Somali middle: Voice or derivation?

  • Author / Creator
    Barise, Aisha
  • Traditionally, the term “middle” refers to a semantically driven concept that is often linked to the term “voice” in descriptive and theoretical grammars. This thesis rigorously examines the status of the Somali middle suffix -at as voice by applying the concept of voice proposed in Mel’čuk (1991), which defines voice as an inflectional category, where by its categories (grammemes) result in a modification of the basic diathesis, whilst maintaining its propositional meaning. A close look at the Somali middle reveals that while it shares the semantics of what are called “middle voices” in many languages, it does not meet Mel’čuk’s criteria for being a voice and instead fits better into the category of derivation.
    Examination of a corpus of Somali middle forms reveals that while -at in fact conforms to the middle semantic domains identified in Kemmer (1993), -at expresses other meanings as well, some of them within but others outside the middle semantic domain. Despite having middle semantics, -at has many unvoice-like properties. These include inconsistent diathetic effects on the base to which -at is attached, some of which alter the base’s valence, whereas voices should maintain the basic valence while maintaining the propositional meaning. Further examination of the corpus also reveals that -at shows signs of irregularity incompatible with its being an inflection. Testing of -at stems reveals that many stems formed with -at are semantically irregular, that -at has unpredictable meanings with given bases, and that the stem is largely unproductive. All of this evidence taken together suggests that -at is a derivational suffix with middle semantics.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.