Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Form and Function of Conditional Constructions in the Gumuz Language of Metekel Zone

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Form and Function of Conditional Constructions in the Gumuz Language of Metekel Zone

Article excerpt

The breadth of the Gumuz territory in Western Ethiopia and the high cultural value of maintaining identity with one's father's clan, have had great impact on the Gumuz language resulting in the development of diverse yet thus far sustainable dialect variation. Cutting East to West through the region, the Blue Nile River carves a natural divide not only between political zones, but also between linguistic dialects centers (Ahland 2004). Data for this study comes from more than 20 natural texts, both narrative and hortatory, collected from five districts of Metekel zone north of the Blue Nile.1

1. Form

The basic structure of conditional constructions in the Gumuz language of Metekel zone is quite consistent, showing only minor variation across their various uses. The apodosis (Q) is always preceded by the protasis (P),2 thus aiding the listener by mirroring the logical sequence of events implied in the construction (the condition described in the protasis must be met prior to the main statement of the apodosis).

(1) [k-aa-w-e a-mad'uuma na-manasa-ça-aya]P

coND-3sG.NFUT-come-TWRD NOM-sickness LOC-bad-CL:eye-water

[eta-ma-gam-aça-Saainsa d-e-gam-aa-ts tisok'w

REL-NMLZ-know-CL: eye-science AFF-FUT-know-3 SG-CL:body first

d-e-kaañ-aa-ka daa-li-mas'a ala-má, e-f-ow-aaqgo]Q

AFF-FUT-prohibit-3SG-COM REL-belly-house gen-3sg.poss FUT-drink-3PL-NEG

'If a sickness comes from bad water, the one who knows science will see it first, prohibit his family, and they will not drink it.'

(2) [k-aça-kaal-aaç maqgisha ka-sa-Shuwa]P

COND-2PL .NFUT-be.able-2PL speak.iNF iNS-mouth/language-Amhara

[d-ey-aanzah-aça ka-maahamaama]Q

AFF-FUT-be.equal-2PL com-3pl.pro

'If you are able to speak Amharic, you will be equal to them.'

1.1. Protasis. As noted in existing literature on Gumuz conditionals (Ahland 2012: 435-436; Innocenti 2010: 110-111), the verb in the protasis of a Gumuz conditionals is formed with the conditional prefix k- (g- in some of the other dialects) followed by the subject agreement marker common to the non-future tense.3 This k-+non-future verb form is consistently used in all the protases of the Mandura dialect. However, we learned from one natural text from the Dibate district and upon further research, that it is possible to use a g-+future form. Example (3a), taken from this Dibate text, shows the advice given by a concerned mother rat to her son who has been playing with a kitten. The first sentence is as it occurred in the story. When asked about the form found in the second sentence of (3 a) that is the, g-+non-future form, all the respondents agreed that this form was also correct with no variation in meaning. However, in the dialect of Gumuz spoken in the Mandura district, as seen in examples (3b), only the first sentence, with the k-+nonfuture form, was accepted. This may be due to the different ways in which the two dialects form the future tense.4

(3) a. Gadetsaam jinda, dadeshok'w ama! 'If you will go again, he will kill you!' (g-+future)

Gaatsaam jinda, dadeshok'w ama! 'If you go again, he will kill you!' (g-+non-future)

b. Kaatsaam jinda, deshaak'w ama! 'If you go again, he will kill you!' (k-+non-future)

*Ketsaam jinda, deshaak'w ama! · (k-+future is not possible)

One minor variation in the form of the protasis is to conjugate the verb of presence wot using the k-+non-future form, followed by a relative clause stating the condition that must be met, as seen in example (4). For most speakers, this construction can be used interchangeably with the more simplified, single-verb protasis described above, though this longer construction seems to give more weight to the protasis, possibly adding more doubt that it will be met. For this reason, some speakers prefer this form in counterfactual conditions.

(4) [k-aa-wot ee-d-aa-mic-ok'w a-gotaha]P [manasa-da

C0ND-3sG.NFUT-be like-AFF-3sG.NFUT-defeat-CL:head NOM-rabbit bad-thing

al-aa-wot na-eba na-ga, na-eba-gotaha, ek-aa-wot-aaņgo]Q

REL-3sG. …

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