Causatives and Passives

Songhay has a causative suffix /-(a)ndi/, which attaches to intransitive verbs, making them transitive. The causer of the event becomes the subject of the sentence:

(1) ɟiò:             go:ma  menne
butter.DEF  PROG   melt
‘The butter is melting.’
(2) nu:nà:     go:ma    ɟiò:              menn-andi
fire.DEF    PROG    butter.DEF   melt-CAUS
‘The fire is melting the butter (= causing the butter to melt).’

It also attaches to transitive verbs making them doubly transitive; the word order follows the pattern for double object verbs with the former subject in object position before the causative verb and the former object after the causative verb:

(3) zaŋ­kà:     na    bu:rò:        ­ŋa
child.DEF  PFV  bread.DEF  eat
‘The child ate the bread.’
(4) aɪ     na   zaŋ­kà:     ŋa-ndi      bu:rò:
1sg  PFV child.DEF  eat-CAUS  bread.DEF
‘I fed the child the bread (=cause the child to eat the bread).’

The causative suffix can also attach to an adjective X making a verb that means ‘cause to have property X’:

(5) zaŋ­kà:     ga    sa:ma
child.DEF  IMP  stupid
‘The child is stupid.’
(6) ir     na   zaŋ­kà:     sa:m-andi
1pl  PFV  child.DEF  stupid-CAUS
‘We made the child stupid.’

A small number of verbs (e.g., fe:ri ‘open’, keɪri ‘break’) have the same form when they are transitive (causative) and intransitive (inchoative):

(7) hugò:         miɲò:         fe:ri
house.DEF mouth.DEF open
‘The door opened.’
(8) aɪ     na    hugò:         miɲò:         fe:ri
1sg  PFV  house.DEF  mouth.DEF open
‘I opened the door.’

The passive in Songhay uses a suffix which is homophonous with the causative suffix /-(a)ndi/:

(9) zaŋ­kà:     na    barijò:        kar
child.DEF  PFV  horse.DEF  hit
‘The child hit the horse.’
(10) barijò:        kar-andi
horse.DEF  hit-PASS
‘The horse was hit.’

Unlike in English, it is not possible to express the agent in a passive sentence; in other words, while it is possible to say ‘the horse was hit’ it is not possible to say ‘the horse was hit by the boy’.

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