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Negation in Ngoreme - on a system in flux

Research
Culture and languages

Seminar within the research area Linguistic Structures, Department of Languages and Literatures. All interested are welcome!

Lecture,
Seminar
Date
26 Nov 2020
Time
13:15 - 14:30
Location
Zoom

Participants
Rasmus Bernander, Helsingfors University
Good to know
Seminar language: English

Zoom link will be sent to the research area's send list. If you are not on the send list, please contact eva-marie.strom@sprak.gu.se for the link.
Organizer
Department of Languages and Literatures

Abstract

This talk focuses on negation in Ngoreme (JE401) [ngq], a Great Lakes Bantu language spoken by some 55,000 speakers in the linguistically dense Mara region in north-western Tanzania (Aunio et al. 2019). The domain of negation in Ngoreme is in a state of considerable flux; it appears to be caught up in several different and intertwining diachronic cycles of change affecting both standard (main/declarative) as well as non-standard negation.

In contrast to its closest relatives, Ngoreme seems to have moved towards the (re-)instantiation of a more canonical Bantu negative system with a syntactically based and syntagmatically coded division of labor between a “pre-initial” negator te-/ti- for standard negation and a “post-initial” negative prefix -ta- for more “marked” clauses (cf. Güldemann 1999; Nurse 2008:179-201; Devos forthc.). This shift, however, is far from complete, as negative main clauses may still optionally be expressed with the post-initial negator. What is more, the pre-initial negative prefix may be accompanied with a (non-obligatory) post-verbal particle he in a type of discontinuous negation construction more reminiscent of the initial stages of the cross-linguistically renowned Jespersen’s Cycle (see e.g. van der Auwera 2010, Devos & van der Auwera 2013).

Changes are also taking place with regard to non-standard negation: The imperative verb form inflected with post-initial negative morphology has been re-analyzed as expressing an affirmative rather than a negative command. Instead, imperatives – but also several subordinate clause types – are negated through the use of different auxiliaries which vary in functional range.

Finally, there is a separate development where another auxiliary construction marking ‘not yet’ (as well as ‘before’) appears to be neutralizing into a regular negative perfect along the cyclic route sketched by Veselinova & Devos (2021).

The aim of this talk is to account for this intriguing mess and the historical processes behind it, drawing on language-internal as well as both intra- and inter-genealogical comparative data.  

References

  • Aunio, L., H. Robinson, T. Roth, O. Stegen & J. B. Walker. 2019. The Mara languages JE40. In M. van de Velde, K. Bostoen, D. Nurse & G. Philippson (eds.), The Bantu Languages, 501-532. London & New York: Routledge.
  • Devos, M. forthcoming. Negation. To appear in L. Marten (ed.) Oxford Guide to Bantu Languages. Oxford: OUP.
  • Devos, M. & J. van der Auwera. 2013. Jespersen cycles in Bantu: double and triple negation. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 34(2): 205-274.
  • Güldemann, T. 1999. The genesis of verbal negation in Bantu and its dependency on functional features of clause types. In J.-M. Hombert & L. Hyman (eds.), Bantu Historical Linguistics: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives, 545-587. Stanford: CSLI (Center for the Study of Language and Information) Publ.
  • van der Auwera, J. 2010. On the diachrony of negation. In L. R. Horn (ed.), The expression of negation (The Expression of Cognitive Categories 4), 73–109. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Veselinova, L. & M. Devos. 2021. NOT YET expressions as a lexico-grammatical category in Bantu languages. To appear in R. Kramer (ed.), The Expression of Phasal Polarity in African Languages. Berlin: De Gruyter.