Directionality in Grammar and Discourse

ISBN 978-3-89645-899-5

Directionality in Grammar and Discourse

Case Studies from Africa

Edited by: Angelika Mietzner, Ulrike Claudi. With contributions by: Suzan Alamin, Torben Andersen, Gratien G. Atindogbé, Ulrike Claudi, Gerrit J. Dimmendaal, Klaudia Dombrowsky-Hahn, Martina Ernszt, Axel Fleisch, Roland Kießling, Angelika Mietzner, Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †, Nico Nassenstein, Helma Pasch, Doris Richter gen. Kemmermann, Gertrud Schneider-Blum.

Series: TIAS Topics in Interdisciplinary African Studies Volume 29

232 pp.
2 colour maps, 1 map, 19 figures, 2 graphs, 1 dendrogramme, numerous tables and charts
Text language(s): English
€ 69.80

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This volume on the expression of directionality in African languages is the output of a workshop Directionality in Grammar and Discourse: Evidence from African Languages that was held at the University of Cologne, Germany in June 10–11, 2010. This workshop on directionality was a continuation of a previous one on “Encoding Motion: Case Studies from Africa”, which was held in 2007. The results of the 2007 workshop have been published under the same title – edited by Angelika Mietzner and Yvonne Treis – see link below.

The idea of planning such a workshop was motivated by the fact that a large number of African languages exhibit multiple ways of expressing the direction towards or away from a deictic center, either by fixed morphemes or by other grammatical elements. Former research had also revealed that directional morphology may develop semantics that go beyond the encoding of direction properly. So, the question was: How do African languages encode directionality, and in which way may particular forms receive semantics that have no obvious semantic relation to directionality?

The participants presented papers on Afroasiatic, Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan languages, i.e. on languages of all of the four African language phyla: the Afroasiatic phylum is represented by Berber (Fleisch) and Somali (Northern Cushitic; Claudi). Niger-Congo is represented by Tima (Eastern Sudanic; Alamin / Schneider-Blum / Dimmendaal), Zande (Ubangi; Pasch), Mbembe (Jukunoid; Richter gen. Kemmermann), Syer (Senufo; Dom­brow­sky-Hahn), as well as by Bantu languages (Atindogbé, Möhlig, Nassenstein). Nilo-Saharan languages are represented by languages of the Eastern Sudanic branch, Dinka (Western Nilotic; Andersen), Nilotic (Mietzner) and Nubian (Jakobi). One Khoisan language was investigated, namely Nǁng (Ernszt).


Suzan Alamin / Gertrud Schneider-Blum / Gerrit J. Dimmendaal: Finding your way in Tima

Torben Andersen: Verbal directionality and argument alternation in Dinka

Gratien G. Atindogbé: On the typology of directional verbs in Bantu A (Barombi, Isubu, Mokpe, and Oroko)

Ulrike Claudi: Who moves, and why? Somali deictic particles

Klaudia Dombrowsky-Hahn: Grammaticalization of the deictic verbs ‘come’ and ‘go’ in Syer

Martina Ernszt: On the different uses of the deictic directional verbs ‘go’ and ‘come’ in N||ng

Axel Fleisch: Directionality in Berber – Orientational clitics in Tashelhiyt and related varieties

Roland Kiessling: Extensive is up, intensive is down –  the vertical directional background of the adverbials k/ vs. ts/ in Isu

Angelika Mietzner: Spatial orientation in Nilotic languages and the forces of innovation

Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig: Directionality as a basic principle in Otjiherero verb constructions

Nico Nassenstein: Directionality in Lingala

Helma Pasch: Two multifunctional locative and directional prepositions in Zande

Doris Richter gen. Kemmermann: Directional verbs in Mbembe

Under these links you will find publications of the contributors:

Accompanying material:



As evidenced by all the sample material discussed in the book, African languages use various grammatical means to provide precise location or motion towards or away from a deictic center. However, the authors go far beyond in their investigations and demonstrate how metaphor and pragmatic strengthening transfer the expressions primarily associated with spatial concepts onto many other cognitive domains, including: vision, orientation, social interactions, and highly abstract grammaticalized domains. Hence, directionality appears as a broad concept covering various functions of language specific grams (lexical expressions, particles, morphemes) used in a number of different pragmatic contexts. In addition, many authors provide a diachronic aspect of analysis and trace directional grams to their etymological sources, which include, among others, verbs of motion and body part terms. [...]

To conclude, the volume provides a lot of valuable linguistic material and analyses and can be recommended to all interested in African languages and typological studies.

Iwona Kraska-Szlenk in Studies of the Department of African Languages and Cultures, 47/2013, 125-129

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