Chapter published in:Similative and Equative Constructions: A cross-linguistic perspective
Edited by Yvonne Treis and Martine Vanhove
[Typological Studies in Language 117] 2017
► pp. 239–258
Expressing similarity in Yulu and other Sara-Bongo-Bagirmi languages (Central Africa)
Yulu – a Sara-Bongo-Bagirmi (SBB) language of the Central African Republic and South Sudan – expresses similarity by means of two related morphemes, namely bə̏ ~ bȅ ‘like, as’, and bȅndē ‘like, as, as if’. The second, presumably a compound form has a wider use: it may introduce a proper name, a personal pronoun, or a demonstrative substitute. It can also mark verbal clauses. The first part of the paper is devoted to the behaviour of these terms in Yulu. In particular it considers the syntactic units that may be modified by bȅndē, and reviews the secondary values that are attested besides actual “similarity”: “categorization”, “conformity”, “approximation”, and “illustration”. It then raises the question of a possible link between bə̏ ‘like, as’ and the homophonous locative preposition bə̏ ‘at (somebody’s place)’, equivalent to French chez, and argues for different origins. Finally some clues strongly suggest that bə̏ ~ bȅ ‘like, as’ originates from a noun *bȁa with the likely meaning ‘way (of being), manner’. The second part of the paper shifts to a concise account of similar facts in some genetically related SBB languages. Only some of them display cognates of Yulu bə̏ ~ bȅ which also function as prepositions/conjunctions (‘like, as, as if’). Likely related forms may be found in other languages, mostly with the meaning of ‘thus, like this/that’. Lastly, other means of expressing similarity are quickly reviewed in a dozen of related languages. In most cases the markers represent grammaticalised forms of verbs meaning ‘be similar, alike’ or body-part nouns with a secondary value of ‘manner, conformity’. In this respect, SBB languages display a variety of forms and strategies that contrast with their genetic closeness and point to the historical instability of the linguistic material used in this functional and semantic domain.
Keywords: Yulu, Bongo-Bagirmi languages, similarity, origin of similative morphemes, conformity, approximation, illustration/exemplariness
Published online: 31 May 2017
2006 Présentation des langues Sara-Bongo-Baguirmiennes. Paris. CNRS-LLACAN. http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/SBB/presentation.html (22 June 2016).
2007 Compound verbs and modalities of process in Yulu (Central Sudanic). In Advances in Nilo-Saharan Linguistics. Proceedings of the 8th Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium, University of Hamburg, August 22–25, 2001 [Nilo-Saharan 22], Mechthild Reh & Doris L. Payne (eds), 25–39. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.
Boyeldieu, Pascal, Nougayrol, Pierre & Palayer, Pierre
2006 Lexique comparatif historique des langues sara-bongo-baguirmiennes. Paris: CNRS-LLACAN. http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/SBB/ (22 June 2016).
Danay, Kamis, Makode, Mando, Nikubu, Ganda, Tambyo, Maurice, Ngarassim, Namala & Goytisolo, Augustin
Djemadjioudjiel, Noël Le Mbaindo & Fédry, Jacques
Keegan, John M. (compiled with Marcel Nangbaye and Bertin Manadji Tolkom)
Keegan, John M.
2013 The Central Sara Languages [including Gor, Gulay, Mango and Bebote]. Cuenca: Morkeg Books. http://morkegbooks.com/Services/World/Languages/SaraBagirmi/pdfs/TheCentralSaraLanguages.pdf (22 June 2016).
Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. & Schultze-Berndt, Eva F.
Koutou, Kodé & John M. Keegan
2013 Lexique Na. Cuenca: Morkeg Books. http://morkegbooks.com/Services/World/Languages/SaraBagirmi/pdfs/KabaNa.pdf (22 June 2016).
Palayer, Pierre (avec la collaboration de Massa Solekaye).
Stevenson, Roland C.
. ms. Lexique kaba de Paoua.
. ms. Note sur le wada.
. ms. Lexique ndoka.
. ms. Lexique bongo.
. ms. Lexique nduga.