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«Tense and aspect in Lamnsoʹ Lendzemo Constantine Yuka1 Abstract: Yuka (1997) has identified three broad tenses in Lamnso’2. A closer look at these ...»

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Studii de lingvistică 2, 2012, 251 - 267

Tense and aspect in Lamnsoʹ

Lendzemo Constantine Yuka1

Abstract: Yuka (1997) has identified three broad tenses in Lamnso’2. A

closer look at these tenses and their specification of time reference will

reveal a more complex tense structure of multiple past and future time

allusions that distinguish different degrees of remoteness to the past

and future tense categories. This paper seeks to determine the various

degrees of remoteness to a given tense category exhibited in Lamnsoʹ. This paper investigates the relative relationship(s) between a tense marker that denotes the time of an action and the time reference preceding or following that action within the clause. It also examines aspect, interpreted as the way of conceiving the flow of an event (Comrie, 1976). This study identifies seven tense forms for Lamnsoʹ (P3, P2, P1, P0, F1, F2 and F3.), which specify time distinctions from the remote past (P3) to the remote future (F3)) and three aspect forms. These ten tense and aspect forms combine with distinctive tones and time adverbials to derive a time reference structure whose cut-off points are sometimes fluid and non-rigid.

Key words: Lamnsoʹ, tense and aspect, tone, clauses, temporal distance

1. Preliminaries Comrie (1985) conceives of tense as the grammaticalisation of location in time. Tense establishes the range within which languages vary expressions of time reference. Aspect is understood as the “… different ways of viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation” (Holt 1943: 6). Unlike most English-type languages that have grammaticalised time reference basically as present, past and future, many African Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Benin, Nigeria;

1 lc_yuka@yahoo.co.uk.

Lamnsoʹ is spoken in the greater part of Bui Division, which is 150 km from Bamenda, the 2 capital of the North West Province of the Republic of Cameroon. It is also spoken in Nige- ria, specifically in Taraba State, Sarduana Local Government Area. It is a Grassfeild Bantu language, classified under the Ring group of languages. The languages commonly referred to as Bantu are also classified as Southern Bantoid languages. They are considered to be Narrow Bantu, whereas Lamnsoʹ and other Grassfield languages are non-Bantu (or Wide Bantu). Like Fula (Annot 1970) or Swahili (Mkude 1990, Welmers 1973) in Lamnsoʹ nouns and nominals fall under different classes on the basis of agreement operated by concord markers which vary from one class to another (Grebe and Grebe 1975, Eastman 1980, Yuka 1998, 1999).

Lendzemo Constantine Yuka 252 languages like Fula (Annot 1970), and Meta (Fogwe 2004) portray a very rich tense system. A number of these languages exhibit very fine distinctions in their perception of distance between two related events.

An event is generally situated ‘before’ or ‘after’ a given point in time. Some languages tend to have more varied references in their specification of the chronology of events leading to the occurrence of an action rather than others. In this paper, we are interested not only in the simple basic tense and aspect marking in Lamnsoʹ but also in the relationship that exists between tone and the gradation of tense and aspect.

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Lamnsoʹ exhibits eight lexically significant tones. Such contrastive tones vary in pitch which is semantically significant. Grebe and Grebe (1975) and Grebe (1984) have done an extensive study of

tone in Lamnsoʹ. The language has three level tones:

–  –  –

Lamnso’ verbs are basically monosyllabic but when peripheral syllables that mark 3 various grammatical phenomena are suffixed to the nuclear syllable, disyllabic verbs are derived. Structurally, there are 3 classes of verbs in Lamnso’, two having a CVC structure and one with a CVVC structure. The CVC verbs differ in tone. Grebe and Grebe (1975: 6-7) have observed that the verbs with a high tone have minimal pairs, each of them bearing a high-low tone. We label the group of verbs marked (A) in this foot note as Class I and Class II verbs respectively and the CVVC verbs marked (B) below as

Class III verbs. All class I and class II verbs given below are represented in their infinitive forms:

(A) sáŋ ‘write’ saŋ1.3 ‘dry’ fér ‘blow’ fer1.3 ‘tell’/ ‘make’ mé’ ‘come closer’ me1.3’ ‘shake’ bée ‘slant’ bee13 ‘shelter’ kív ‘break’ kiv1.3 ‘crack’ káŋ ‘fry’ kaŋ1.3 ‘choose’ tó’ ‘break open’ to’1.3 ‘bore’ yáv ‘take’ yav1.3 ‘eat hastily’ fór ‘add seasoning’ for1.3 ‘crush’ káy ‘belittle’ kay1.3 ‘tie strongly’ ká’ ‘clear farm’ ka’1.3 ‘promise’ bú’ ‘beat’ bu’1.3 ‘honour’ The data presented above show that tone is not only contrastive in Lamnso’, but also unpredictable in CV(C) roots. The semantic interpretation of Lamnso’ verbs vary according to the various affixes they take. Such affixes encode the applicative, the causative, the iterative, the reciprocal etc. Yuka (2008) illustrates the productive manifestations of verbal extensions and classifies them into neat semantic groups showing how each of them restricts event meaning and argument structure.

There is another class of verbs that bear a high tone but unlike the verbs in (A), this class lacks minimal pairs and has a peculiar feature of long vowels. Again unlike Class I and Class II verbs that are in the majority, Class III verbs below make up a very small

part of Lamnso’ verbs:

(B) téem2 ‘crooked’ kúuy2 ‘gather’ náa2 ‘cook’ ghée2 ‘loiter’ tíim2 ‘stand’ dzéer2 ‘roll’ léey2 ‘watch’ kóom2 ‘bear’ The verbs in the data above have long vowels. The two segments of these vowels can bear two contrastive tones; for instance nàá ‘non-prog-cook’.

Tense and Aspect in Lamnsoʹ 253 As a result of some tonological processes in a sequence of the type HL, LH etc. registered contour tones are derived. The language

has five glide tones:

–  –  –

The mid tone is not marked in language. The orthographic convention requires that only low and high tones be marked in Lamnsoʹ over the vowels within the syllables that bear them. In this paper we have indicated mid and contour tones on the vowels of the verbs to overtly represent a sequence of tones that we discern as relevant to our discussion. Lamnso’ tones fall into eight tone classes as shown in the data above. The contrastive tone is always on the nuclear syllable while the tone on the peripheral syllable is always mid-low. The high tone fluctuates freely with the mid-high while the low tone fluctuates with the mid-low. (See Grebe and Grebe (1975) and Grebe (1984) for a detailed discussion of tone in Lamnso’).

3. Theoretical Orientation

This paper embraces the structuralist approach in the light of Nurse (2008). Structuralism provides a better platform to isolate, describe and analyze the graduated past and future tenses in Lamnso’ which have been shown to be organized along degrees of remoteness from the present tense. This method of analysis makes possible a pragmatic determination of aspectual categories in this language without missing out on the semantic content(s).

Dahl (1985) and Bybee et al. (1994) have demonstrated that Bantu languages generally load aspectual, temporal, locational, syntactic and other information through a series of prefixes and suffixes. A structural analysis is more productive for languages like Lamnso’ whose tense and aspect are either marked on the verb or on affixes to the verb.

4. Defining the moment of predication

This section of the paper investigates tenses in Lamnso’. The present tenses are investigated in section 4.1., past tenses in section 4.2., and future tenses in 4.3. Examples will be presented in the order of verb tone classes: Class I, Class II and Class III. Apart from illustrating the operation of tone in tense differentiation, these examples reveal Lendzemo Constantine Yuka 254 that tense in Lamnso’ describes events around the deictic centre.

An identical event within the same context that in English can be interpreted to belong to present tense, can be understood in Lamnso’ as denoting a present progressive activity.

–  –  –

The present tense in Lamnso’, unlike other tenses, has no overt affix or particle to mark it. We have chosen to mark its syntactic position in this paper with ø. The verb following the tense position always bears a tone on its first vowel, henceforth it is represented as a radical (Rád). Example (3) describes events that began before the utterance and are still in progress at the time of speaking. In (3a and

c) verbs bear a high tone while in (3b) they bear a high-low tone. The semantic difference between the two identical verbs is signalled by the different tones they bear. (4a-c) denote events in the immediate past. Present tense is employed to describe these events because the reporter relates the event at the time it is completed. The two verbs in (4a and b) are disambiguated by the context of the utterance and the interpretation of the NP the verb selects as its complement. ‘Written (a book)’ and ‘dried (beef)’ are homophonous, indicating that there is a categorical tonal neutralization between the two verb classes. Example (4c) bears two contrastive tones (high and low) on the long vowel. The Tense and Aspect in Lamnsoʹ 255 non-progressive interpretation hinges on the low tone borne by the verb.

To avoid repeating examples, we opt to identify and analyze aspectual marking in the examples that we present to illustrate the various tense forms. The data in (3) for instance relays imperfective aspect marking which is conveyed by the high tone borne by the verb. Conversely, P0 + Rád conveys actions that are just ending as the utterance is being made. Like in most African languages, Lamnso’ tense and aspect in are intricately interwoven in form, conception and marking.

–  –  –

Examples (5) and (6) denote events that occurred earlier in the day. Today past tense form is realized as ki2. ki2 above is morphologically identical to the prefix of class 4 nouns in the Lamnso’ noun class system. ki bears a mid tone. The high tone on the verb denotes progressive action; the low tone specifies perfective aspect.

Lamnso’ speakers intuitively know that you cannot relate ‘a progressive or perfective event’ with a yesterday adverbial. For instance, if one employs (5a) (‘a progressive past tense’) with ‘a yesterday adverbial’, an unacceptable construction emerges. Again if one adds ‘a yesterday adverbial’ yoóne to a ‘today non-progressive past tense’, an ill-formed

construction is derived. (7a-b) illustrate these claims respectively:

Lendzemo Constantine Yuka 256

–  –  –

The sentences in (5) portray events that were in progress just before the utterance. While the high tone on the verb relays the concept of continuity, P1 indicates that the action took place today, in the past.

In (6c) the low tone on the first verbal vowel specifies the completeness of the action in reference. This tone pattern can also depict an action which has just been completed before the commencement of another action as shown in (7c).

Progressive Past 2 Tense /v́ + Rád/ (P2)

–  –  –

P2 is allomorphic in nature, and can be realized as á, é, í, ó, ú.

In (8a-e) above, the vowel quality of P2 is the same as for the preceding vowel. If there is no vowel, other things determine quality.

Eastman (1980), Yuka (1997, 2000) and McGarrity and Botne (2002) have analyzed noun agreement in Lamnso’. In this paper, the nouns in subject position have been controlled not to include examples that will take subject agreement because our discussion on Tense and Aspect is not affected by the exclusion of intricate agreement relations that cut across the Lamnso’ NP. The different vowel realizations of P2 result from vowel harmony, which is a common feature of the Bantu group of languages. Examples (9a-g) below show that each time the Tense and Aspect in Lamnsoʹ 257 final segment of the constituent preceding P2 is a consonant, P2 is

realized as e:

–  –  –

Our interpretation of (9a-g) above is that the consonant in between the final vowel of the subject NP and the P2 syntactic position, blocks vowel fusion between P2 and the final vowel of the preceding constituent. Examples (10a-d) below reveal yet another morphological manifestation of P2.

In these examples, the final segment of the constituent preceding P2 is a semivowel (specifically [y]) which predicts [i] after [y]:

–  –  –

It is obvious that in (8)-(10), the different variants of P2 are determined by the variation in the final segment of the constituent that precedes tense. The following counter examples are ill-formed

because of the wrong choice in each of the vowel representing P2:

–  –  –

Unlike (11a-d), that are ungrammatical, (11e-g) are grammatical.

Notice that the glottal stop is transparent to the phonological process and does not block it.

In examples (8)-(10), the P2 marker and the first verbal vowel bear a high tone, unlike the constructions in example (3) where only the verb bears the high tone in its initial vowel segment. (8)-(10) convey ‘imperfective yesterday’ events. Here, the P2 tense form combines with the progressive form of the verb to derive the ‘imperfective yesterday’.

A derivation that relates ‘yesterday progressive’ past event in Lamnso’ cannot take a ‘today’ nor a ‘tomorrow’ adverbial. For


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