Proceedings of the Twenty-Third Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: Special Session on Syntax and Semantics in Africa
Kissi language, Language variation, Kru language, Comparative and general grammar -- Verb phrase, Atlantic languages
This paper examines the focus construction of Kisi, an Atlantic language (Niger-Congo) spoken by some half a million people primarily in Guinea but also in nearby Sierra Leone and Liberia. The data come from work done in 1983-84 on the southern dialect spoken in the Foya area of Upper Lofa County, Liberia. Of particular interest is the presence of what has been known in the literature as "predicate clefting'', e.g., DeGraff 1996. Its interactions and complementarity with negation, an inherently focusing construction (Marchese 1983), evince some complexity. Despite some superficial similarity, however, substantial syntactic differences exist. More similarities exist in comparison to relativization and question formation, two other constructions involving movement.
The approach taken by this paper is an historical-typological one attempting to resolve issues in the syntax of a West African language. Work on the phonology and morphology of Kisi shows a language falling into no single typological category. The language has a "mixed" noun class system involving both prefixing and suffixing (Childs 1983); the prosody similarly shows two types of prominence, as it perhaps changes from tone to accent (Childs 1989). The explanation for at least the last set of facts is prolonged and intimate contact with speakers of Mande languages (Childs 1995). What follows is the first analysis of a purely syntactic construction, with comments drawn from language typology and from comparative linguistics.
Childs, George Tucker. Predicate clefting in Kisi. Proceedings of BLS 23, Special Session on the Syntax and Semantics of African Languages. 47-58. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.