Conditional Constructions in Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic Language

By Moodie, Jonathan | Studies in African Linguistics, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Conditional Constructions in Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic Language


Moodie, Jonathan, Studies in African Linguistics


1.Introduction

Lopit [lpx] is an Eastern Nilotic language of South Sudan, spoken by around 50,000 people living in the Lopit Hills north-east of Torit in Eastern Equatoria province. It is part of the Lotuxo subgroup of the Lotuxo-Maa languages. Until recently, the Lopit language has received little descriptive attention. Some observations on Lopit were made by authors working on the related Otuho (Lotuko) language (Muratori, 1938) and in comparative wordlist data collected by Driberg (1932) and Vossen (1982). Lopit has only been the focus of linguistic description and documentation in more recent years. The language has six different dialects (Ngaboli, Dorik, Ngutira, Lomiaha, Lohutok and Lolongo), and data collected with speakers of a number of these has led to observations on aspects of Lopit phonetics and phonology (Turner, 2001; Stirtz, 2014; Billington, 2014) and morphology and syntax (e.g. Ladu et al., 2014; Moodie, 2016).

The data in this paper has come from elicitation, storytelling and conversation recording sessions with six members of the Lopit community in Melbourne. These speakers are aged between 30 and 55 and have migrated to Australia in the last 10 years. The recordings have been transcribed in ELAN and Fieldworks and a lexical database has been set up in Fieldworks. The examples in this paper are taken from the transcriptions of the recorded sessions and are examples of the Dorik dialect.1

In common with most other Eastern Nilotic languages, the basic constituent order is VSO. There is no grammatical tense in Lopit and temporal reference is made with a small range of adverbs or is determined from the discourse context. Aspect and mood are marked on Lopit verbs.

The basic verbal morphology of Eastern Nilotic languages is shown in Table 1.2 This morphology is characterised by prefixes before and after the pronominal prefix or bound agreement pronoun (BAP). There are also many suffixes for both derivational and inflectional purposes. Some examples of typical prefixes are also shown in Table 1.

In comparison to other Eastern Nilotic languages, Lopit has more prefixes in Positions A and C. These are considerably broader, both in terms of verbal processes expressed and of the morphemes used. These are shown in Table 2. In particular, a large number of aspect and mood inflections such as conditional, irrealis, and potential are marked on the verb.

Lopit has the feature of advanced tongue root (ATR), which is common amongst Nilotic languages. It also has both lexical and grammatical tone. Tone is used, among other things, to mark the nominative case and to mark aspect. However, for the purposes of this paper, neither ATR nor tone features will be shown. These features have little impact on interpreting conditionals, at least for this introductory paper. The orthography of Lopit is still being developed and the orthography in this paper is in line with that used by SIL (Stirtz, 2015).

In Lopit, there are a number of ways of expressing conditionals. The most common methods include the use of the subordinate clause marker l-, the use of the conjunction lojo, 'if, then' and the use of modal prefixes nagi-, irrealis; mai-, conditional; and ma-, potential. It is also possible to express conditionals without any overt marking. These methods will be discussed in the following sections. Following this, I will discuss negative and concessive conditionals and then make a comparison with conditionals in other Eastern Nilotic languages.

2.Conditionals in Lopit

A conditional sentence consists of a subordinate clause (protasis, P) which states some condition under which a main clause (apodosis, Q) holds. Conditionals have been classified by Thompson, Longacre, & Hwang into two main groups, reality and unreality conditionals (2007, pp. 255-262). Reality conditionals refer to present, habitual or past situations. Unreality situations refer to predictive, hypothetical and counterfactual situations. …

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