Demarcating Emai Dative Constructions

By Schaefer, Ronald P.; Egbokhare, Francis O. | Studies in African Linguistics, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Demarcating Emai Dative Constructions


Schaefer, Ronald P., Egbokhare, Francis O., Studies in African Linguistics


1. Introduction

This paper investigates the formal and functional character of a dative relation and two additional structural relations in Emai, an Edoid language of West Benue Congo stock (Bendor-Samuel 1989, Williamson and Blench 2000). Each relation is grammatically expressed by a common morphophoneme. Postverbal particle li/ni marks Emai dative constituents. In addition, li/ni codes a limited range of subordinate clause types within complex sentences, and within noun phrases it designates a subset of modifying constituents. To bridge the common formal marking across these structural relations, we postulate their identification of a semantic ground type (within a figure-ground complex) characterized by spatial collectivity and temporal continuity. Our overall conclusion thus pertains to the function of perspective taking in grammar and its formal marking (Talmy 2000), with special emphasis placed on the dative relation.

Emai is a relatively strict SVO language. It employs grammatical tone across clauses characterized by verb serialization, verb plus postverbal particle or a combination of the two.1 Since prepositions and inflectional morphology are rare in Emai, it exhibits no passivization and minimal diathesis alternation of verb arguments.

2. Grammatical marking by li/ni

Emai utilizes the morphophoneme li/ni to signal a range of structural relations. Among these is the dative. Additional relations grammatically expressed by li/ni are clause subordination and nominal modification. Although dative is our principal focus, we consider subordination and modification in order to investigate whether these relations have a common semantic character.

Emai marks a dative relation with a postverbal applicative (APP) particle li/ni that takes a [+human] noun phrase complement (e.g. émè).

(1) òjè ré éghó' ní émè.

Oje take money APP me

'Oje gave money to me.'

This particle has no synchronic verb as a counterpart, as is evident in the Emai lexical entries of Schaefer and Egbokhare (2007) and as revealed by analysis of Emai double object verbs (Schaefer and Egbokhare 2003a), which tend to encode events of forceful, physical contact, and of alignment relations (Schaefer and Egbokhare 2010b), where zero coding of ditransitive theme and monotransitive patient align relative to li/ni marking of recipient.

The Emai applicative particle is registered orthographically as either li or ni.2 The form li occurs when the dative complement, invariably [+human], is a lexical noun.

(2) ólì òkpòsò shén ólí émà lí àlèkè.

the woman sell the yam APP Aleke

'The woman sold the yam to Aleke.'

The ni form appears when the dative complement assumes a pronominal shape (3a) or when the complement occurs in clause-initial focus position, for example (3b).

(3) a. ólì òkpòsò shén ólí émà ní áìn.

the woman sell the yam APP her

'The woman sold the yam to her.'

b. àlèkè lí ólí ókpósó shén' ólí émà ní.

Aleke PF the woman sell the yam APP

'It was Aleke that the woman sold the yam to.'

Applicative li/ni governs a class of pronouns, exemplified by second person a (4a), that are distinct from direct object pronouns (4b-c) and, for that matter, deictic locative pronouns (4d).3

(4) a. ólì òkpòsò shén ólí émà ní á.

the woman sell the yam APP you

'The woman sold the yam to you.'

b. ólì ìgbómògbómó shén' é.

the kidnapper sell you

'The kidnapper sold you.'

c. *ólì òkpòsò shén ólí émà ní é.

the woman sell the yam APP you

'The woman sold the yam to you.'

d. *ólì òkpòsò shén ólí émà ní èvbò.

the woman sell the yam APP there

'The woman sold the yam to that place yonder.'

A comprehensive listing of indirect object and direct object pronominal forms by person and number is arranged below. A formal distinction among these forms is particularly evident in second and third person singular. …

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