Tense, aspect, mood and negation markers

In Songhay, tense, aspect and mood markers (TAM markers) fuse with the negation marker, yielding idiosyncratic negated forms. The following table shows the affirmative and negative form of the basic markers, which occur after the subject and before the object in SOV transitive structures or before the verb in intransitive and SVO transitive structures:

affirmative negative role
ga ɕi imperfective
goːma ɕiːma progressive
na mana perfective
mma n/a emphatic imperfective
ŋka n/a emphatic perfective
ma maɕi subjunctive/optative
ma ɕi narrative

The imperfective marker appears in general statements and is used for the future with auxiliaries that are linked to the main verb with ka:

      1. sara       ga     hamisa    ŋa
         Sarah      IMPF   fish      eat
         “Sarah eats fish (in general).”
      2. sara       ɕi        hamisa    ŋa
         sara       IMPF.NEG  fish   eat
         “Sarah doesn't eat fish (in general).”
      3. aɪ      ga      kaː    ka      haːru
         1.SG    IMPF    come   LINK    laugh
         “I will laugh. (nearer future)”
      4. aɪ      ga      haʊ      ka      haːru
         1.SG    IMPF    FUT.AUX  LINK    laugh    
         “I will laugh. (farther future)”

The progressive marker largely corresponds to the English progressive. It cannot be combined with the perfective marker, so for the past and future perfective either some kind of periphrasis with different TAM markers or auxiliaries is used (7) or the tense is not marked and the general progressive is used (8). The marker itself is made up from the existential copula goː and the subjunctive TAM marker ma. Its composition is also similar to the progressive in Zarma, where it is formed with the indicative marker (Gao Songhay goːma/ɕiːma ~ Zarma goːga/siːga).

      5. aɪ     goːma      zuru    soŋhoːda
         1.SG   PROG       run     now
         “I'm running right now.”
      6. ɲcirŋòː      ɕiːma        kaŋ
         rain.DEF     PROG.NEG     fall
         “It isn't raining.”
      7. waːtòː    kalla  ɲ     ceːra   no     saːra   cindi    ka      diɟòː       keɪri
         time.DEF  when   2.SG  call    FOC    Sarah   leave    LINK    mirror.DEF  break
         “By the time you called, Sarah was breaking the mirror.”
      8. kalla     aɪ     goːma  ceː   saːra  goːma  diɟòː         keɪri
         when      1.SG   PROG   call  Sarah  PROG   mirror.DEFI   break
         “When I was calling, Sarah was breaking the mirror.”

The perfective is marked either with na or with the absence of a marker. For SVO verbs, na is not used (9,10), while for SOV verbs the use of na is preferred (11) but can be omitted, which is coupled in a change to an SVO word order (12). The negative is always mana, no matter what the affirmative marker was (13).

      9. aɪ     toː     hugeɪ-do
         1.SG   arrive  home.PL-POSTP
         “I arrived home.”
     10. aɪ     diː     haila      bi
         1.SG   see     cat        yesterday
         “I saw a cat yesterday.”
     11. haɪlàː     na         ɲcaŋòː       ŋa
         cat.DEF    PERF.NEG   mouse.DEF    eat
         “The cat ate the mouse.” (preferred)
     12. haɪlàː     ŋa         ɲcaŋòː       
         cat.DEF    eat        mouse.DEF
         “The cat ate the mouse.” (infrequent)
     13. haɪlàː    mana           ɲcaŋòː       ŋa
         cat.DEF    PERF.NEG   mouse.DEF    eat
         “The cat didn't eat the mouse.”

Songhay has a subjunctive marker, ma, which appears in certain subordinate clauses, questions and conditionals/optatives. The negation of this subjunctive is maɕi. This marker is also used narratively (17), when its negation is simply ɕi.

     14. aɪ    ga     baː     zaŋkàː     ma        koɪ    coʊ-dogòː-ra
         1.SG  IMPF   want    boy.DEF    SUBJ      go     learn-place.DEF-POSTP
         “I want the boy to go to school.”
     15. aɪ    ga     baː     zaŋkaː     maɕi      koɪ    coʊ-dogòː-ra
         1.SG  IMPF   want    boy.DEF    SUBJ.NEG  go     learn-place.DEF-POSTP
         “I want the boy not to go to school.”
     16. maɪ   noː   ma      kaː     ka    ɟeɪson    haːbu  ŋga    gandòː-ra
         who   FOC   SUBJ    come    LINK  Jason     sweep  3.SG   chest.DEF-POSTP 
         “Who will hug Jason?”
     17. zejòː      no    ma     baː           ka     ɟeɪson    gar
         thief.DEF  FOC   NARR   is.about.to   LINK   Jason     stab
         “The thief is about to stab Jason.”

Besides indicative and subjunctive, Gao Songhay has an emphatic mood (called strong by Heath 1999, §7.2.6-§7.2.7) which functions as a focus on the verb or on the subject. The imperfective/present form of this mood is mma, and the perfective form is ŋka. These forms cannot be negated, rather the subject is focused and the verb is negated in indicative (19). The subjunctive, the negated perfective and both emphatic markers trigger the ai~ja ‘1.SG’ alternation.

     18. Sorajja  mma        kaː   ka    ɟeɪson  haːbu   ŋga    gandòː-ra
         Soraya   EMPH.IMPF  come  LINK  Jason   chest   3.SG   chest.DEF-POSTP
         “Soraya will hug Jason.”
     19. Sorajja  ka    ɕi        kaː   ka    ɟeɪson  haːbu   ŋga    gandòː-ra
         Soraya   FOC   NEG.IMPF  come  LINK  Jason   chest   3.SG   chest.DEF-POSTP
         “Soraya will not hug Jason.”
     20. ja       ŋka         baː     zaŋkàː     ma     coʊ
         1.SG     EMPH.PERF   want    boy.DEF    SUBJ   learn
         “I wanted the boy to study. (emphatic)”
     21. a        ŋka         fara
         3.SG     EMPH.PERF   tired
         “He got tired. (emphatic)”

The emphatic forms frequently occur in conditionals:

     22. n̩da iri   mma        hiŋ  ka    haɪla deɪ  kul    a     ga    ɲcaŋeɪ     ŋa
         if  1.PL  EMPH.IMPF  can  LINK  cat   buy  than   3.SG  IMPF  mouse.PL   eat 
         “If we were to buy a cat, it would eat the mice.”
     23. n̩da ja    ŋka        haɪla deɪ  kul    a     ga    ɲcaŋeɪ     ŋa
         if  1.PL  EMPH.PERF  cat   buy  than   3.SG  IMPF  mouse.PL   eat 
         “If I had bought a cat, it would have eaten the mice.”

The emphatic can be combined with the progressive in conditionals:

     24. n̩da ɲcirŋoː    ŋka        ɕiːma     kan   kul    aɪ    ga    zur   tareɪ
         if  rain.DEF   EMPH.PERF  PROG.NEG  fall  then   1.SG  IMPF  run   outside
         “If it weren't raining, I would run outside.”
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