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Title: The Temporal and Aspectual Semantics and Verbal Tonology of Gisida Anii
Authors: Morton, Deborah C.
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Atlantic-Congo Languages
Gisida Anii
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: The Ohio State University
Abstract: This study is the first in-depth linguistic study of the structure of Anii, a West African Kwa language spoken by approximately 50,000 people in the countries of Togo and Benin. A basic overview of the language is provided in the first chapter, but the main focus of this work is on the verb system, specifically on the semantics of temporal and aspectual reference, and on the tonology of verb stems and related markers. These two topics were chosen because they are interrelated—understanding the tone patterns allows for a clearer picture of which tense-aspect markers are actually different from each other, and understanding the semantics of the different markers helps clarify the function of certain tone patterns. The first part of this study describes and formally analyzes temporal and aspectual reference in a variety of Anii clauses. An important background for this analysis is a discussion of Aktionsarten in Anii. The data presented here shows that developing Anii-internal diagnostics for Aktionsarten leads to a better understanding of the role of Aktionsarten in Anii than relying on translations to determine Aktionsarten does. Such an understanding is key because Aktionsarten play an important role in temporal and aspectual reference in many Anii clauses. For example, in the investigation of clauses not overtly marked for tense or aspect (‘unmarked clauses’), the effect of Aktionsarten is clear. Unmarked clauses with eventive predicates can only have past temporal reference and perfective aspectual reference. In contrast, unmarked clauses with stative predicates can have either past or present temporal reference, but only imperfective aspectual reference. When marked with the imperfective marker [tɩɩ], clauses with either eventive or stative predicates are only compatible with non-future temporal reference, and those with eventive predicates are compatible only with imperfective aspectual reference. [tɩɩ]-marked clauses with stative predicates can only have habitual aspectual reference. As shown here, two important distinctions regarding temporal and aspectual reference in Anii are between perfective and imperfective aspectual reference, and between future and non-future temporal reference. Anii also has other markers that affect temporal and aspectual reference. For example, [ʧèé] is a perfect marker (compatible with past, present or future temporal reference). The far-past marker [bʊɩŋà], on the other hand, is not a tense or an aspect marker, but rather a Temporal Remoteness Morpheme (TRM) that restricts the eventuality time of a [bʊɩŋà]-marked clause such that it must be at least three weeks before the utterance time of that clause. A few other markers are also briefly discussed, to round out the understanding of the semantics of the Anii verb system. The second part of this study investigates tone on verb stems and surrounding markers, including subject markers, noun-class agreement markers, tense-aspect-modality (TAM) markers, and negation markers. Anii has two surface tone levels, high (H) and low (L), but the L tones are the phonetic pronunciation of toneless syllables, rather than being phonological entities. The tone-bearing unit in Anii is the mora, and the tone patterns reveal that Anii has certain unusual syllable structures. For example, while Anii has a length distinction between monomoraic (short) and bimoraic (long) monophthongs, all diphthongs in Anii are short (monomoraic). Additionally, there is a contrast between the tone patterns of diphthongs (which all end in high vowels) and vowel-glide sequences, at least word-finally. This tone pattern difference occurs because diphthongs are consistently monomoraic, while vowel-glide sequences are monomoraic at the stage of initial tone association, but are bimoraic with respect to other tonal rules, (and on the surface) because the final glide (like all word-final consonants in Anii) receives a mora by rule during the derivation. Anii has both lexical and grammatical tone. As in many other African languages, there are two categories of verb stem with regard to tonal behavior, i.e. those that have a lexical H tone and those that do not. Some non-stem morphemes (e.g. some TAM markers and a negation marker) that are discussed here also have lexical H tones. These tones interact with the grammatical tones found on various types of subject markers, as well as with grammatical tones that are present in certain cases of clause or verb phrase subordination, or in ‘irrealis’ constructions. The rules of tone association are shown here to be very regular, applying to almost all the tones discussed here. Other rules (e.g. spreading rules) are shown to apply more specifically. Anii also has downstep, which is analyzed as the phonetic pronunciation of adjacent H tones. Downstep does not occur in some cases where it might be expected due to spreading rules, or to a fusion rule whereby adjacent moras linked to different H tones become linked to a single H tone. All the tone patterns within the Anii verb complex can be accounted for with only nine rules and a small set of restrictions as to the domains of application of those rules. While many questions remain about aspects of Anii that could not be explored here, this dissertation serves as a beginning for future work on Anii. The data here also provides a basis of comparison for those interested in the structure of West African languages, or in the particular theoretical issues raised here. One theoretical contribution of this work is the analysis of [bʊɩŋà] as a TRM, which adds to the scientific understanding of this type of marker. To my knowledge, Anii is the only language that has been demonstrated to have a single past TRM (rather than TRMs that refer to several degrees of past-ness). From a phonological perspective, the unusual syllable structures of Anii challenge commonly held assumptions about prosodification and syllable structure. This dissertation thus not only makes available previously unknown information about the structure of a little-known language, but it also contributes theoretical insights to the fields of formal semantics and formal phonology.
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