Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Izon Verbal Extensions

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Izon Verbal Extensions

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction: verbal extensions in Africa

Systems of verbal extension, consisting of affixes that alter argument structure, are widely reported in the world, and are scattered throughout Africa, where they compete with strategies such as serial verbs and auxiliaries plus verbal collocations (Aikhenvald & Dixon 2006). Muysken & Veenstra (2005) comparing Caribbean creoles with West African languages, note that serial verb constructions are in complementary distribution with derivational morphology in accomplishing the same function. Within Africa languages with extensions can be subdivided into two major sub-classes, systems which permit seriated or strings of verbal extensions and those where a variety of individual extensions may be affixed to the verb root, but which do not permit seriation (cf. Hyman 2003). Needless to say, transitional systems also exist but they are quite rare. Many Bantoid languages show examples where unproductive verbal suffixes show that seriation was formerly permitted. Kru languages, for example, have functional verbal extensions throughout the family, but nowhere permit seriation. shows a tentative distribution of African languages allowing seriated verbal extensions; information on Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan may be inaccurate.

Apart from functional systems, there are clear traces of fossilised or unproductive extensions elsewhere in Niger-Congo, such as in the Plateau languages of Nigeria. These are part of the link that joins the Benue-Congo languages to Bantu proper.

The Ijoid languages constitute an interesting transitional case. The verb can have suffixed verbal extensions, but these are constructed out of extremely limited segmental material. Although there is an example of what seems to be a composite extension, Ijoid does not generally permit seriated extensions. Both the existence and function of extensions can be inferred from the lexicon, but there is little evidence that these exist in the minds of speakers as productive morphemes, in the sense that speakers do not treat simplex and extended forms as subsets of the same lexeme. Since the meanings of extended forms are sometimes quite remote from the base form meaning, this treatment is not entirely surprising.

The analysis of verbal extensions in Ijo is virtually absent from the rather sparse grammatical literature on this branch of Niger-Congo. Hyman (2011) in a wide-ranging review of Niger- Congo features, does not mention Ijoid in his section of verbal extensions, presumably for lack of information. Williamson (1965: 54) describes a causative but does not treat this as part of a system of extensions and her section on 'passive and intransitive' does not deal with valencychanging extensions. Jenewari (1977) similarly does not refer to a system of verbal extensions, although morphemes similar to those in Izon are clearly present in the Kalabari lexicon. A glance at the Nembe dictionary (Kaliai 1964) again shows the presence of cognate forms.

Even Defaka, the most remote relative of Ijo, appears to have an extension -ma, cognate with Kalabari (Jenewari 1983), although this is conceivably borrowed from Nkoroo. Defaka is a remnant language with less than 200 speakers, now entirely encapsulated by the Nkoroo Ijo. Although the core lexicon of Defaka is highly divergent from Ijo proper, it shares many lexical items and some morphosyntax with Nkoroo and it is usually considered that the lexical items are borrowings into Defaka. Indeed, to judge by the examples in Jenewari (1983: 28), Defaka may have a richer system of extensions, including reduplication to mark iteratives. This suggests that the topic has been under-analysed in the previous literature and that a fresh look at the verbal extension systems of Ijo is warranted. This paper1 describes the evidence for verbal extensions in Kolokuma, a major lect of Izon, or Western Ijo, focusing on an analysis of the morphology. …

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