Va and Vo verbs in Tenyidie
Description of Va and Vo verbs
The difference between Va and Vo verbs is that:
- bear a high tone
- permit object pro-drop
- bear a low tone
- do not permit object pro-drop
The sentences (1) - (4) illustrate this:
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
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)
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?’