Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

08.11. Colloquium on African linguistics: Wordhood in Akebu (Shluinsky) - 5:30 p.m.!!!

“Two stories of wordhood in Akebu: nominal attribute incorporation and associated motion constructions” - Talk by Andrey Shluinsky (Universität Hamburg) given within the colloquium of African linguistics and languages
  • When Nov 08, 2022 from 05:30 to 06:50
  • Where Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, room 410 & via Zoom
  • Contact Name Christfried Naumann (christfried.naumann (AT) hu-berlin.de, please contact for Zoom access information)
  • iCal

Exceptionally, the talk will not start until 5:30 p.m.!!! 

The concept of wordhood is widely discussed by linguists during latest decades, but data of many understudied languages are not yet introduced into this discussion, and the West African language area is a case in point. In my presentation, I will discuss two phenomena of Akebu, a Ghana-Togo Mountain Kwa language of Togo, based on my field data. Both of them challenge the concept of wordhood and at the same time provide language-internal evidence in favour of or against wordhood in some structures. The first phenomenon is nominal attribute incorporation. In Akebu, the most regular way of encoding quality attributes is by placing adjective or verb stems between the noun stem and its class suffix. Phonological and morphological evidence for wordhood of complexes with incorporated attributes is rather ambiguous. On the one hand, inrcorporated stems (as well as stems of other complex nouns) are not subject to vowel harmony, which might be seen as the main phonological word-level feature. On the other hand, complexes with incorporated attributes function as a single stem in morphophonological alternations. At the same time, based on syntactic data one can argue that complexes with incorporated attributes are single grammatical words, as incorporated stems definitely are not full-fledged syntactic constituents and have very limited syntactic possibilities. Thus, we deal with a case where grammatical wordhood goes ahead of phonological wordhood. The second phenomenon are associated motion constructions. In Akebu, associated motion is expressed by markers that descend from the lexical verbs 'come' and 'go'. In certain TAM forms, the verbs have become highly integrated into complex verbs both phonologically and morphologically: they are subject to vowel harmony and fill the prefix slot closest to the lexical verb stem, following other inflectional markers. Yet, in some other forms the verbs 'come' and 'go' apparently express the same range of meanings as part of serial verb constrcutions in which they have their own inflectional morphology and are clearly independent phonological words. At the same time, these two constructions have the same syntactic possibilities, as both of them can project the ground argument of a motion event. Therefore here, as opposed to the case of nominal attribute incorporation, we see clear evidence of phonological wordhood, while grammatical wordhood can be doubted.