SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

How motion verbs acquire narrative discourse functions: The semantic and morphosyntactic development of 'go back/return' in Taqbaylit Berber

Aicha Belkadi (SOAS)

Date: 30 January 2018Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 30 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


Motion concepts are common cross-linguistic sources of grammaticalization. The development of TAM and purpose grams as well as different types of adpositions from motion verbs constitute well-established typological patterns (Bybee et al. 1991, Bourdin 2002, Heine & Kuteva 2002, Schmidtke-Bode 2009 amongst others). My talk concerns the lesser known (and perhaps cross-linguistically rarer) grammaticalization of motion verbs into narrative discourse structure markers (Heine 2000, Heine and Kuteva 2002, Bourdin 2008); a cline which involves a change from motion of the GO/COME type to the pragmatic function of signalling the speaker’s evaluation of how sequential discourse units relate to each other (Fraser 1990, Traugott 1995).

I will focus particularly on the grammaticalization along this path of the verb uɣal in Tikichourt Taqbaylit (Berber, Afro-Asiatic: North Eastern Algeria), which canonically expresses the directed motion concept GO BACK/RETURN, but also sometimes expresses change of state semantics. As can be observed in examples (1) and (2), uɣal functions as a main verb, inflects for aspect and agrees with the clause subject; it is optionally followed by a locative/directional complement in motion contexts and occurs with a nominal clause in change of state ones.

Example 1:

Y-uγal wǝrgaz. Y-uɣal ɣǝr lǝzzayǝr

SGM-go.back.PFV man 3SGM-go.back.PFV to Algiers

The man went back. He went back to Algiers.

Example 2:

(yǝ-pð=ǝd mǝskin), y-uγal d awraγ

3SGM-arrive.PFV=VEN poor 3SGM-go.back.PFV COP yellow

(He arrived, poor man), he became yellow.

In TT, and at least some other Taqbaylit dialects (Chaker 1997, Nait-Zerrad 2004), uɣal also appears in contexts in which it displays reduced verbal properties and is translated by speakers with inchoative aspect semantics – e.g. ‘start doing something’ − or with sequential semantics − e.g. ‘and’, ‘then’, ‘after’. Grammaticized uɣal precedes and is (usually) adjacent to the main verb and obligatorily surfaces in the perfective aspect. It predominantly agrees with the subject of the main verb, but is also found to agree with other thematic participants, activated in prior and (optionally) subsequent units of discourse. These properties are illustrated in (3) and (4):

Example 3:

asǝmi i mǝqqw rǝ-γ uγalǝ-n hǝğv-en=iyi=d

when COMP be.tall.PFV-1SG go.back.PFV-3PL veil.PFV-3PLM=CL.1SG.DAT=VEN

When I grew up, they started to veil me, they veiled me.

Example 4:

uγalǝ-γ ra-nt=iyi s usu

become-1SG give.back.PFV-3PLF=CL.1SG.DAT to bed

And then/ after, they put me to bed, the boy in bed, thank god, everything was fine, thanks.

The talk will investigate the morphosyntactic properties, including the syntactic structure of the constructions in which it occurs, and the discourse properties of grammaticized uɣal. It will be suggested that in narratives, uɣal is used as a ‘consecutive’ marker, a type of discourse marker found in many languages to signal new events inside narratives (Heine 2000). Thus, speakers predominantly use uɣal in utterances which start new thematic portions of discourse or a new set of (related) events. These utterances relate to prior units of discourse in different ways; the chain of events the former starts may be unexpected, logical consequences, continuations or completely unrelated to the ones expressed by the latter (cf. Bourdin 2008). Rarely, uɣal is used to signal a return to the current thematic topic after an aside.


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Bourdin, Philippe. 2008. On the grammaticalization of 'come' and 'go' into markers of textual connectivity. Typological Studies in Language 76, pp. 37–59.

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Nait-Zerrad, Kamal. 2004. De quelques particules et adverbs issus des formes verbales. In NaitZerrad, K, R. Vossen and D. Ibriszimov (eds) Le verbe et autres articles: Actes du 2, BayreuthFrankfurter Kolloquium zur Berberologie. Berber Studies, Vol. 8.

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About the speaker

Aicha Belkadi is a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS.