Thu 16 May – Jens Fleischhauer

Speaker: Jens Fleischhauer (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Title: ‘My mother’, ‘Your father’: Suppletive kinship terms in African languages
Date: Thu 16 May
Location: Lipsius 1.33
Zoom: Link / Meeting ID: 619 5663 5565 / Passcode: W$3VScD%
Time: 16:15 – 17:30

Many languages exhibit a high degree of morphological irregularity in the domain of kinship terms. These terms are inherently relational and thus fall morphosyntactically within the realm of possession. For instance, languages with an alienability split tend to realize kinship relations as inalienable.

In a comparative study of languages in Papua New Guinea, Baerman (2014) identified another type of widespread morphological irregularity. Numerous languages have suppletive noun stems depending on grammatical features of the possessor. A common pattern is distinguishing egocentric possession (‘my mother’) from non-egocentric possession (‘your mother’, ‘her mother’).

Suppletive kinship terms can also be found in African languages. So far, this topic has not been studied comparatively for the languages of the African continent. In this presentation, I will present the results of a typological study of suppletive kinship terms in African languages based on a sample of around 90 languages. The results show that this form of morphological irregularity seems to be relatively widespread in Africa as well, but different suppletion patterns dominate compared to the languages of Papua New Guinea.

Baerman, Matthew. 2014. Suppletive kin term paradigms in the languages of New Guinea. Linguistic Typology 18 (3): 413-448.

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