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lun. 22/04/2024 [Séminaire DiLiS] Ideophones, conative animal calls, and interjections in Maasai
MSH-LSE, salle Elise Rivet & hybride
Conférence de :
  • Michael Karani (University of Dar es Salaam)

dans le cadre DILIS

African languages are rich in the grammar of interactives but some interactive word categories have not been given enough attention by grammarians. There are numerous interactive speech categories which were left out in the early grammars of world languages. Recent literature suggest that linguists have started to closely investigate the categories of interactives (Heine, 2023; Ameka, 1992, 2001, 2006; Amha, 2013; Dingemanse, 2012; Poyatos, 1993, 2002; Andrason & Karani, 2021). Such categories include conative animal calls, emotive interjections, ideophones, attention signals, directives, discourse markers, evaluatives, response elicitors, response signals, vocatives and social formulae (Heine, 2023). We investigated three categories in Arusa, a Maasai dialect spoken in Arusha, northern Tanzania, near Mt. Kilimanjaro. In our studies, we employed a typologically-based and prototype-driven approach to the categories to determine the canonical and non-canonical members of the categories (Janda, 2015; Croft, 2003; Wierzbicka, 2003; Aikhenvald, 2010; Andrason, 2020).
Data were collected from more than twenty speakers in Arusha between 2019 and 2023. The analysis focused on phonetic, morphological, semantic/pragmatic and syntactic features of the tokens as presented in the respective articles. The findings suggest that most of the words in the three categories in question, conative animal calls (Andrason and Karani, 2021), ideophones (Karani and Andrason, 2022), and emotive interjections (Andrason and Karani, 2023) have canonical features making them the primary members of such word classes. Only some derived and borrowed words divert from the canonical qualities to non-canonical status in each particular category.


Aikhenvald, A. (2010). Imperatives and commands. Oxford University Press.
Ameka, F. (2001). “Ideophones and the nature of the adjective word class in Ewe.” In Ideophones, edited by Erhard Voeltz and Christa Kilian-Hatz, p. 25–48. John Benjamins.
Ameka, F. (1992). Interjections: The universal yet neglected part of speech. Journal of Pragmatics 18,2-3. 101-118.
Ameka, F. (2006). Interjections. In Brown, Keith (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 743-746.
Amha, A. (2013). Directives to humans and to domestic animals: The imperative and some interjections in Zargulla. In Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle & Martine Vanhove (eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Cushitic and Omotic Languages, Paris, 16-18 April 2008, 211–229. Koln: Rudiger Koppe.
Andrason, A. & Karani, M. (2023). Emotive interjections in Arusa Maasai. Italian Journal of Linguistics, 35(2), 75-118. https://doi.org/10.26346/1120-2726-212
Andrason, A. & Karani, M. (2021). Conative calls to animals: From Arusa Maasai to a cross-linguistic prototype. Łódź Papers in Pragmatics 17,1. 3-41. https://doi.org/10.1515/lpp-2021-0002
Andrason, A. (2020). “Ideophones as linguistic “rebels” – The extra-systematicity of ideophones in Xhosa. Part 1.” Asian and African Studies 29(2), 119–65.
Croft, W. (2003). Typology and universals. Cambridge University Press.
Dingemanse, M. (2012). “Advances in the cross-linguistic study of ideophones.” Language and Linguistics Compass 6, 654–72.
Heine, B. (2023). The Grammar of Interactives. Oxford University Press.
Janda, L. (2015). Cognitive linguistics in the year 2015. Cognitive Semantics 1. 131-154.
Karani, M. & Andrason A. (2022). Ideophones in Arusa Maasai: Syntax, morphology and phonetics. Open Linguistics, 8(1), 440-458. https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2022-0220
Poyatos, F. (1993). Paralanguage: A linguistic and interdisciplinary approach to interactive speech and sounds. John Benjamins.
Poyatos, F. (2002). Nonverbal communication across disciplines. Volume II: Paralanguage, kinesics, silence, personal and environmental interaction. John Benjamins.
Wierzbicka, A. (2003). Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: The Semantics of Human Interaction. Mouton de Gruyter.

Michael Karani
+255 753 826 611
Centre for Communication Studies
College of Humanities
University of Dar es Salaam

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