Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Body-Part Adpositions in Gaahmg - Grammaticalized Forms with Person-Marker Vowels

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Body-Part Adpositions in Gaahmg - Grammaticalized Forms with Person-Marker Vowels

Article excerpt

Many African languages employ body parts as adpositions (Heine 1989), the general pattern in Gaahmg, with one locative postposition perhaps derived from 'vagina'. In addition, Gaahmg has locative postpositions and locative pronouns that include a person-marker vowel: a, ∂ = 1st person; ..., u = 2nd person; ε, i = 3rd person. Most locative postpositions and locative pronouns are distinct in form and syntax from their source nouns, and postpositions with person-marker vowels do not synchronically refer to person. Thus, they are analyzed as grammaticalized forms, categorically distinct from nouns. In addition to describing these aspects of the grammar, we will posit two grammaticalization routes based on Heine's (1989) model to trace the changes from the source nouns to the postpositions and locative pronouns.

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1. Introduction

Casad (1982) was among the first to note that adpositions are derived from nouns in many languages. Heine (1989) continues in showing how landmark nouns ('earth', 'sky', etc.) or body parts ('head', 'back', etc.) are commonly the source of adpositions in African languages. Svorou (1994) shows the same two classes of nouns are the source of spatial words worldwide. DeLancey (1997) argues that the unpredictable syntactic behavior of grammatical categories such as adpositions is better explained through grammaticalization processes rather than through phrase structure rules.

In this paper, we take an in-depth look at Gaahmg body-part adpositions and their sources. Gaahmg (Gaam, Ingessana, Tabi, Ethnologue code [tbi]) is a Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic language. Approximately 70,000 Gaahmg speakers claim the Ingessana Hills of the Blue Nile Province of Sudan as their home area. This paper results from PhD research at Leiden University (Stirtz 2011), 1 yet extends beyond that work, particularly in comparing Gaahmg postpositions with adpositions of other languages, as well as proposing channels for grammaticalization.

All Gaahmg locative postpositions2 are derived from body-part nouns as opposed to landmark nouns or other nouns. The source model is the human body rather than an animal body, as indicated by the upright orientation implied by the body-part postpositions. These and other properties of Gaahmg locative postpositions are discussed in section 2.

A unique feature of the postpositions 'inside', 'above' and 'behind' is that they are derived from inherently possessed body-part nouns and retain a person-marker vowel, even though they are grammaticalized forms that no longer refer to a person. The postposition ????l 'above' in (1) is derived from the inherently possessed body part 'head'. In particular, it is derived from this body part possessed by the second person singular, which has the same vowel as the postposition. The body part possessed by other persons has other vowels, as shown in (1) in the last column on the right. In (1) the postposition ????l 'above' does not refer to second person since it refers to the noun ufú 'tree'. It also has a different tone than the possessed noun ?? ?? l '2sG-head'. For these reasons and others presented in this paper, we can analyze locative postpositions as belonging to a distinct word category, rather than as nouns with locative meaning through metaphorical extension. Gaahmg postpositions, such as ????l, follow a noun of reference. The postposition and its referent function as a verbal adjunct describing location.

In addition to locative postpositions, Gaahmg has locative pronouns, which are also derived from body-part nouns, and are discussed in section 3. In (2), the locative pronoun d? -?? ?? l 'above it' is derived from the third singular inherently possessed noun ?? ?? -l 'his head' and follows the accusative pronoun of reference =ì attached to the verb.

All Gaahmg pronouns have the same three person-marker vowels as inherently-possessed nouns, such as 'head'. Thus, Gaahmg locative pronouns also have person-marker vowels, and have the same function as locative postpositions in that they describe location. …

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