Séminaires Llacan

Séminaire du Llacan
3 avril 10H – Self-propelled WALK verbs in Beja (Cushitic)

Ce mercredi 3 avril, c’est Martine Vanhove qui interviendra au séminaire du Llacan – en français, bien que le titre soit ici en anglais tout comme le résumé ci-dessous.

Abstract : Beja, the sole Cushitic language of the Northern branch (Afroasiatic), is mostly a verb-framed language, according to Talmy’s (1985, 2009, 2016) typology of motion events (see e.g. Slobin (2006), and Nikitina (2013) for discussions), but with a rich lexical encoding of the manners of motion, as well as time, cause and goal. Leaving aside the typological classification of motion events, this presentation will focus on how the semantic domain of the self-propelled motion of walking is carved up. Beja counts no less than 34 self-propelled walk verbs that can be subcategorized into four lexical categories, based on morphological and semantic criteria:

  1. Base verbs denoting different time-related and manners of walking of various morpho-phonological make-up (e.g. arfak ‘to walk trembling’; tas ‘to walk very quickly with very small steps’; tiːloːg ‘to walk with very long steps’)
  2. Base verbs denoting different manners of walking belonging to a dedicated morphological pattern, CaːC(C)eːC (e.g. faːrʔeːk ‘to walk swiftly with great steps, legs and arms apart’; maːkeːk ‘to walk heavily legs apart)
  3. Pluractional verbs related to six semantic classes of base verbs: bend verbs, verbs of directional motion, measure verbs, change-of-configuration verbs, and verbs of flowing and rolling (some of which also belong to the CaːC(C)eːC pattern or are derived from type (1)) (e.g. ʤigʷir ‘to bend’> ʤigʷir~ʤigʷir ‘to walk bent forward dashing as if in order to catch s.th., s.o.’; hanig ‘to bend’ > haːneːg ‘to walk bent to the side’; gid ‘to throw’ > gageːdam ‘to walk heavily swinging the body and/or the arms’)
  4. Colexifications with verbs of flowing and panting (e.g. har ‘1. to pant (without a strong sound), 2. to walk swiftly like a panting tired dog’; ʃankʷaːkʷ ‘1.to flow quietly, 2. to walk slowly’).

In addition to the two superordinate walk verbs, hiːreːr ‘to walk’ and libas ‘to walk at night’, three salient manner features are co-expressed in the self-propelled walk verbs: (a) movements of the body, arms, and legs, (b) speed and rhythm, and (c) length of steps, which can combine within one lexical item. In addition, a few verbs also include the (d) aim of locomotion or its (e) direction.

Based on naturalistic data (narratives, jokes, interviews) collected in Sudan from a variety of speakers, and on a bilingual dictionary (in prep.), the presentation will discuss cognitive, communicative, sociological, cultural, and environmental issues related to self-propelled walk verbs. I will show that both base verbs and the metaphorically induced derived verbs are all motivated by socio-cultural and environmental factors, i.e. social rules of public and private behavior, the importance of camel breeding and caravan trade in the society, and the arid climate. I will also address the communicative role of humorous interactions in the use of the non-basic walk verbs, which are otherwise rarely used, a scarcity in line with the typological profile of motion events in Beja (Slobin 2006).


Nikitina, Tatiana. 2013. Lexical splits in the encoding of motion events from Archaic to Classical Greek. In Goschler, Juliana & Anatol Stefanowitsch (eds.), Variation and Change in the Encoding of Motion Events. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 185-201.


Pour suivre par zoom, si besoin : https://cnrs.zoom.us/j/95654741763
ID  réunion : 956 5474 1763
Code secret : 81Llacan35