The grammar of action nominals in Tigemaxo

Publisher: WOCAL, 2009
Language: Bozo, Tiéyaxo

Despite the rising interest in non-finite verb forms (infinitives, participles, converbs, action nominals (AN)) among typologically oriented linguists (e.g. König & van der Auwera 1990, Haspelmath & König 1995, van der Auwera 1998), insights into the topic from West African languages are still scarce. To help fill this huge gap, the present paper provides a descriptively oriented, text-corpus-based analysis of action nominals in Tigemaxo.

As a starting point, the different types of verb-to-AN-derivations are briefly summarized: morphological, tonal and conversion for the majority of lexemes. The well-known semantic problem with ANs to discern an event reading from a result reading (cf. Menolli 2006) is investigated by a pluralization test: Typically, ANs like dunbu ‘hitting with fist’, which nominalize the situation (event, state), are not pluralizable, while others, like munãã ‘coldness’, nominalize the result and accept a plural.

Syntactically, ANs behave as nouns in that they are found in all NP slots of the Mande-typical S-AUX-O-V-Px clause structure, including pseudo-clefting and left dislocation. At the same time, complex ANs retain their verbal argument structure alignment (xɔnde gu nɔu-bããĩ gu (enemy/DEF/city-destroy/DEF) ‘the enemy’s destruction of the city’), which also mirrors the left-branching possessive NP constructions.

Other noteworthy phenomena treated are:
- light verb constructions, with AN as Direct Object, followed by a semantically bleached verb (ye bããĩ wale (3P/destroying/do) ‘They have done some damage.’)
- similarities between AN + POSTP complements (a n hada sige ga
(3S/1S/prevent/leaving/from) ‘She has prevented me from leaving.’), and
converb constructions (a ye siɛŋa ĩ xalɛ-tɔɔ g’i. (3S/3P/greet/3S.LOG/pass-
IMPFV.PART/DEF/in) ‘She has greeted them while passing by’.
- similarities between ANs and infinitival constructions, esp. clause-initially: (be) maasɛwɛ di n mãĩ. (PARTCL/speak.ill/NEG/COP/good) ‘(to) speak ill [of others] is not good.’

At the discourse level, ANs typically introduce typified events as sentence topics, which corresponds to a stylistically valued register of use.

In concluding, the apparent ambivalent nature of ANs, retaining verbal and taking nominal properties and the close links between different non-finite verb forms in Tigemaxo corroborate the cross-linguistic validity and similarity of ANs and non-finite verb forms in general.

Subject: Grammar
View resources here:
Resources to download: