Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Conditionals in Jóola Eegimaa: A Descriptive Analysis

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Conditionals in Jóola Eegimaa: A Descriptive Analysis

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Conditional constructions have the general format if P, then Q. Proposition P is referred to as the antecedent or the protasis and proposition Q is known as the consequent or the apodosis (Salone 1979, Caron 2006). In this paper, I take a descriptive approach to Eegimaa conditional constructions, allotting special attention to the role intonation plays in the expression of conditionality in Eegimaa. As demonstrated in section 6, Eegimaa is a language in which intonation is a much more reliable indicator of conditionality than any morphological markers. The morphemes me and éni are found in conditional sentences. However, these morphemes are also found in other clausal constructions where they fulfill different functions. What the data has consistently shown is that Eegimaa conditionals are characterized by an intonation break separating the antecedent from the consequent, and that the antecedent is consistently marked by a falling pitch before the break. Before getting further into the crucial role of intonation in Eegimaa conditional constructions, it is necessary to provide some background information about Eegimaa since this language is almost unknown to most linguists, and it is not only under-documented but also endangered. Such information is provided in section 2. Section 3 describes the type of data upon which this research is based, and the techniques used to collect the data. Section 4 discusses the morphemes (me and éni) which, on the surface serve as conditional markers in Eegimaa, whereas section 5 deals with the proper combination of tense, aspect, and modality (TAM) in Eegimaa conditional constructions. Section 6 describes the role of intonation in the expression of conditionality. I will conclude with a summary of the findings of this research, and then give some suggestions for future research.

2. Background information about Eegimaa

Eegimaa belongs to the Atlantic branch of Niger-Congo. It is spoken in the western part of the district of Ziguinchor (Senegal). It is a member of the Bak group, a cluster of languages spoken in the southern regions of Senegal (Kolda and Ziguinchor), in the Republic of Guinea Bissau, and in Gambia. Eegimaa is not only understudied, it is also an endangered language. Eegimaa people are estimated at 7,000. However, the number of Eegimaa people who actually speak the language is below this figure.

The destiny of language does not rest solely on the number of people who speak the language. The attitude of the speech community toward their own language is critical to the future of that language. Eegimaa has two serious competitors: (1) Wolof which is spoken by at least 90% of the Senegalese people (both first and second language speakers), and (2) French which is the official language of Senegal but spoken by at most 15% of Senegalese people. In the past, Wolof was not popular in the Eegimaa speaking area. The only people who knew Wolof were those who lived in the cities either for work or school purposes. Today, Wolof is actually the preferred language of communication among Eegimaa youth. The majority of Eegimaa children raised in the cities by Eegimaa parents are not fluent in Eegimaa. Some Eegimaa parents have actually ceased speaking Eegimaa to their children. In their households, French and Wolof are the languages children grow up speaking.

Eegimaa is an SVO language. It is a pro-drop language, meaning that the subject of the verb can be and usually is omitted, since there is a subject agreement marker prefixed to the verb. Except in infinitive clauses, the subject marker occurs in all other clauses and it is required, regardless of whether or not the DP subject is overtly mentioned.

(1) Subject marking and DP subject dropping

a. (Au) u-wañ-om min (ínje) i-ccam-i

PRN.2.SG SM.2.SG-cultivte-OM.1.SG COMP PRN.1.SG SM.1.SG-pay-OM.2.SG

'You cultivate for me and I pay you.'

b. U-ññil wawu gu-kkay-e e-box

CL-child CL. …

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