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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Topics in Siamou tense and aspect Toews, Carmela Irene Penner


This dissertation examines the syntax and semantics of tense and aspect in Siamou (Niger-Congo, Kru), a language of Burkina Faso. Its purpose is twofold. First, it provides a description of the tense/aspect system of Siamou; to date, this part of the grammar has not been systematically investigated. Second, it tests and sharpens formal syntactic and semantic tools relating to tense and aspect on Siamou data. It shows that applying standard analyses to a previously unanalyzed tense/aspect system is effective. For example, existing tests for perfective and imperfective aspect are able to diagnose two of Siamou's aspectual morphemes. However, it also points out some key areas that need work, including how Siamou past tense implicatures arise, and what kind of modality Siamou future expressions encode. Chapter 1 provides background information on tense and aspect, describes the methodology used, and introduces topics covered in this dissertation. Chapter 2 provides an overview of properties of Siamou that are relevant to the description and analysis of tense and aspect in this language. Chapter 3, which is a morpho-syntactic description and analysis of the Siamou aspectual phrase, establishes that Siamou has a set of six aspectual suffixes that partition into three tonal classes: a low tone class, which includes -L, -è, and -ɲɛ̀n, a mid tone class, which includes -n and -a, and a high-low tone class, which includes -bɛ̂. This is followed by a theoretical chapter which develops a set of semantic diagnostics for perfective and imperfective aspect. Chapter 5 uses those diagnostics to show that one of the aspectual markers, the low tone suffix, encodes perfective aspect while another, the mid tone nasal consonant suffix, encodes imperfective aspect. Chapter 6 investigates the semantics of the right-edge particle ín, and argues that its primary meaning is past tense. I show that this particle also gives rise to a number of implicatures that are consistent with its primary meaning. Finally, chapter 7 examines Siamou's future expressions (ri. . .-a, bè. . .-a, and bè. . .-bɛ̂). I show that the future meaning makes use of three syntactic positions: finiteness, modality, and prospective aspect.

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