Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Locationals in Oromo1

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Locationals in Oromo1

Article excerpt

This is a study of the locational structures of Oromo. A range of syntactic constructions types is considered within a single synchronic grammaticalization schema. Speaker choices of particular structures within discourse are also identified and explored. The primary data are drawn from the Guji dialect, with reference to data from other dialects that are attested in the literature. Most of the morphological marking that is found across these locationals is consistent in all Oromo speech communities, and, although there is some variation in some particular lexemes across the dialects, the inventories of locational lexemes are interlocking and nearly entirely overlapping.

In Oromo, a Lowland East Cushitic language of the Afro-asiatic family, there is a range of constructions that speakers use to locate things. This study explores the nature of these constructions, their relationships within Oromo grammar, grammaticalization principles that relate to them, and the correlation between the form of locational structures and the status of referents and information in discourse. An examination of locational structures in the Oromo dialects reveals grammaticalization within the synchronic system. The data illustrate how a speaker?s choice of locational structures is driven by pragmatic considerations. Examining locational structures from the perspective of discourse establishes insights into the nature of Oromo grammar that are obscured if these constructions are only considered at a syntactic level. The data provide evidence that the degree to which information is shared between interlocutors within a discourse determines appropriate choices that allow for coherent interpretations of locational messages and show how pragmatic status functions to create grammaticality.

The terminology used for locational structures primarily follows that suggested by Talmy (1975:181-2).2 The figure refers to the object that is located or is moving, and the ground the object or place with respect to which the figure is located or moving. The figure and ground are typically nominals. The site identifies the location of the figure with respect to the ground, and the path specifies the course through which the figure is moving in relationship to the ground.3 In Oromo, the site or path may be expressed by a postposition, a relational noun in a genitival construction, an affix, a directional, a preposition or some combination of these.

Five major regional dialects of Oromo in Ethiopia and three in Kenya are located in Figure 1. Boraana is the dialect of southeastern Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya. Guji is spoken in the region of Ethiopia northwest of the Boraana. Harar (known also as Ittu) is the dialect of the most northeastern Oromo area of Ethiopia. Tulema (also identified as Shoa) is spoken in the central area surrounding Finfinnee (renamed Addis Ababa "new flower? when the Amhara seized control of the area). Wollegga (sometimes called Macha) is the westernmost variety. Gabra, Orma, and Waata are spoken in Kenya.

In this study examples of the various types of locational structures are provided, common formal markings found on the different types of constructions are identified, and grammaticalization principles that apply to specific examples and structures are discussed. Finally, the effect of the status of information in the discourse on the choice and form of locational structures is examined. The primary data are from the Guji dialect of Oromo. The data are drawn from the Lowland Guji narrative in Yaachis and Clamons (2009), which is a transcript of a videotaped "near death? account, and also from data constructed by Mi?eessaa Yaachis, a Lowland Guji speaker, on the basis of native intuitions. Mekonnen Abakore, a Highland Guji, has verified the data from the narrative and the constructed conversation data. Although he is Highland Guji, rather than a Lowland Guji, no differences were found in his intuitions about the locational constructions considered here. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.