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1. Introduction

1.1. Existential predication as inverse locational predication

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The term ‘existential’ is not used by all authors with the same meaning, and many authors use it without any real definition, or even with no definition at all, which results in considerable fluctuation in its extension. For some authors, an existential verb is simply what is more commonly called a ‘be’ verb, whereas for some others, ‘existential’ refers specifically to constructions expressing existence in the usual sense of this term.

Among the various types of constructions to which the term ‘existential’ may have been applied, the constructions considered in this article can be unambiguously characterized as expressing inverse locational predication (abbreviated as ILP). The question of the relationship between inverse locational predication as defined below and the other types of constructions to which the same label ‘existential’ may have been applied in the literature is not discussed in this article.

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Inverse locational predication must be defined in its relationship to plain/direct locational predication, illustrated by English The cat is in the tree. Plain/direct locational predication is identified as such cross-linguistically by its ability to encode prototypical figure-ground relationships with the unmarked perspectivization ‘from figure to ground’. [1] By ‘prototypical figure-ground relationship’, I mean an episodic spatial relationship between two concrete entities differing in their degree of mobility: the ground typically occupies a fixed position in space, whereas the figure is mobile, or at least easy to move, which regardless of information structure gives it a higher degree of saliency, hence the unmarked nature of the ‘from figure to ground’ perspectivization.

Inverse locational predication, illustrated by English There is a cat in the tree, encodes the same prototypical figure-ground relationships (i.e. episodic spatial relationships between a mobile/movable figure and a ground occupying a fixed position in space), but with the marked perspectivization ‘from ground to figure’. This corresponds to Koch’s (2012) rhematic location. [2]

Inverse locational predication is a comparative concept in the sense of Haspelmath (2010), which means that the predicative constructions identified cross-linguistically as expressing inverse locational predication must not be expected to have the same range of possible uses. In particular, as discussed by Koch (2012), there is cross-linguistic variation in the codification of the distinction between episodic presence and long-term presence (Koch’s bounded existence, as in There are many lions in Africa, paraphrasable as ‘Africa is a place where many lions spend their lives’).

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In the literature, the term ‘existential predication’ is commonly used as referring specifically to inverse locational predication. An obvious drawback of this practice is that inverse locational predication has little to do with ‘existence’ in the ordinary use of this word (and typical inverse locational clauses cannot be paraphrased by clauses whose nucleus is the verb ‘exist’), which may be a source of confusion.

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The question addressed in this article is the distribution of the possible types of ILP constructions in a particular area (the Sudanic belt) which exhibits interesting particularities in this respect. For a more detailed and more general discussion of the typology of inverse locational predication, the readers are referred to Creissels (Forthcoming).

1.2. The Sudanic belt

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The Sudanic belt (Clements & Rialland 2008), aka Macro-Sudan belt (Güldemann 2008, 2018b), is a large belt of northern sub-Saharan Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ethiopian plateau. Some important structural characteristics are particularly frequent among the languages spoken in this area irrespective of their genetic affiliation as analyzed among others by Westermann (1911) and Greenberg (1959). In the case of language families that are only partially included in the Sudanic belt (such as the Benue-Congo family), the phenomena in question are not found with a comparable frequency in the genetically related languages outside of this region, which suggests an important role of language contact.

The delimitation of the Sudanic belt adopted here is based on Güldemann (2018b: 473, 502). It includes the following ‘basic classificatory units’ as identified by Güldemann (2018a): Central Sudanic, Ijoid, Ubangi, Dakoid, part of Benue-Kwa (all the non-Bantu Benue-Kwa languages plus the Bantu languages of zone A), [3] Adamawa, Gur, Kru, Pere, Mande, Songhay, Chadic, the western branch of Nilotic, and Atlantic. [4]

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Recent areality hypotheses dealing with the Sudanic belt have focused on features such as labial-velar stops, labial flaps, implosives and other ‘nonobstruent’ stops, nasal vowels and lack of contrastive nasal consonants, ATR vowel harmony, tone, ‘lax’ polar question markers, logophoricity markers, S-(Aux)-O-V-X and V-O-Neg order patterns.

This article deals with an areal feature of the Sudanic belt not mentioned so far in the literature: the particularly high frequency of a type of behavior of locational clauses which is relatively rare at world level, characterized by the combination of the following two features: rigid constituent order in locational predication and lack of a morphologically distinct ILP construction.

2. Types of ILP constructions

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In a typology of ILP constructions, the first distinction is between languages in which a predicative construction morphologically distinct from plain locational predication is available to encode an alternative perspectivization of prototypical figure-ground relationships, and languages in which no such predicative construction exists.

As regards ILP constructions morphologically distinct from plain locational predication, a general typological approach cannot be based on criteria referring to grammatical functions in inverse-locational clauses, or to the morphological nature of the predicators involved in ILP constructions, since the cross-linguistic comparability of such notions cannot be taken for granted. The only possible criterion is the formal resemblance with predicative constructions expressing other functional types of predication. On this basis, I propose to distinguish seven types briefly presented in Sections 2.2 to 2.8.

2.1. Languages lacking a morphologically distinct ILP construction

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Probably more than half of the world’s languages lack a morphologically distinct ILP construction (Creissels, Forthcoming). All major language families (Indo-European, Uralic, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, Tupi-Guarani, etc.) include languages both with and without morphologically distinct ILP constructions, and the same situation is found in many smaller language families with a relatively low degree of historical depth.

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In many such cases, constituent order in locational predication is flexible, and variation in constituent order is to some extent comparable to the choice of a morphologically distinct ILP construction in the languages that have such a construction. A widely attested situation, illustrated in (1) by Finnish, is that the basic constituent order in locational predication is FIG Pred GR, with the ground phrase after the locational predicator, whereas the alternative order GR Pred FIG provides a rough equivalent of the ‘from ground to figure’ perspectivization. Note however that, if one adopts Borschev and Partee’s analysis, (1b) does not count as a true ILP construction, since “it is natural to view [sentences such as those in (1)] as differing only in Theme-Rheme structure and word-order (and correspondingly in definiteness of the bare NP); the issue of whether there is any deeper syntactic difference between them is controversial.” (Partee & Borschev 2002).

Finnish (Uralic, Huumo 2003:464)

(1)

a.

Poika

on

piha-lla.

boy

be.prs.3sg

yard-adess

‘The boy is in the yard.’

b.

Piha-lla

on

poika.

yard- adess

be. prs.3sg

boy

‘There is a boy in the yard.’

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However, such constituent order alternations are not universal. Some of the languages lacking a morphologically distinct ILP construction have locational clauses with a rigid constituent order that excludes the possibility of de-topicalizing the figure by moving the figure phrase. In such languages, as illustrated by example (2), in the absence of indications provided by definiteness marking or focus marking, the same locational clauses can be used indiscriminately in contexts that would trigger a choice between plain and inverse locational predication in other languages.

Mangarayi (Gunwingguan, Merlan 1982, quoted by Dryer 2007: 243)

(2)

Mawuj

ja-Ø-ṇi

biyaŋgin

ṇa-boŋgan.

food

3-3sg -be

inside

loc-box

‘There’s food in the box.’ or ‘The food is in the box.’

2.2. There.be ILP constructions

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There.be ILP constructions are ILP constructions that differ from plain locational predication by the addition of an element analyzable as marking inversion of perspectivization. In most cases, this element is an expletive locative element, i.e., a word used in other constructions with a meaning such as ‘there’ or ‘in it’, but whose only function in inverse locational predication is to mark the distinction with plain locational predication. Crucially, non-referential locative elements acting as perspectivization markers occupy a fixed position distinct from that of the ground phrase. English there is N (Loc), Italian c’è N (Loc) (example (3)), and Arabic hunāka N (Loc) (example (4)) are typical examples of there.be ILP constructions.

Italian (Indo-European, pers.knowl.)

(3)

a.

La

chiave

è

sul

tavolo

the

key

is

on.the

table

‘The key is on the table.’

b.

C’è

una

chiave

sul

tavolo

thereexpl-is

a

key

on.the

table

‘There is a key on the table.’

Standard Arabic (Afroasiatic, Aziz (1995) and Darine Saïdi, pers.com.)

(4)

a.

Ar-rajulu

fī-l-maktabi.

def-man

in-def-office.gen

‘The man is in the office.’

b.

Hunāka

rajulu-n

fī-l-maktabi.

thereexpl

man-indef

in-def-office.gen

‘There is a man in the office.’

2.3. Have ILP constructions

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Have ILP constructions are ILP constructions involving a predicator not used in locational predication, but also used in a transitive possessive construction, i.e. in a possessive predicative construction in which the possessor and the possessee show coding characteristics identical to those of the agent and the patient of typical transitive verbs. The use of this predicator in the ILP construction can be described in terms of impersonalization. In the ILP construction, it may occur either alone, as in Brazilian Portuguese tem N (Loc) lit. ‘has N (Loc)’ (example (5)), or combined with an expletive pronoun, as in Alemannic es hot N (Loc) lit. ‘it has N (Loc)’ (example (6)). In languages in which this predicator as a transitive verb of possession agrees with the possessor NP, its use in the ILP construction implies default agreement.

Brasilian Portuguese (Indo-European, Callou & Avelar 2013)

(5)

a.

Ele

tem

dois

computadores

no

escritòrio

he

has

two

computers

in.the

office

‘He has two computers in the office.’

b.

Tem

dois

computadores

no

escritòrio

has

two

computers

in.the

office

‘There are two computers in the office.’ [5]

Alemannic (Indo-European, Czinglar 2002)

(6)

Es

hot

Rössr

voram

Hus.

it

has

horses

in_front_of_the

house

‘There are horses in front of the house.’

2.4. There.have ILP constructions

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There.have ILP constructions are ILP constructions involving a predicator also used in a transitive possessive construction, plus an additional element generally used with a meaning such as ‘there’, but whose only function in inverse locational predication is to reinforce the distinction between inverse locational predication and possessive predication, as in Occitan i a N (Loc) lit. ‘there has N (Loc)’ – example (7). French il y a N (Loc) lit. ‘it there has N (Loc)’ is a well-known illustration of this type.

Occitan (Indo-European, pers.knowl.)

(7)

I

a

un

can

dins

l’ort.

thereexpl

has

one

dog

in

the-garden

‘There is a dog in the garden.’ lit. ‘There has a dog in the garden.’

2.5. Incorporated.figure ILP constructions

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Incorporated.figure ILP constructions are ILP constructions in which the figure is treated like the possessee in an incorporating possessive construction. By ‘incorporating possessive construction’, I mean a possessive predicative construction in which the noun referring to the possessee cannot be analyzed as the head of an NP in a construction including two slots for NPs (as in the other types or predicative possession), and must be analyzed as converted into a one-place predicate meaning ‘be an N-owner’ by a ‘proprietive’ operator.

For example, Kalaallisut (aka West Greenlandic) has a suffix ‑qar converting nouns into intransitive verbs ‘be an N-owner’ or ‘be endowed with N’ (proprietive verbs) that assign the role of possessor to their argument, encoded as a noun phrase in the zero case (alias absolutive case) and cross-referenced on the verb, as in (8a). In the ILP construction, a proprietive verb derived from the noun referring to the figure is invariably in the third person singular, and no noun phrase in the zero case is present – example (8b).

Kalaallisut (Eskimo-Aleut, Van Geenhoven 1998: 25, 27)

(8)

a.

Angut

taana

illu-qar-puq.

man

that

house-propr-ind.3sg

‘That man has a house.’

b.

Nillataartarfim-mi

tallima-nik

manne-qar-puq.

fridge-loc

five-instr.pl

egg-propr-ind.3sg

‘There are five eggs in the fridge.’

2.6. Be.with ILP constructions

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Be.with ILP constructions are ILP constructions in which the figure is encoded like the phrase representing the companion in comitative predication. This construction type, found mainly among Bantu languages, is illustrated here by Swahili ku na N (Loc) lit. ‘there with N (Loc)’ – example (9). [6]

Swahili (Niger-Congo, pers.doc.)

(9)

Kisima-ni

m

na

maji.

cl7.well-loc

cl18

with

cl6.water

‘There is water in the well.’ lit. ‘at-the-well there (is) with water.’

2.7. It.be ILP constructions

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It.be ILP constructions are ILP constructions formally similar to identificational predication. As illustrated in (10), they are characterized by the presence of either a specialized identificational predicator, or an identificational/locational predicator accompanied by a non-locative expletive element also used in identificational clauses equivalent to English This/that is an N.

Icelandic (Indo-European, Neijmann 2001, Freeze 2001)

(10)

a.

Ƿað

er

kirkja.

that

is

church

‘That is a church.’

b.

Ƿað

eru

mys

baðkerinu.

that

are

mice

in

bathtub

‘There are mice in the bathtub.’ lit. ‘That are mice in the bathtub.’

2.8. ILP constructions involving a specialized inverse-locational predicator

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Specialized inverse-locational predicator is the term I propose for predicators found in ILP constructions that, synchronically, [7] do not cumulate this function with that of equative predicator, locational predicator, comitative predicator, or transitive verb of possession.

Turkish (Turkic, pers.doc.)

(11)

a.

Kitap

masa-da(-dır).

book

table-loc(-be)

‘The book is on the table.’

b.

Kitap

masa-da

değil(-dir)

book

table-loc

neg(-be)

‘The book is not on the table.’

c.

Masa-da

bir

kitap

var.

table-loc

one

book

ILP

‘There is a book on the table.’

d.

Masa-da

kitap

yok.

table-loc

book

ILP.neg

‘There is no book on the table.’

3. ILP constructions morphologically distinct from plain locational predication in the languages of the Sudanic belt

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Among the types of ILP constructions listed in Sections 2.2 to 2.8, only two are well-represented among the languages of the Sudanic belt included in my sample: [8]

– ILP constructions involving a specialized inverse-locational predicator (18 languages out of 106)

– have ILP constructions, i.e. ILP constructions involving a predicator also used as a transitive verb of possession (13 languages out of 106).

3.1. Specialized inverse-locational predicators in the languages of the Sudanic belt

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Specialized inverse-locational predicators, illustrated in (12) by Hausa (Chadic) àkwai, are common among Chadic languages. They are also attested in some of the other language families found in the Sudanic belt, but only sporadically.

Hausa (Chadic, Kraft & Kraft 1973)

(12)

a.

Yaàraa

su

nàa

gidaa.

children

3pl

be_at

home

‘The children are at home.’

b.

Àkwai

yaàraa

naàn.

ILP

children

here

‘There are children here.’

3.2. Have ILP constructions in the languages of the Sudanic belt

<20>

This type of ILP constructions, illustrated in (13) by Wolof (Atlantic), is very common among Atlantic languages. It is also attested in some of the other language families found in the Sudanic belt, but only sporadically.

Wolof (Atlantic, Creissels et al. 2015)

(13)

a.

Musaa

am

na

woto.

Moussa

have

prf.3sg

car

‘Moussa has a car.’

b.

Am

na

woto.

have

prf.3sg

car

‘He/she has a car.’ or ‘There is a car.’

3.3. Others

<21>

Among the languages included in the sample, be.with ILP constructions are found only in three languages, all belonging to the Chadic family, and in two of them, they are in competition with a specialized inverse-locational predicator.

Mmala (Bantu A) is the only language of the sample having a there.be ILP construction. Interestingly, the scarcity of there.be ILP constructions among the languages of the Sudanic belt sharply contrasts with the high proportion of languages having this type of ILP construction in the part of the Bantu area that does not overlap with the Sudanic belt (Devos et al. Forthcoming). The other three types are not represented at all.

3.4. Conclusion of Section 3

<22>

In the following two respects, the distribution described in Sections 3.1 to 3.3 is inline with the trends observed in the worldwide sample analyzed in Creissels (Forthcoming):

– In the worldwide sample, more than half of the languages do not have an ILP construction morphologically distinct from plain locational predication; in the Sudanic sample the proportion is particularly high: 72 languages out of 106, i.e. 67.92 %.

– The two types of ILP constructions relatively well-represented in the Sudanic sample (ILP constructions involving specialized inverse-locational predicators, and have ILP constructions) are precisely those that have a particularly wide distribution at world level.

It is however striking that, among the languages of the Sudanic belt, these two types of ILP constructions are mainly found in two particular families:

– The Chadic family is the only one in which constructions with a specialized inverse-locational predicator are well-represented.

– The Atlantic family is the only one in which ILP constructions involving a predicator also used as a transitive verb of possession are well-represented.

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This means that, with the exception of these two families (considered by Güldemann (2018b) as peripheral members of his Macro-Sudan belt), the overwhelming majority of the languages spoken in the Sudanic belt do not have an ILP construction morphologically distinct from plain locational predication: if Atlantic and Chadic languages are removed from the sample, the proportion rises to 87.01 %

4. Languages of the Sudanic belt lacking a morphologically distinct ILP construction

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Outside of the Sudanic belt, the lack of an ILP construction morphologically distinct from plain locational predication is overwhelmingly observed in languages in which constituent order in locational predication is flexible, and variation in constituent order is to some extent semantically comparable to the choice between plain locational predication and inverse locational predication in the languages that have grammaticalized this distinction. Two variants of this situation are particularly well attested.

In languages with basic OV order in transitive predication, it is common that the basic constituent order in locational predication is FIG GR Pred, with the ground phrase immediately before the locational predicator, whereas the alternative order GR FIG Pred provides a rough equivalent of the alternative perspectivization ‘from ground to figure’ – example (14).

Basque (isolate, pers.doc.)

(14)

a.

Parke-a

ibai-ondo-an

dago.

park-sg

river-side-sg.loc

be.prs.3sg

‘The park is next to the river.’

b.

Ibai-ondo-an

parke

eder

bat

dago.

river-side-sg.loc

park

lovely

one

be.prs.3sg

‘There is a lovely park next to the river.’

<25>

In languages with basic VO order in transitive predication, it is common that the basic constituent order in locational predication is FIG Pred GR, with the ground phrase after the locational predicator, whereas the alternative order GR Pred FIG provides a rough equivalent of the alternative perspectivization ‘from ground to figure’ – example (1), repeated here as (15).

Finnish (Uralic, Huumo 2003:464)

(15)

a.

Poika

on

piha-lla.

boy

be.prs.3sg

yard-adess

‘The boy is in the yard.’

b.

Piha-lla

on

poika.

yard-adess

be. prs.3sg

boy

‘There is a boy in the yard.’

There are however languages with rigid constituent order in locational clauses and in which the same locational clauses with the same constituent order can be used indiscriminately in contexts that would trigger a change in constituent order in languages such as Basque or Finnish. Interestingly, almost all of them have rigid VO constituent order in transitive predication, and rigid FIG Pred GR in locational predication – example (2), repeated here as (16), illustrates this situation.

Mangarayi (Gunwingguan, Merlan 1982, quoted by Dryer 2007: 243)

(16)

Mawuj

ja-Ø-ṇi

biyaŋgin

ṇa-boŋgan.

food

3-3sg-be

inside

loc-box

‘There’s food in the box.’ or ‘The food is in the box.’

<26>

Among the languages included in my worldwide sample, leaving aside the languages located in the Sudanic belt as delimited in Section 1.2 or in its immediate vicinity, such as Lingala (Bantu C) or Lango (Eastern Nilotic), the languages described as combining rigid constituent order in locational predication and lack of a morphologically distinct ILP construction are not very numerous. They include Beja (Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic), Gaelic (Indo-European, Celtic), ǂHoan (Kx’a), Irish (Indo-European, Celtic), Kalkatungu (Pama-Nyungan), Kamaiurá (Tupi-Guarani), Mangarayi (Gunwingguan), Nengee (English-based Creole), Retuarã (Tucanoan), Puyuma (Austronesian), Seri (Isolate, Mexico), Urim (Toricelli), Wa (Austro-Asiatic, Mon-Khmer), Wampis (Jivaroan), Yélî Dnye (Isolate, New Guinea), and !Xun (Kx’a).

The situation is strikingly different in the Sudanic belt. As already mentioned, in my sample of languages spoken in this area (see Appendix), 72 languages out of 106 (67.92 %) do not have an ILP construction morphologically distinct from plain locational predication. In one of them (Jaad –Atlantic), the constituent order in locational predication is flexible, and the examples suggest a situation of the type illustrated above by Basque and Finnish. The sample also includes a problematic case (Akan) that will be discussed in section 5. For the remaining 70 languages (66.04 % of the sample), as illustrated in examples (17) to (25), either the descriptions explicitly mention rigid constituent order in locational predication and lack of a morphologically distinct ILP construction, or the examples they provide unambiguously point to a situation of this type.

<27>

Interestingly, the proportion of languages combining rigidity of constituent order in locational predication and absence of a morphologically distinct ILP construction rises to 84.42 % if Atlantic and Chadic (considered by Güldemann (2018b) as peripheral members of his Macro-Sudan belt) are excluded from the sample.

Mandinka (Mande, Creissels & Sambou 2013)

(17)

Wùlôo

yíròo

kótò.

dog.d

lcop

tree.d

under

‘The dog is under the tree.’ or ‘There is a dog under the tree.’

Ganja (Atlantic, Creissels & Biaye 2016: 241, 244)

(18)

a.

Ànîn

mà

âg-gî

fθàambɛ́

woman

def

neg-be

at

rice_field

‘The woman is not at the rice field.’

b.

Wèdé

âg-gî

hǎj.

water

neg-be

place

‘There is no water.’

Kulango (Gur, Kra 2016: 246-247)

(19)

a.

Hʊ̃̀

dékɛ́rɛ́

dɩ̀.

3sg

bed.def

on

‘He is on the bed.’

b.

Dògòɟò

bɔ́tɔ́rɛ́

ǹ.

maize

bag.def

in

‘There is maize in the bag.’

Supyire (Gur, Carlson 1994: 246-247)

(20)

a.

Pi

na

aní.

they

prog

be_there

there

‘They are there.’

b.

na

mέŋi

i.

indef

prog

be_there

there.def

at

‘There is someone over there.’

Mungbam (Benue-Congo, Lovegren 2013: 441)

(21)

a.

Ītī

jī

kə̄-kpɛ̄

kə̄

sú

cl5-stone

cl5.det

cl12-shoe

cl12.det

prep

loc.face

‘The stone is in front of the shoe.’

b.

Ā-dzàŋ

ì-fɛ̀

ì-kɔ̀ŋ

mə̀.

cl5-fly

cl5.head

cl5-funnel

prep

loc.at

‘There’s a fly on the rim of the funnel.’

Gbaya (Ubangian, Roulon-Doko 1998: 116)

(22)

a.

Mí

ʔá̰

ɗòŋmɛ́

ʔèá̰.

1sg

be_at

behind.2sg

only

‘I am just behind you.’

b.

Zóròó

ʔá̰

ɗɔ̀ɔ́

yì.

fish

be_at

under

water

‘There are fish in the water.’

Ngambay (Central Sudanic, Ndjerareou & al. 2010: 21-22)

(23)

a.

Kàu

tò

mè

kàrè

=gə́.

egg

3sg.lie

inside

basket

loc

‘The egg lies in the basket.’

b.

Kāg

tò

nàng

bè.

tree

3sg.lie

ground

emph

‘There is a tree lying on the ground.’

Dinka (Nilotic, Anderson 2016: 649, 2012: 158)

(24)

a.

Tò̤oɲ

à̰=tɔ̤̀

mɛ̰́εεc.

pot

decl.sg=be_present

fire.ess/abl

‘The pot is on the fire.’

b.

Ɲâ̤aŋ

à̰=tɔ̤̀

è̤

wâ̤ar

ḭ̀c.

crocodile

decl.sg =be_present

prep

river

stomach

‘There is a crocodile in the river.’

Pere (Isolate, Jeffrey Heath, pers.com.)

(25)

a.

Kè

tɔ́gbè

wɔ̀

ɲínáà

kíŋgè.

1sg

friend

be

the.house

under

‘My friend is in the house.’

b.

Ɲíní

wɔ̀

lɔ́ɣɔ́nà.

house

be

over.there

‘There is a house there.’

5. A problematic case: Akan (Kwa)

<28>

As regards the relationship between plain locational, inverse locational, and possessive predication, Akan (Kwa) shows an atypical configuration, and its classification in a typology of ILP constructions is problematic.

As a rule, in the languages of the world, if a transitive verb of possession is also used as an inverse-locational predicator, a distinct predicator is found in plain locational predication, and if the same predicator is found in plain and inverse locational predication, this predicator is not used as a transitive verb of possession. In other words, if the same predicator is found in plain locational, inverse locational, and possessive predication, its possessive use cannot be analyzed as an instance of transitive coding with the possessor coded like transitive agents. In addition to Akan (Kwa), the only exceptions to this generalization I came across in my worldwide sample are Qiang (Tibeto-Burman), Manambu and Iatmul (two closely related Papuan languages of the Sepik family), and Malay/Indonesian (Austronesian).

<29>

As illustrated by (26a), Akan can be used in plain locational predication. (26b) shows that the same construction with the same constituent order can be used in contexts suggesting the marked perspectivization ‘from ground to figure’. Therefore, (26a-b) suggest that Akan behaves like most of the languages of the Sudanic belt. However, as shown by (26c), can also be used as a transitive verb of possession (in Akan, the constituent order in transitive predication is agent-verb-patient, and there is no case marking of the patient). Finally, (26d) shows that Akan has the ability to express the marked perspectivization ‘from ground to figure’ by means of a construction analyzable either as a variant of the locational construction (in comparison with (a)), or as a have ILP construction (in comparison with (c)).

Akan (Boadi 1971, Redden & Owusu 1995)

(26)

a.

Me

fíe

nó

mú.

1sg

be/have

house

def

in

‘I am in the house.’

b.

Siká

wɔ̀

ɔdán

nó

mú.

money

be/have

room

def

in

‘There is money in the room.’

c.

Me

fíe

bí.

1sg

be/have

house

indef

‘I have a house.’

d.

Ɔdán

no

mu

wɔ̀

siká.

room

def

in

be/have

money

‘There is money in the room.’

<30>

Diachronically, comparison with Anyi-Baule (a close relative of Akan) suggests that this very atypical configuration may have emerged as the result of a process of have-drift, i.e. acquisition of transitive features by a possessive construction that, originally, did not belong to the Have Possessive type. [9] The point is that Akan is probably cognate with Anyi-Baule wɔ/wo, and in Anyi-Baule, wɔ/wo is exclusively used as a locational predicator, whereas possessive predication involves a transitive verb of possession (le) distinct from the locational predicator wɔ/wo. However, other scenarios can be imagined, and I am aware of no concrete evidence that could help solve this puzzle. More data about possible variation across Akan varieties and closely related languages would be necessary before trying to elaborate a solution.

6. Conclusion

<31>

The main conclusions of this typological study of inverse locational predication in the languages of the Sudanic belt are as follows:

– The proportion of languages that have not grammaticalized a construction specifically expressing inverse locational predication is higher among the languages of the Sudanic belt than at world level. Have ILP constructions are mainly found among Atlantic languages, specialized inverse-locational predicators are mainly found among Chadic languages, and the other possible types of ILP constructions are marginal or inexistent in this area.

– Contrary to the tendency that prevails in the other parts of the world, in the majority of the languages spoken in the Sudanic belt (two thirds of the sample, more than 80 % if Atlantic and Chadic languages are removed from the sample), the construction expressing plain locational predication is also used without any constituent order change in contexts that typically trigger the choice of an ILP construction, in the languages in which such a construction is available.

<32>

Since the languages of the Sudanic belt are overwhelmingly SVO languages, the latter conclusion contradicts the common opinion that ILP constructions in basic SVO languages typically have the constituent order GR Pred FIG (Freeze 1992: 256), or that non-canonical constituent order is a typical characteristic of ILP constructions (Veselinova 2013: 108).

Typologically, this particular rigidity of constituent order in locational predication is not unexpected, since generally speaking, rigidity of constituent order is unquestionably a particularly salient typological feature of the languages of the Sudanic belt. What is however interesting theoretically is that, given the tendency observed elsewhere in the world, languages characterized by a particular rigidity in constituent order could be expected to favor the development of morphologically distinct constructions expressing the inversion of the unmarked perspective ‘from figure to ground’ perspective in locational predication. This assumption is, however, clearly contradicted by the data discussed in this article.

Abbreviations

abl

ablative

ind

indicative

adess

adessive

indef

indefinite

cl

noun class

instr

instrumental

d

default determiner

lcop

locational copula

decl

declarative

loc

locative

def

definite

neg

negative

ess

essive,

pl

plural

expl.

expletive

Pred

predicator

FIG

figure

prep

preposition

gen

genitive

prf

perfect

GR

ground

prog

progressive

ilp

inverse locational predication, or specialized inverse locational predicator

propr

proprietive

sg

singular

Appendix: The language sample

This appendix lists the languages spoken in the Sudanic belt that constitute the sample on which this study is based. The languages are grouped on the basis of the ‘basic classificatory units’ proposed by Güldemann (2018a), with two exceptions: Mel (Güldemann’s U11.B) is distinguished from (Core) Atlantic (Güldemann’s 11.A), and the distinction between (Narrow) Kwa and Benue-Congo (conflated by Güldemann into his U6 Benue-Kwa) is maintained. The second column indicates the availability of a construction expressing inverse locational predication morphologically distinct from plain locational predication. ILP constructions morphologically distinct from plain locational predication are characterized according to the typological grid put forward in section 2. In this column, ‘spec. pred.’ signals the use of a specialized inverse-locational predicator. The third column indicates the source of the data.

BENUE-CONGO

Bafia (Bantu A)

Devos et al. (spec. pred.)

Bambalang (Grassfields Bantu)

Wright (2009)

Duala (Bantu A)

Devos et al. (forthcoming)

Eton (Bantu A)

Van de Velde (2008)

Fang (Bantu A)

Pither Medjo Mve (pers. com.)

Gunu (Bantu A)

Devos et al. (forthcoming)

Igbo

have ILP

Onumajuru (1985)

Kana

Ikoro (1996)

Koko (Bantu A)

Devos et al. (forthcoming)

Mankon (Grassfields Bantu)

Leroy (2007)

Mmala (Bantu A)

there.be ILP

Devos et al. (forthcoming)

Mungbam

Lovegren (2013)

Nizaa

Kjelsvik (2002)

Obolo

have ILP

Rowland-Oke (2003)

Oko

Atoyebi (2008)

Tiv

Abraham (1940)

Urhobo

spec.pred.

Blanc (1985)

Yoruba

pers. doc.

DAKOID

Samba-Daka

Koch (2012)

KWA

Abidji

Tresbarats & Vick (1992)

Akan

? (see Section 5)

Boadi (1971)

Attie

Kouadio (1996)

Baule

Creissels & Kouadio (1977)

Ewe

Felix Ameka, pers. com.

Fon

spec. pred.

Segurola & Rassinoux (2000)

Ikposo

Soubrier (2013)

Logba

Dorvlo (2008)

Tafi

Bobuafor (2013)

PERE

Pere

Jeffrey Heath, pers. com.

KRU

Newole

Grah (1983)

MEL

Gola

Koroma (1994)

Kisi

Paulme (1964)

Mani

Childs (2011)

Temne

Bai-Sheka (1981)

ATLANTIC

Basari

spec. pred.

Loïc-Michel Perrin (pers. com.)

Bijogo

Guillume Segerer (pers. com.)

Fula

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Ganja

Creissels and Biaye (2016)

Jaad

Joola

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Lehar, aka Laalaa

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Mankanya

have ILP

pers.doc.

Nalu

Frank Seidl (pers. com.)

Ndut

have ILP

Morgan (1996)

Nyun

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Pepel

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Saafi

have ILP

Mbodj (1983)

Sereer

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

Wolof

have ILP

Creissels et al. (2015)

GUR

Chakali

Brindle & Atintono (2012)

Dagara

Somé (2013)

Gurenne

Brindle & Atintono (2012)

Gurmanche

Chantoux et al. (1968)

Koromfe

Prost (1980)

Kulango

Kra (2016)

Lobi

Becuwe (1982)

Moore

Kabore (1980)

Pana

Beyer (2006)

Supyire

Carlson (1994)

Syer

Dombrovsky-Hahn (2015)

Tiefo

Heath et al. (2017)

ADAMAWA

Samba-Leko

Fabre (2003)

Tupuri

spec. pred.

Ruelland (1992)

MANDE

Beng

Paperno (2014)

Bobo

Le Bris & Prost (1981)

Boko

Prost (1976)

Dzuungoo

Solomiac (2007)

Gban

Fedotov (2017)

Kpelle

Konoshenko (2017)

Mano

Khachaturyan (2014)

Mandinka

Creissels & Sambou (2013)

Soninke

pers.doc.

Soso

pers.doc.

Tigemaxo

Blecke (1996)

Vai

Welmers (1976)

Wan

Nikitina (2017)

SONGHAY

Humburi Senni

Heath (2014)

Koyra Chiini

Heath (1999a)

Koyraboro Senni

Heath (1999b)

Tadaksahak

Christiansen-Bolli (2010)

CHADIC

Baraïn

spec. pred.

Lovestrand (2012)

Bole

spec. pred. /

be.with ILP

Russell Schuh (pers.comm.)

Buwal

spec. pred.

Viljoen (2013)

Daba

have ILP

Lienhard (1978)

Goemai

Hellwig (2011)

Hausa

spec. pred. /

be.with ILP

Newman (2000)

Hdi

spec. pred.

Frajzyngier & Shay (2002)

Lele

spec. pred.

Frajzyngier (2001)

Mina

spec. pred.

Frajzyngier & Johnston (2005)

Miya

spec. pred.

Schuh (1998)

Moloko

spec. pred.

Friesen (2017)

Sakun

be.with ILP

Thomas (2014)

Wandala

spec. pred.

Frajzyngier (2012)

Zaar

spec. pred.

Bernard Caron (pers. com.)

UBANGIAN

Baka

Djoupée (2017)

Banda-Linda

Cloarec-Heiss (1998)

Gbaya

Roulon (1998)

Sango

Diki-Kidiri (1998)

CENTRAL SUDANIC

Bagiro, aka Furu

Boyeldieu (2000)

Deme

spec. pred.

Palayer (2006)

Ma’di

spec. pred.

Blackings and Fabb (2003)

Mangbetu

Larochette (1958)

Ngambay

Ndjerareou et al. (2010)

Sar

Palayer (1989)

WESTERN NILOTIC

Anywa, aka anuak

spec. pred.

Reh (1993)

Dinka

Andersen (2019)

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The noun and verb phrase in Chrambo (Bambalang). Yaoundé: SIL Cameroon



[1] On the notion of perspectivization in relationship to the analysis of existential predication, see Partee & Borschev (2007). I agree with Partee & Borschev that the choice between plain locational and inverse locational predication does not boil down to the expression of distinctions in information structure, and reflects a deeper semantic distinction, which in my understanding of this notion also underlies the choice between, for example, active and passive constructions, in the languages that have this distinction. Perspectival structure has been discussed in the cognitive linguistics literature under names such as viewpoint, or semantic starting point for the predication. To put it in a nutshell, the idea is that uttering a sentence referring to a given situation implies first ‘scanning’ the situation; starting form a participant inherently more salient than the others constitutes the unmarked way of carrying this operation, but depending on the individual languages, alternative constructions encoding the choice of another participant as the perspectival center may have been grammaticalized.

[2] According to Koch (2012), the distinction between plain and inverse locational predication directly reflects a difference in the information structure status of the figure and the ground, hence the terms of thematic vs. rhematic location he proposes. In the present article, I adopt a different approach, developed by Barbara Partee and Vladimir Borschev in a series of articles in which they argue that the contrast between plain and inverse locational predication is only indirectly related to information structure, and basically reflects the ‘perspectivization’ of figure-ground relationships. The crucial observation is that both plain and inverse locational predication can be manipulated to express variation in information structure, which should not be the case if the choice were basically a question of information structure. For a detailed discussion of this point, the readers are referred to Partee & Borschev (2004, 2007), Borschev & Partee (2002), and Creissels (Forthcoming).

[3] At least the Northern part of Bantu zones C and D would probably also deserve to be included in the Sudanic belt, but on the basis of the data I have at my disposal, I am not in a position to propose a precise decision on this point, so that I preferred not to include languages from the Bantu zones C and D in my sample.

[4] In the context of the present article, it is not necessary to discuss the possible relationships between Güldemann’s (2018a) ‘basic classificatory units’ within the frame of broader groupings such as Niger-Congo or Nilo-Saharan. It is not necessary, either, to have a firm position about the distinction between a core and a periphery of the Sudanic belt, since the discussion concentrates on a particular feature that has not been considered so far as potentially contributing to the delimitation of this area. We will see for example that Atlantic and Songhay, equally included in the periphery of the Sudanic belt by Güldemann (2018a), behave very differently with respect to the particular feature investigated in this article.

[5] Note that Brasilian Portuguese, in contrast to European Portuguese, does not allow null subjects with an anaphoric reading. Consequently, in BP, contrary to EP, this sentence cannot be interpreted as ‘He/she has two computers in the office’.

[6] Note that, in this construction, the locative can be analyzed as the syntactic subject, since it is resumed by the subject index of one of the locative classes (here class 18) in the same way as non-locative NPs in subject function.

[7] This precision is crucial, since diachronically, any of the types listed in the previous sections can be converted into a construction involving a specialized inverse-locational predicator, as the result of evolutions that blur the relationship between the ILP construction and the locational or possessive construction to which it was related originally. For example, Spanish haber ‘there be’ was originally a transitive verb of possession also used impersonally as an inverse-locational predicator, but its replacement by tener in the function of verb of possession resulted in that, synchronically, haber can only be analyzed as a specialized inverse-locational predicator.

[8] The language sample I used for this study is a convenience sample including all the languages spoken in the Sudanic belt as delimited in section 1.2 for which I had no difficulty in finding relevant data, with however an important reservation: whenever two or more languages with a very close genetic relationhip show the same configuration as regards locational and inverse locational predication, I have arbitrarily selected one of them. For example, Mandinka is the only Manding language included in the sample, but the same configuration is found in all the other Manding varieties (Bambara, Maninka, Jula, Koyaga, etc.).

[9] On the notion of have-drift, see Stassen (2009: 208-243).

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