Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Heterosemy of Case Markers and Clause-Linkers in Andaandi (Nile Nubian) 1

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Heterosemy of Case Markers and Clause-Linkers in Andaandi (Nile Nubian) 1

Article excerpt

1.Topic of paper

Case markers are commonly viewed as properties of dependent noun phrases indicating the type of relationship they bear to their heads (Blake 1994: 1). However, in some languages case markers are additionally used on verbal forms where they serve as clause-linkers or even as aspect, modality, and mood markers. The semantic and functional change affecting grammatical and lexical elements that have a common origin but occur in different morphosyntactic contexts (here: the use of case markers on subordinate clauses) has come to be known as heterosemy (Lichtenberk 1991: 480).

In her cross-linguistic study on "versatile cases", Aikhenvald (2008) explores the variable use of case markers on verbal forms. One of the conclusions arrived at is that the grammatical function and meaning of a morpheme is determined by its morphosyntactic context. Aikhenvald's findings are based on data drawn from genetically as diverse languages as Tibeto-Burman, Oceanic, and South American languages, as well as languages of the New Guinean, Australian, and northeast Asian area. African languages, however, are not found in her sample.

In fact, the use of case markers as clause-linkers - or, more precisely, as clause subordinators - is attested in several African languages, particularly in subgroups of the Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic phyla. Konso, a member of the Cushitic branch of Afro-Asiatic spoken in Ethiopia is a case in point. Two of the non-core case clitics in Konso, the Dative -'é and the adverbial case marker -yyé, are attested on verbs, where - 'é marks purpose clauses and -yyé adverbial clauses (Mous and Oda 2009: 338-340). In Alaaba, another Cushitic language, the Ablative case marker is employed on verbs marking temporal clauses (Schneider-Blum 2009: 66). Maale, in turn, is part of the Omotic subgroup of the Ethiopian Afro-Asiatic languages. The Maale Dative case marker -óm is attested on verbs marking purposive clauses (Amha 2001: 186).

Kanuri is a member of the Saharan languages, which represent a primary branch of the Nilo-Saharan phylum. Kanuri is spoken in northeastern Nigeria. It has two peripheral case markers attested as clause subordinators, the 'indirect postposition' -ro marking purpose, reason and complement clauses and the Locative/Instrumental postposition -lan marking temporal clauses (Hutchison 1981: 259f.).

As we will show in Section 4, the use of case markers as subordinating devices is attested in Andaandi, too. This Nubian language is spoken in the Nile valley of northern Sudan. It is most closely related to Kenzi in southern Egypt.3 According to Rilly (2010), Nubian, along with Tama, Nyimang, Nara, and the extinct Meroitic language, forms the northern branch of Eastern Sudanic, which, in turn, is a major subgroup of the Nilo-Saharan language phylum.

This paper is based on data drawn from various sources, i.e. Armbruster's Andaandi grammar (1960) and lexicon (1965), Massenbach's Andaandi texts (1962), and the second author's translation of The Miracle of Saint Mina (2012).4 This means that the language data employed in this paper are in written rather than in oral form and that the present study is preliminary insofar as the question whether tone plays a role in case marking is not addressed.5 Moreover we have unified the various ways of transcribing Andaandi.6

In previous studies of Andaandi the system of grammatical relations, as reflected in the core cases and the cross-referencing of core arguments on the verb, has not been described. Therefore Section 2 aims at providing a description of this system to serve as a background for the study of the case markers.

Before embarking on that issue, let us briefly consider the notion of 'case' and how case may be realized. The definition of the function of case markers, which we have offered in the beginning of this section, addresses two kinds of relations, "the relationship of a noun to a verb at the clause level or of a noun to a preposition, postposition or another noun at the phrase level" (Blake 1994: 1). …

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