UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Semantics of Akan bi and nʊ Arkoh, Ruby Becky


This thesis investigates two post-nominal morphemes, bi and nʊ, in Akan (a Kwa language spoken mainly in Ghana). I analyze bi as an indefinite marker and nʊ as a definite marker. Bi occurs in different environments; the main two environments are the pronominal environment and the determiner environment where it follows the noun within a DP. These environments correlate with certain tonal variations. I argue that in the pronominal use, bi is a specific indefinite pronoun and is toneless. Its specificity status is achieved through a weak anaphoric relationship it shares with a previously-mentioned noun in the discourse or a deictic element. In its determiner use, bi is a specific indefinite which is interpreted via a choice function. It bears a high tone. The Akan morpheme nʊ is used for different functions. It is used as a third person singular pronoun, as a definite article, as a distal demonstrative marker and as a clausal marker. These uses correlate with some tonal alternations. I argue that when the morpheme is used as a pronoun, it is toneless; however when it is used as a determiner or a clause marker it is marked with a high tone. I also argue that the morpheme in all its different functions encodes one semantic value which is familiarity. I take familiarity to entail both hearer old and discourse old along the lines of Prince (1988).

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