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I. • Event Type Lexicalization Across Language Boundaries: Verbs in South African Ndebele Varieties

Conference Paper

I. • Event Type Lexicalization Across Language Boundaries: Verbs in South African Ndebele Varieties

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Event Type Lexicalization Across Language Boundaries:
Verbs in South African Ndebele Varieties
Thera Crane & Axel Fleisch
University of Helsinki
thera.crane@helsinki.fi // axel.fleisch@helsinki.fi
I. Introduction
Why study lexical aspect? (aka Aktionsart, aspectual classes, Situation type, verbal event
structure…)
o Understudied
+ “The lack of attention to aspectual classes in the language documentation
literature can likely be attributed to a commonly held assumption that the
inventory of aspectual classes is universal.” (Bar-el 2015:75)
+ Difficult to carry out
o Crucial in understanding expressions of “grammatical” tense and aspect
o Rich source for comparative studies
+ E.g. Nichols 2015
+ Bantu languages are an excellent “laboratory”
Goals of this talk
o Note value of careful examination of lexical aspect
o Suggest possible dimensions of lexical aspectual contrasts
o Present (briefly) a body of tests used in exploration of Ndebele lexical aspect
o Illustrate (briefly) their value as a comparative tool
isiNdebele and Send(r)ebele
o Sendebele (Northern Transvaal Ndebele; ?several thousand speakers; practically no
recognition)
o isiNdebele (Southern Ndebele; > 1 million speakers, two varieties: Ndzundza,
Manala; official)
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II. Models and parameters
Traditional Vendlerian classes (based on Vendler 1957)
(Table from Bar-el 2015:105)
Bantu-specific (/Bantu-relevant) studies
o e.g. Kershner 2002, Fleisch 2000, Seidel 2008, Lusekelo 2016
o Kershner (2002)
(chart from Kershner 2002:63, ex (2a))
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(Kershner 2000:63, ex (2b))
Maximal encoding potential of punctive/CoS/achievement verbs?
(Botne 2003:237, ex (1))
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Croft (2012): another maximal (?) set of contrasting types, in two dimensions
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Combining approaches is non-trivial, but each contributes valuable insights
o Verbs can potentially encode a wide range of “phases”
o These phases can have different qualitative instantiations
Some contrasts to investigate:
o If a verb encodes a state change, is the change incremental, “undirected”, or
“punctual”?
o Is the result state reversible?
o Do non-punctive verbs encode the point of entry into the denoted state or activity
o Does an onset stage lead inexorably to nuclear traversal?
o Is the result state cancellable?
o …..
II. Tests for isiNdebele
Goals
o Exploit the richness of Ndebele’s TA system
o Include tests not strictly related to TA forms
+ Incorporate redundancy
+ Avoid (total) circularity
o Employ TA markers common across Bantu
o Build on tests developed by others
o Investigate both possible phases and dimensions of change (qualitative, temporal)
Challenges
o Constraining the tests
o Complexities of lexical aspect
+ Differences across and within speakers
+ Homonymy, polysemy, vagueness, and ease of coercion
Thera!Crane!and!Axel!Fleisch!
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-bona ‘see’; ‘spot/catch a glimpse’
-azi ‘know’; ‘meet’; ‘recognize’
‘eat’, ‘eat an apple’, ‘eat apples’, ‘eat apple (pie)’…
+ “Prototypical” vs. extended uses
o Considerations of information structure (especially the conjoint/disjoint distinction)
Tests (a sample toolbox)
o Basic TA forms
USipho…
(1) u-ya-X-a present (progressive, habitual, or
3SG-PRES.DISJ-ROOT-FV inceptive?)
(2) u-X-ile perfect/recent past (/present stative)
3SG-ROOT-PERF.DISJ
(3) be-ka-X-a past imperfective (prog, hab…?)
PAST.IPFV-3SG-ROOT-FV
(4) be-ka-X-ile pluperfect / past imperfective stative
PAST.IPFV-3SG-ROOT-PERF.DISJ
(+ conjoint forms, with modifiers, etc.)
o Common Bantu forms/categories
(5) na-ka-X-ko…. situative ‘when(ever)…’
SIT-3SG-ROOT-SUBORD (e.g. simultaneous vs. sequential)
(6) na-ka-X-ile-ko situative perfect ‘when(ever)’
SIT-3SG-ROOT-PERF-SUBORD
(7) u-sa-X-a persistive ‘still’
3SG-PERS-ROOT-FV
(8) u-sa-X-ile persistive ‘still’ perfect/stative
3SG-PERS-ROOT-PERF
o “Aspectualizers”/phasal verbs
(9) uqede uku-X-a ‘finished’ (conjoint form)
he.finished INF-ROOT-FV (~telicity)
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(10) uqedile uku-X-a ‘(be) finished’ (disjoint form)
he.is.finished INF-ROOT-FV
(11) upheze wa-X-a ‘almost/nearly’
he.almost 3SG.CONS-ROOT-FV (almost started or almost finished?)
(12) ulisile uku-X-a ‘stopped’
he.stopped INF-ROOT-FV
(13) nasifikako, u-X-ile ‘when we arrived, he X’d’
when.we.arrived 3SG-ROOT-PERF
(14) nasifikako, simthole a-X-a ‘when we arrived, we found him…’
when.we.arrived we.found.him 3SG-ROOT-FV
(15) nasifikako, simthole a-X-ile ‘when we arrived, we found him…’
when.we.arrived we.found.him 3SG-ROOT-PERF
o Adverbials
(16) X ‘for/in’ certain amount of time
(17) X-d yesterday
(18) X’ed slowly/quickly
o Other
(19) does imperfective entail perfective?
(e.g.) ngiyazi ukuthi be-ka-X-a [in other words] u-X-ile / wa-X-a , right?
(20) expressing ‘become’ with non change-of-state statives
What do the tests tell us? (sample)
(21) Present readings:
a. Uyacula ‘he is singing’ [activity]
b. Uyagula ‘he is sick’ [state]
c. Inja iyafa ‘the dog is dying’ [target immediately prior to nucleus, speakers
vary on length of onset phase]
d. Uyaphakama ‘he is [in the process of] standing up, ascending to prominence, getting angry’
[onset of varying duration]
e. Uyalamba ‘he is poor’ (-lamba ‘get hungry’) [no onset targeted; habitual/iterative reading
extended and conventionalized as metaphorical
meaning’]
f. Uyafika ‘he is arriving’ (he is on the doorstep)
[non-cancellable, short onset]
g. Iyanona ‘[the cow] is getting fat’
[long-duration onset]
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(22) “Perfect” readings: (past situation/present state/either)
NB: imbrication or the lack thereof also plays a role (cf. Botne and Kershner 2000)
a. Uculile ‘he sang’
b. Ugulile ‘he was sick’
c. Ifile ‘it is dead/it died’
d. Uphakeme ‘he is standing/angry/prominent’
e. Ulambile ‘he is hungry’
f. Ufikile ‘he (has) arrived/[by extension] he is here’
(23) Past imperfective + ‘ile’: pluperfect/past state
Difficult to construe if predicates don’t have a result state
a. Bekadle umengu ‘he had (already) eaten a mango’
b. Bekalambile ‘he was hungry’
c. ??Bekakhohlele ‘he had coughed’ [speakers struggled to find a context]
d. #Bekagulile -gula ‘sick’ [state; no “result” state]
o A test targeting result states
(24) -sa- ‘still’ + -ile
Result state must be extended but non-permanent
a. #Usadle umengu -dla umengu ‘eat a mango’ [no extended result state], cf.
b. Usadlile -dla ‘eat’ ‘he’s still full’
c.#Isafile -fa ‘die [infelicitous when used with mortal being on
non-resurrection scenario]
d. Usaphakamile -phakama ‘stand up’ ‘he is still standing/prominent/angry’
e. Usalambile -lamba ‘get hungry’ ‘he is still hungry’
f. #Usakhohlele -khohlela ‘cough’ [no extended result state]
g. #Usatlole incwadi -tlola incwadi ‘write a letter’ [no extended result state]
o A test targeting transition into/past the nucleus
(25) Nasifikako, …-ile
‘When we arrived…’
a. …uculile ‘…he started singing’ [onset of activity]
b. …ugulile ‘…he got sick’ [state can be construed as change into a state]:
c. …udanile ‘…he got disappointed’ [our arrival disappointed him]
d. …#ulambile -lamba ‘get hungry’ [no onset]
e. …ukhohlele ‘…he coughed’ [started coughing]
f. …ufikile ‘…he [also] arrived’ [at the same time as us, or immediately after:
point or “B”-type onset ]
g. …wakhe indlu ‘…he built [at] a house’ [he resumed building - non-incremental
accomplishment; note difference from English]
h …upholile ‘…he recovered’ [complete onset to change-of-state]
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o A test targeting (onset +) completed nucleus
(26) u-X-ile izolo ‘he X’d yesterday’
a. Ufikile izolo ‘he arrived yesterday’
b. Sithuthumbile izolo ‘it exploded yesterday’
c. Ukhambile izolo ‘he left yesterday’
d. #Izolo ikomo inonile ‘the cow got fat yesterday’
but, Unyaka odlulileko ikomo inonile ‘the cow got fat last year’
e. Uhlakaniphe izolo ‘he started being clever yesterday’
f. Izolo ugulile ‘he was sick yesterday’
g. #U-(si)-phathe/-phathile/-phethe (isikotlelo) izolo
-phatha isikotlelo ‘hold/carry a dish’
[doesn’t encode onset phase]
h. #Izolo ulambile -lamba ‘get hungry’ [doesn’t encode onset phase]
i. Izolo udanile ‘he got disappointed yesterday’
[very short onset phase]
o Tests didn’t always do what we expected
(27) -sa- ‘still’
Targets onset phase/durative nucleus
+ We expected that it would target any extended onset phase or durative
nucleus/continuing state
a. Usacula ‘he is still singing’ [durative nucleus]
b. Usagula ‘he is still sick’ [continuing state]
+ With verbs without an extended onset, it gives a habitual reading:
c. Uyadana ‘he gets sad’
d. Usadana ‘he still gets sad’ [characteristic; does not target onset phase]
e. Uyalamba ‘he is poor’ -lamba ‘get hungry’
f. Usalamba ‘he is still poor’
+ When a habitual reading isn’t possible, speakers vary on what kind of an onset
they can construe:
g. ?Isafa ‘it is still dying’ [‘B’ type nucleus; some speakers do not allow;
others: “[it’s] still lying down there, busy
kicking, kicking; [it’s] not [quite] dead yet”]
Thera!Crane!and!Axel!Fleisch!
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+ Surprise: With non-incremental extended onsets, -sa- is infelicitous (we expected
it might still target the onset phase)
h. #Usahlakanipha -hlakanipha ‘become clever’ [non-incremental extended onset]
i. #Usaphola -phola ‘recover’ [non-incremental extended onset], cf.
j. Umratha usaphola ‘the porridge is still cooling’ -phola ‘cool down’
[incremental extended onset]
+ Surprise: behavior with (nearly) punctual achievements (minimal or no onset
phase)
k. Usafika ‘he just arrived’ [does not target onset phase]
+ Moral: initial testing should be cautious and widely applied
III. Lexical aspect in cross linguistic comparison (& language contact studies)
How much of lexical aspect is tied to lexical items, how much is linked to conceptual
categories?
o Closest translation equivalents versus cognates: how do these behave?
o Lexical replacement and calques: Sendebele aligning with Northern Sotho.
Two examples
o ‘Hungry’
(28) Ulambile ‘he is hungry’ (isiNdebele)
(29) Uphethwe ndlala ‘he is hungry’ (Sedebele) (lit. ‘he is held by hunger’)
+ Sepedi: -swarwa ke tlala ‘be held by hunger’ (-swara ‘hold’)
+ In isiNdebele, -lamba only seems to encode the (punctual nucleus and) stative
coda
+ In Sendebele -phathwa ndlala construes the onset phase as somewhat extended
and allows it to be targeted
(30) Present:
a. isiNdebele: Uyalamba ‘he is poor’ (marginally, for some speakers, ‘he’s getting hungry’)
b. Sendebele: U pathwa ndlala ‘he’s getting hungry’ (default reading)
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(31) Past imperfective:
a. isiNdebele: Bekalamba ‘he used to be poor’ (for some speakers, ‘he used to have the habit of
getting hungry’)
b. Sendebele: (U)be a phathwa ndlala ‘he was getting hungry’ (“maybe you’re cooking. While
you’re cooking, Jabu smelled it, then he felt hungry”)
+ Neither seems to work with ‘yesterday’ (i.e. encoding the transition itself)
o -khamba
+ isiNdebele dictionary ‘go, travel, walk’
+ N. Sotho dictionary ‘walk, leave/go’
+ isiZulu dictionary ‘walk, go, depart…’
(32) -sa-:
a. isiNdebele: Usakhamba ‘he is still going’ (he’s still on his way)
b. Sendebele: Usakhamba ‘he will still go’ (he hasn’t left yet)
(33) -sa-…-ile:
a. isiNdebele: Usakhambile ‘he is still gone’
b. Sendebele: #Usakhambile
+ isiNdebele: extended nucleus, or (punctual) nucleus + coda
+ Sendebele: (onset?) + (extended or punctual) nucleus
IV. Concluding thoughts
Importance of (at least initially) testing many parameters
Need for a “universal” model?
Suitability of Bantu languages for these investigations (despite lack of
suitability/comprehensiveness of Vendlerian contrasts)
More nuanced understanding of lexical aspect as a key to understanding tense/aspect
semantics
Lexical aspectual structure as a fruitful area of research in contact linguistics
Thanks very much!!
Thera!Crane!and!Axel!Fleisch!
University!of!Helsinki!
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References
Bar-el, Leora. 2015. Documenting and classifying aspectual classes across languages. In M. Ryan
Bochnak and Lisa Matthewson (eds), Methodologies in Semantic Fieldwork, 75-109. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Botne, Robert. 2003. To die across languges: Toward a typology of achievement verbs. Linguistic
Typology 7:233-278.
Botne, Robert, and Tiffany L. Kershner. 2000. Time, tense, and the perfect in Zulu. Afrika und
Ubersee 83:161-180.
Caudal, Patrick. 1999. Achievements vs. Accomplishments : A Computational Treatment of
Atomicity, Incrementality, and Perhaps of Event Structure. Actes de TALN 99. Available at:
http://www.atala.org/doc/actes_taln/AC_0127.pdf. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
Crane, Thera. 2011. Beyond time: Temporal and extra-temporal functions of tense and aspect
marking in Totela, a Bantu language of Zambia
Croft, William. 2012. Verbs: Aspect and causal structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fleisch, Axel. 2000. Lucazi grammar: a morphosemantic analysis. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
Kershner, Tiffany. L. 2002. The verb in Chisukwa: Aspect, tense and time. Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, Indiana University, USA.
Lusekelo, Amani. 2016. Lexical Semantics and Selection of TAM in Bantu Languages: A Case of
Semantic Classification of Kiswahili Verbs. International Journal of Society, Culture &
Language 4: 89-102.
Nurse, Derek. 2008. Tense and aspect in Bantu. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Seidel, Frank. 2008. A grammar of Yeyi: a Bantu language of southern Africa. Vol. 33. Köln:
Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
Vendler, Zeno. 1957. Verbs and times. The Philosophical Review 66.143-160.
... All of the verbs in (13)-(15) have present stative readings when combined with the perfective -ile ending, as shown in the respective (b) examples. Crane & Fleisch (2016;in prep) show that the nature of onset and coda phases is also grammatically significant. The persistive is only pragmatically felicitous in combination with perfective -ile if the verb has a targetable result state, but the result coda phase must be reversible. ...
Chapter
An author's version is available at https://tuhat.helsinki.fi/portal/files/91756153/OGBL_Crane_Lexical_Semantics_AcceptedVersionForPosting.pdf This chapter describes important advances that have been made in studies of Bantu lexical semantics, and presents a broad overview of the ‘state-of-the-art’ of research in Bantu lexical semantics, while also pointing out areas where further research is called for. The bulk of the chapter is dedicated to describing key issues in major word classes, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and adverbials, locatives and spatial terms, and ideophones. Also briefly discussed are derivational strategies and their semantic effects, and studies in historical lexical semantics and their cross-disciplinary significance.
... More detailed studies on Bantu aspectology and the integration of data from this language family will doubtlessly provide important insights into the conceptualization of states-ofaffairs in human language. Studies currently in progress such as the Ndebele project at the University of Helsinki (Crane & Fleisch 2016) ...
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