Pluractionality in Mayan

Authored by: Robert Henderson

The Mayan Languages

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415738026
eBook ISBN: 9781315192345
Adobe ISBN:


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The term “pluractional” originates in Newman 1980 to describe a particular class of derived verb stems in Chadic languages that had up until that point been called “intensive”. The descriptive intuition that underlies their renaming is that these stems uniformly denote plural actions. For instance, reduplicating the initial syllable of the Hausa verb nèemí ‘seek’ generates a new stem nàn-nèemí meaning ‘to seek all over’ or ‘to seek a lot’ (Newman 2012:ex.1b). Under both translations, though, it is clear that the verb stem no longer denotes simple atomic events of seeking. While invented for Chadic languages, Newman’s notion of pluractionality has proved to be fruitful. Pluractional derivations have subsequently come to be found across the world’s languages, though perhaps especially so in the indigenous languages of Africa and the Americas (Mithun 1988; Wood 2007). One of the primary goals of this chapter is to show that Mayan languages are no exception, and that some are, in fact, particularly rich in pluractional morphology.

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