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Va and Vo verbs in Tenyidie

by Mimi Kevichusa Ezung

Description of Va and Vo verbs

The difference between Va and Vo verbs is that:

Va verbs

  • bear a high tone
  • permit object pro-drop

Vo verbs

  • bear a low tone
  • do not permit object pro-drop

The sentences (1) - (4) illustrate this:

Vo Verbs





Va Verbs

3a. á tsibu ŋú (Va)

         I nom   Tsibu   saw
         ‘I saw Tsibu.’

b.      á        Ø     ŋú
         I nom        saw
         ‘I saw.’

4a. puo-e tsibu ŋú (Va)

         he/she-erg   Tsibu   saw
         ‘He/She saw Tsibu.’
b.     puo-e           Ø    ŋú (Va)
        he/she-erg          saw
        ‘He/She saw.’

To further the description of Va and Vo verbs one needs to first discuss briefly the personal pronouns of the language. ­

Person Subject position Object position

                        (A/S NP)
 1	               á	         			à			
 2 	               nɔ́              			ǹ		            
 3   		   può          			può		

              Table 1: Personal Pronouns in Tenyidie 

In Table I note that it is only the third person pronoun that is homophonous for subject position and object positions. In the second person, the pronoun in the subject position is nɔ́, contrasting with ǹ in the object positions. The first person is interesting as it is the tone which differentiates the subject position from the non-subject positions. In the subject position, the pronoun carries a high tone, whereas in the other positions it carries a low tone.

The point here is that, if you look at sentences (3) and (4), the high tone that marks the A/S NP (á,nɔ́) also marks the verb i.e. the Va verb. In sentences (1) and (2), the low tone that marks the O NP ( à, ǹ ) marks the verb, i.e. the Vo verb.

If we look at sentences (5) and (6) we find that the occurrence of the O NP with the Va verbs is optional as illustrated in sentence (5) below. The occurrence of the O NP with the Vo verbs is, however, obligatory and cannot be dropped, as the ungrammaticality of sentence (6) illustrates:

5. á Ø ŋú (Va)

      I           saw          
      ‘I saw.’

6. * á Ø ŋù (Vo)

        I             saw

On the basis that Tenyidie permits pro in the object position one can say then that Va verbs are pro-drop verbs and Vo verbs are non pro-drop verbs.

Though the third person singular pronoun is homophonous for A/S NP position and O NP position, it is interesting to note that this Va versus Vo tone distinction is retained in the third person pronoun singular as illustrated in sentences (7a and b). This distinction is however lost with other O NPs including interrogatives as shown in sentences (8a, b) and (9a, b).

7a. può-e ŋú

         she/he-erg   saw
        ‘She/He saw.’
b.     può-e            può         ŋù   
        she/he-erg    him/her   saw
        ‘She/He saw him/her.’

8a. tsibu - e ŋú

        Tsibu-erg   saw
        ‘Tsibu saw.’

b.     á     tsibu   ŋú  
        I     Tsibu   saw
        ‘I saw Tsibu.’

9a. supuo-nie ŋú ga

         who-erg      saw  wh q mkr
         ‘Who saw?’
b.      nɔ́   supuo    ŋú      ga
         you  whom   saw   wh q mkr
         ‘Whom did you see?’