Verb classification in Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Atlantic; Niger-Congo)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: English

Abstract

The phenomenon:
Our current understanding of human categorization processes is the result of research in disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, linguistics and anthropology. Categorization is the mental process by which humans group entities like objects into different categories. In linguistics, the study of grammatical systems such as noun categorization systems (e.g., Lakoff 1987) and verb categorization systems (McGregor 2002), has revealed that these systems are a reflections of human cognitive categorization strategies.
The goal of this project is to contribute to research on categorization by studying an unusual grammatical phenomenon of verb categorization found in Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Eegimaa hereafter) and related and neighbouring Atlantic languages of the Niger Congo language phylum spoken in Southern Senegal. This kind of categorization is manifested in the Eegimaa grammar by the use of different gender markers to form nonfinite verbs.
Nonfinite verbs traditionally include infinitives, gerunds and participles (Nikolaeva 2007). In English, nonfinites are formed by regular processes like the use of the particle 'to' to form infinitives (e.g., to eat), the ing ending on verbs to form gerunds (e.g. read ing books) and participles (e.g., a fry ing pan). Eegimaa and neighbouring languages have the unusual property of forming nonfinite verbs by irregular processes using different gender markers. Three main scenarios are attested in Eegimaa. First, a verb and a noun may have the same root but have different gender markers with related meanings as in ma rem 'to drink, drinking' vs. e rem 'drink'. Second, a verb and a noun may have exactly the same form with no sign of one being derived from the other as with e-lob 'to speak/speaking/speech'. The third scenario shows cases where it is possible for nonfinites to have different markers but express very similar meaning. For example e-tiñ ellu and fi-tiñ ellu both mean 'to eat/eating meat'.

The scientific deb and the research objectives:
The formation of Eegimaa nonfinites raises a number of questions of relevance to linguistic theory. The first two scenarios presented above raise questions relating to derivation and the direction of such derivations (see Bauer & Valera 2005). The second case where a word flexibly functions as a noun or a verb relates to the ongoing debate on the verb and noun part of speech distinctions in the languages of the world (Bisang 2011, Croft 2000, Hopper & Thompson 1985), and in African languages where Houis (1981) proposes to distinguish nominals from flexible verbo nominals as the two major parts of speech, whereas Creissels (2010) proposes three major categories: 'nominals', 'verbals' and 'verbo-nominals' for Mandinka. When Eegimaa gender markers attach to nouns, they overtly indicate the membership of those nouns to a gender and reflect a mental categorization of entities which those nouns denote (Sagna Accepted). The research hypothesis proposed here is that the combination of different gender markers with nonfinite verbs is a manifestation of an overt verb categorization system (McGregor 2002) which also reflects a mental categorization of actions, events and states described by verbs. The extent to which the categorization of nouns is related to that of verbs will be determined as part of this project.

Research methodology:
This project will begin with an examination of an existing database of 37 hours of recordings, 18 of which have been annotated and archived with the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS. I will conduct two two-month fieldwork trips to collect data using standard data collection methods such as elicitation and participant observation and adapt the experiments I used to investigate the semantic principles underlying the categorization of nouns in Eegimaa.

Planned Impact

The project proposed is part of an ongoing long-term programme for the comprehensive description, documentation and revitalisation of Eegimaa. Three main categories of users of this research may be distinguished: the scientific community, the speech community, governmental bodies and interested parties from the general public.

The scientific community:
Beneficiaries in the scientific community include linguists and scientists from other fields. The research will represent substantial progress toward resolving the controversial issue of noun and verb distinctions across languages. Determining the principles by which overt verb classes are identified, the semantic parameters motivating the use of different noun class markers with different verbs, and the possible parallels between overt nominal and verbal classification will be an important contribution to linguistic typology. The data I will collect will include recordings on various cultural and religious activities such as funeral rituals, funeral dirge songs, naming traditions, narratives as well as procedures for producing medicine from plants. I will archive the data collected during this project at the SOAS Endangered Languages Archive, where I have deposited my previous recordings of Eegimaa, as well as at the UK Data Archive (UKDA) repository in line with ESRC guidelines. The annotated and archived data will be made accessible to researchers and the general public. Building such a large corpus of analysed data will be of use to researchers in anthropology, ethnomusicology, literature and botany.

The speech community:
In addition to producing scientific publications and material for future research, this project will also aim at empowering the community of speakers by contributing to the ongoing literacy programme. The project will contribute to facilitating Eegimaa speakers' access to information on various aspects relevant to their life, notably health, by producing reading material for an ongoing literacy programme. The production of health booklets as literacy material will be of use to medical practitioners, their patients, and teachers who are working with Eegimaa speakers in the literacy programme.
Eegimaa is an endangered language which is stigmatised and banned from the formal school system. Despite the ongoing debate about using local languages in education, pupils are still punished for speaking the language in the school areas. This project will benefit pupils by translating school manuals into Eegimaa.
The radio programmes that will be organised for this project will also help increase the visibility and prestige of the language, and will as a result contribute to efforts to revitalise the language.

Governmental bodies:
The output of this research will also benefit local governmental bodies who work in the villages where Eegimaa is spoken. Even though the government encourages the uses of local languages, languages used to conduct administrative and business activities by these bodies are French and Wolof. As a consequence, most speakers are excluded from development activities. By contributing to the enhancement of the functional adult literacy programme, this project will also contribute to facilitating both oral and written communication between administrators and the local population. England is among the countries which provide support to eradicate poverty in developing countries. This project will be a manifestation of a systematic contribution to helping minority and marginalised communities in the world, and to safeguarding language diversity.

The general public:
The orthography I have created for my previous research and the material to be produced for this project will be useful to international and local Non governmental Organisations working to improve the life of Eegimaa and other marginalised communities in the country.
 
Description This research has discovered a new kind of linguistic categorisation system which has not been reported cross-linguistically and in the language family to which the language under investigation belongs. The grammatical patterns discovered are unique, but the conceptual features found are to some extend comparable to those found in languages from other parts of the World. This suggests that there could be similarities in the way humans from different parts of the world think about the actions, events, and states in their lives. The research shows that events are classified using noun class prefixes as infinitive markers, but they can be individuated using the default noun class marker.
Exploitation Route This is an innovative piece of research. The findings from this project can be used by linguist working on languages which exhibit verbal classification of the same type as Eegimaa. The research methods can be replicated to see if comparable languages display similar systems of verb classification.

The results of the research are also of interest to typologists working on comparative linguistics especially on topics such as event categorisation, non-finiteness.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.surrey.ac.uk/englishandlanguages/research/smg/researchprojects/eegimaa_outputs.htm
 
Description The main impact of my research so far has been in the language community where Eegimaa is spoken. Between March and May 2015, I organised and hosted the first ever radio programme in Eegimaa in collaboration with Eegimaa community members. The radio programme named 'Effalah' after the most important meeting place in the Eegimaa area, was broadcast throughout the Casamance region where Eegimaa is spoken. Topics covered during the individual shows include language and cultural endangerment, education and health. The radio programme helped to facilitate access to health information by inviting a medical doctor to discus issues regarding the prevention and treatment of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV. The radio programme was also useful to local governmental bodies. The deputy of the mayor and members of the council of the Eegimaa area were invited to one of the shows to explain new policies, and discuss issues relating to rural electrification and new tax regulations. As can be seen from the report presented on the following link, the Effalah radio programme was very successful, mainly due the impact it had on the Eegimaa language speakers. http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/languages/eegimaa/radio/shows/. As part of my research impact work, I collaborated with a Eegimaa native speaker illustrator and a physician who is also a native speaker to produce booklets on the prevention of Malaria and HIV. I have also collaborated with two teachers who are also native speakers of Eegimaa for the production of reading material to help children adapt to the first years in primary school. This material will be useful for mother tongue education, which is promoted by the Senegalese government and the UNESCO. In addition to producing Research Impact material, I have written a journal article discussing my own impact work on Eegimaa. I also explain the usefulness of the producing Impact work for endangered languages in general. The article has been published in the April 2016 issue of the Ogmios newsletter from the Foundation of Endangered Languages. http://www.ogmios.org/ogmios/Ogmios_059.pdf. The proposal for the monograph, which is the main output of this project has been accepted by Empirical Approaches to Linguistic Typology. The next deadline for the submission of the full manuscript is August 2018. EALT Mouton have informally (via email) offered me to sign the contract for the book which is the main output for this project. I have postponed signing the contract until the submission of the full manuscript in August 2018. This book will be useful for linguists working on topics such as verb classification, event categorisation and African linguistics. I have uploaded my data to the UK Data Service, and will add more data to the archive when my monograph is finalized. These data will be fully available to the scientific community and the general public.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Aspects of the categorization of non-finite verbs in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to important discussions and interactions with linguists from the LAGB.

Details: Serge, Sagna. Aspects of the categorization of non-finite verbs in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. Linguistic Association of Great Britain (LAGB). SOAS. London. 30 August 2013.

The data and the analysis presented stimulated much discussion. After the presentation, I made contact with a number of researchers who provided important feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Documenting ethnobotanical knowledge among Gújjolaay Eegimaa speakers. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas.

Details: Sagna, Serge. Documenting Ethnobotanical knowledge among Gújjolaay Eegimaa speakers. 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation. University of Hawai'i at Manoa. 1 March 2013.

Following this talk, I was invited as a keynote speaker for a workshop by the 'Plants Animals and Words' project which focuses on language documentation methodologies and the conservation of traditional ecological knowledge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Exploring linguistic and taxonomic classification of plants in Gújjolaay Eegimaa 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The goal of this paper was to share information on the research methodologies I used in my previous work in language documentation. The talk led to lively discussions and interactions with other researchers in this area.

Details: Serge Sagna. Exploring linguistic and taxonomic classification of plants in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. Plants and Animal and Words. SOAS. London. 2 September 2013.

This was a multidisciplinary workshop in which I presented research methodologies used in linguistic documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge. I discussed the benefit of documenting such knowledge for research speakers of endangered languages and scientists including linguists, anthropologists and botanists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Nominal and verbal number in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal (Atlantic, Niger Congo) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Innovative claims were made during this presentation which resulted in very useful discussions during and after the presentation.

Details: Sagna, Serge. Nominal and verbal number in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal (Atlantic, Niger Congo). 8th World Congress of African Linguistics. Kyoto University, Japan. 24 August 2015.

After the presentation, I was invited to submit the paper for the publication to the proceedings of the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Overt verb classification in an African noun class system 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The topic presented sparked discussions during and after the presentation. I received very useful feedback from typologists, some of whom I consult for feedback on some aspects of this research.


Details: Sagna, Serge. Overt verb classification in an African noun class system. The 11th meeting of the Association for Linguistic Typology. University of New Mexico, USA. 3 August 2015.

After the talk, some colleagues requested the electronic version of the handout and redistributed it to other colleagues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Related categorisations of entities and events in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class system. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The topic discussed stimulated much interest and discussions during and after the presentation.

Details: Serge Sagna. Related categorisations of entities and events in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class system. UK 5th Cognitive Linguistics Conference. University of Lancaster. Lancaster. 29-31 July 2014.

The paper attracted a lot of interest and discussions during and after the presentation. I was contacted after the conference about aspect of the presentation and for access to soft copies of hand-outs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Syntactic and semantic agreement in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Banjal) noun class system. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas.

Details: Serge, Sagna. Syntactic and semantic agreement in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Banjal) noun class system. Association for Linguistic Typology, 10th Biennial conference. 15August 2013.

This paper stimulated further discussions on the new data and the phenomenon presented. The paper has been submitted as a journal article which is currently under review in Studies in Language.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description THIS IS WHERE YOU PUT IT: shape in the categorisation of body parts in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class/gender system. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with specialists of gender systems. I presented results that challenged previous claims on the topic discussed and showed why the new results give stronger evidence for a new view on the issues discussed.

Serge, Sagna. THIS IS WHERE YOU PUT IT: shape in the categorisation of body parts in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class/gender system. Gender and classifiers: cross linguistic perspectives. University of Surrey.17 January 2014.

The presentation stimulated important discussions on my findings and a number of members of the audience reported their interest in the research methods used.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Taxonomic hierarchies in Gújjolaay Eegimaa: how helpful are Berlin's universal criteria? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with specialists of language documentation and taxonomy.

Details: Serge, Sagna. Taxonomic hierarchies in Gújjolaay Eegimaa: how helpful are Berlin's universal criteria? Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory 4 Conference (LDLT4). SOAS. London. 7 December 2013.

I was invited to submit the paper for publication in the conference proceeding and the paper has now been accepted.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description The Morphophonology of Gújjolaay Eegimaa and other Jóola languages. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: Paper presented at the South East Morphology Meeting 2012, which I organised at the University of Surrey (UK). The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas.

Details: Sagna, Serge. The morphophonology of noun class markers in Gújjolaay Eegimaa and other Jóola languages. South East Morphology Meeting. University of Surrey. 25 Jan 2013.

The paper discussed important findings on a controversial aspect of research on nominal classification system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Transitivity hierarchy distinctions in Gújjolaay Eegimaa nonfinite verbs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: This was a paper presentation in a departmental seminar with linguists at the University of Virginia. Some of them are specialists on aspects of the topic presented here. So there were many relevant questions and discussions after the presentation.

Details: Serge Sagna. Transitivity hierarchy distinctions in Gújjolaay Eegimaa nonfinite verbs. Departmental seminar at the University of Virginia. Charlottesville. 21-24 April 2014.

The phenomenon presented was new to the audience. However I received very good feedback which I have taken into account in my current research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Transitivity hierarchy distinctions in nonfinite verbs of classes e- and ja- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: In addition to the discussions during and after this presentation, I was able to make important contacts with researchers who were interested in my research.

Details: Serge Sagna. Transitivity hierarchy distinctions in nonfinite verbs of classes e- and ja- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. Annual Conference on African Linguistics 45. University of Kansas. 15-20 April 2014.


A number of researchers contacted to ask further question about my research on this topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Valency, transitivity, and voice in Jóola Banjal (a.k.a Gújjolaay Eegimaa). 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact RESULTS: The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas.

DETAILS of presentation: collaborative work between Alain Christian Bassène, Denis Creissels and Serge Sagna. Valency, transitivity, and voice in Jóola Banjal (a.k.a Gújjolaay Eegimaa). Paper presented at the Syntax of the World's Languages 6. Pavia (Italy). 8-10 September 2014.


Notable interest from the audience in the discussion during question time and after the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Variations in transitivity hierarchy between nonfinite verbs in classes e- and ba- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas.

Details: Serge, Sagna. Variations in transitivity hierarchy between nonfinite verbs in classes e- and ba- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal. Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics. Leiden. 26 August 2013

This paper presented the analysis of a new phenomenon in African Linguistics to an audience of specialists. It stimulated much discussion and good feedback was obtained which was for further investigations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Why are they named after death? Proper names in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Paper presented at the Endangered Languages Week - School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - 20 May 2012.

Results: The presentation led to useful interactions with colleagues and refinement of ideas. I was invited to submit the paper for publication in a special volume in the journal 'Language Documentation and Conservation. The paper has now been accepted for publication.

Details: Sagna, Serge and Emmanuel Bassène. Why are they named after death? Proper names in Gújjolaay Eegimaa. Africa day - Endangered Languages Week. SOAS, London. 20 May 2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013