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:
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.”