Institutionen för lingvistik och filologi

Tonal Case: A Mystery from Northeastern Africa

  • Datum: 2017-05-23 kl 15:15 17:00
  • Plats: Engelska parken 9-2029
  • Föreläsare: Richard Griscom, University of Oregon
  • Kontaktperson: Harald Hammarström
  • Seminarium

Tonal case is an extremely rare linguistic phenomenon whereby case
(i.e. the marking of dependent nominals, c.f. Blake 2001) is coded
solely or primarily by tone (i.e. pitch or F0, c.f. Yip 2002). The
largest concentration of languages employing tonal case systems is in
northeastern Africa, centering around the borders between present day
Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan (König 2008). An ad

Tonal case is an extremely rare linguistic phenomenon whereby case
(i.e. the marking of dependent nominals, c.f. Blake 2001) is coded
solely or primarily by tone (i.e. pitch or F0, c.f. Yip 2002). The
largest concentration of languages employing tonal case systems is in
northeastern Africa, centering around the borders between present day
Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan (König 2008). An additionally
remarkable feature of tonal case in this region is that it is present
in distinct sub-groups of the Afroasiatic and Nilo-Saharan phyla,
namely Eastern Cushitic, Omotic, Surmic, Eastern Nilotic, and Southern
Nilotic. Bennett (1974) posits that this areal pattern represents a
period of contact between the aforementioned groups in a similar vein
to Ehret (1971), but admits that a common diachronic source for the
patterns and additional corroborating evidence remain elusive.

Asimjeeg Datooga (Southern Nilotic, Tanzania) has a tonal case system
similar to those of many of the other languages participating in this
areal pattern: case is differentiated in post-verbal positions only
and the accusative/citation forms carry a higher functional load than
nominative forms (i.e. a "marked-nominative" alignment). Asimjeeg
Datooga differs from the other languages in significant ways,
however. While most of the other tonal case languages are described as
verb-initial, including Gisamjanga Datooga (Kiessling 2007), in
Asimjeeg Datooga constituent order is flexible and SV/AVO is often
preferred. Most crucially, the nominative case in Asimjeeg Datooga is
restricted to the position immediately following the verb and
nominative case forms are subject to a post-verbal replacive H tone
construction that is conditioned by the person and number of the core
arguments of the clause, as well as tense, mood, and
directionality. Using the post-verbal replacive H tone construction as
an entry point, we examine the possible origins of tonal case systems
in the region.


References:
Bennet, P. R. (1974). Tone and the Nilotic Case System. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 37, pp. 19-28.
Blake, B. J. (2001). Case. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ehret, C. (1971) Southern Nilotic history. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Kiessling, R. (1997) The "marked nominative" in Datooga. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 28, pp. 149-191.
König, C. (2008) Case in Africa, London: Oxford University Press.
Yip, M. (2002). Tone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.