[Lingtyp] 'until' clauses in Africa

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Wed Jan 5 16:34:57 UTC 2022

Dear Jesús, all,

In the Papuan dialect of Malay, /sampe/ 'arrive' / 'until' may occur in 
the following two constructions, which, although not the same as the 
West African ones, seem to bear a family resemblance:

(1) A sampe

(2) V sampeeeH X

In (1), A is a scalar adjective, and /sampe/ has the effect of an 
intensifier, 'very A'.This construction occurs only utterance finally, 
and the intonational peak is on the A, with /sampe/ associated with a 
low "afterethought-like" contour.

In (2) /sampe/ fuses with an ideophone consisting of a super-long [e] 
associated with High (or High falling) pitch.The meaning of (2) is 'V 
for a very long time until X'.

Similar constructions occur also in some of the local languages of North 
West New Guinea; Laura Arnold has looked at some of these.

These two constructions differ from the West African ones in that they 
lack an explicit expression meaning 'getting tired':in (1) there is 
nothing, while in (2) there is an overt expression X that is interpreted 
literally.However, they share with the West African constructions a 
somewhat unexpected association between a form meaning 'until' and a 
notion of excessivity, or, in the case of (2) 'long time'.

I'd be interested in hearing of similar constructions in other languages.


On 05/01/2022 17:56, Jesus Francisco Olguin Martinez wrote:
> Dear all,
> I hope this email finds you well.
> I send you this message because in my sample there are a couple of  
> African languages (e.g. Tommo So and Bangime) that have a narrative 
> construction in which the /until/-clause appears with a verb meaning 
> ‘to get tired’ (e.g. /I worked I worked until I get tired/). Note that 
> this clause does not necessarily denote literal weariness or physical 
> fatigue. Instead, this construction is used in contexts where speakers 
> express that they carried out an activity for a very long time (e.g. 
> /I worked I worked for a very long time/). In this type of 
> construction,  the first clause in linear order denotes a prolonged 
> activity and is followed by a clause meaning ‘until I got tired’ 
> emphasizing the extreme prolongation of the first situation.
> I was wondering if you know any study that has explored this type of 
> construction or if you know any other African languages that have this 
> type of construction.
> Thank you very much in advance.
> Best,
> -- 
> Jesús Olguín Martínez
> Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Linguistics
> /University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)/
> http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/people/jesús-olguín-martínez 
> <http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/people/jes%C3%BAs-olgu%C3%ADn-mart%C3%ADnez>
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David Gil

Senior Scientist (Associate)
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

Email:gil at shh.mpg.de
Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091
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