]2), one of the languages of the Luhya macrocluster of southwest Kenya, there occur two complex periphrastic auxiliary verb constructions, both incorporating the auxiliary verb -many'a. One construction has the form SP-many'-a SP-BASE-a3 with a GENERIC reading, "normally/ ordinarily/typically V", as in (1). The second has the form SP-Tmany'- a ni-SP-BASE-a and has a CULMINATIVE reading, often suggesting a consequence: "end up Ving", "ultimately V", or "in the end", as in (2).4

(1) a. ...

'My husband and children normally help get vegetables.'

b. ...

'Many women ordinarily make bushuma, or cook bananas, sweet potatoes, or yams to eat in the afternoon.'

c. ...

'Cattle typically go to the river to drink.'

(2) a. ...

'Lion ended up dying.' [recent past]

b. ...

'From that time, consequently they began to feel pain, sickness, and also death.'

c. ...

'It [ogre] ultimately got hold of that old woman, wanting to eat her.'

The culminative constructions in (2) differ from the generic constructions in (1) in that they always (seem to) require the focus marker ni-.5 All fifteen of the culminative examples in the data occur with ni-, while none of the six generic examples do. This is not surprising as the culminative use focuses on the event as the culmination of a series of events, while the generic does not refer to any specific event. This distinction is crucial, ultimately, for the difference in analysis of the two homophonic auxiliaries.

What is curious about this case is not the constructions per se, but rather the form and use of the auxiliary verb itself. It has the same form as the verb '(come to) know' -many'a, yet there appear to be no cases attested in the literature of KNOW verbs grammaticalizing in other languages with a sense of culmination 'consequently, ultimately, in the end' noted here. Significantly, however, Appleby (1943) notes a comparable auxiliary verb construction for central Luhya languages having the same culminative sense found above for Lwitaxo, but incoporating instead the auxiliary -mala 'finish'. The verb -mala 'finish' is found in Lwitaxo as well, but it expresses a completive function, not the culminative function noted for this particular auxiliary verb construction. Intriguingly, a cognate form of -mala (from Proto-Bantu *-mad- (Bastin et al. 2003))-*-màn- 'finish'- is attested in western Bantu zones, but there are no reflexes of it attested in either zones E or J where Lwitaxo is located. So, does this -many'a case represent a new and unique grammatical evolution of KNOW, an extension to the range of *-màn-, or something else?

There is no published linguistic literature specifically on Lwitaxo. There do exist a grammar and a dictionary of Luhya by Appleby (1961, 1943, respectively) that may have been based in part on Lwitaxo data. Data for this study come primarily from Phoebe Wakhungu, a native speaker from Kakamega district, through direct elicitation and both recorded and written texts, supplemented by texts from other sources (e-mail messages, facebook messages, the Good News Program). …

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