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A Grammar of Ts'amakko

This dissertation presents the first full grammatical description of bago ts'amakkilo ('mouth of the Ts'amakko'), or simply Ts'amakko. It is a Cushitic language, spoken in Southwest Ethiopia and belongs to the Dullay cluster of Lowland East Cushitic. The number of speakers is about 10,000. The data were collected during about seven months of fieldwork in the Ts’amakko village of Luqa. The working language was Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.

Graziano Savà
10 October 2005
Full dissertation

The grammar presents the salient phonological, morphological and syntactic characteristics of Ts'amakko. The language shows a number of interesting typological features. The inventory of the consonant phonemes shows a remarkable series of implosives and ejectives. The tone system is characterized by two tones (High and Low) with a restricted functional load. There is an overt three-class gender classification (M, F and P) and number derivation (Masculine Singulative, Feminine Singulative and Plurative). Grammatical elements with complex meaning, which modify noun phrases in adverbial position are the clitics =nu 'to and from', =ma 'towards and into', =yay 'with' and =ta 'upon'. =nu is particularly interesting because it may act as an ablative and a benefactive marker. There is series of pronominal particles: ko (m), te (f) and ke (p). They agree in gender with a head noun and appear in combination with a number of modifiers, including relative clauses.

Verbs are formally divided into two classes. The main paradigms are Unmarked and Marked-Imperfective. The first is used whenever the sentence does not require any time or aspect specification. The second is specifically used whenever the action needs to be described as an ongoing process. Subject focus is expressed by associating third person masculine verb forms to any person. Verbs are derived by means of verbalising suffixes, valency-changing suffixes and derivational stems. The derivations are Causative, Middle, Passive and Inceptive. In addition, there are two types of derivational stems: the Punctual, expressed by gemination of the second root consonant, and the Iterative, expressed by reduplication of the verb root. Adverbials, relational nouns and interrogatives are morphologically similar to nouns, but they are syntactically classified as separate word classes. Relational nouns, in particular, are only used to specify the space position of a noun with respect to a location.

The grammar includes three folktales in transcription, gloss annotation and translation. The actors in the folktales are animals. The main character is the squirrel, garro, which appears as the smartest of all animals in the Ts’amakko oral literature. Finally, the last chapter presents basic wordlists. The order is both Ts'amakko English and English Ts'amakko. 

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