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Auteur: Steve NICOLLE

Expressing conjunction and conditionals in Digo through TAM marking

Abstract/Résumé: In Digo, a Bantu language, both clausal conjunction and conditional sentences are expressed primarily through TAM marking on the verb. Different TAM marking expresses different kinds of conjunction and condition, but pragmatic inference is still involved in determining the precise intended relations between clauses. Clausal conjunction: When two clauses sharing the same subject are conjoined in Digo, the second verb takes different TAM marking from the first. In one construction, a finite/imperative verb phrase and an infinitive verb are joined by the comitative marker 'na'. For example, taking and washing a pot (described with finite verbs) serves as a preparation for filling it with water (described with an infinitive verb). This construction is used when there is a close conceptual link between the events described. This construction is also used to indicate separate actions which need not be sequential, so long as they are conceptually linked, such as eating and drinking. Sequential and non-sequential meanings are therefore pragmatically inferred in this construcution. Where there is no cause-consequence relationship but events occur in sequence, a different construction is used. Second and subsequent events are expressed using either the consecutive tense chi- (following an initial verb in the past tense) or the sequential tense ka- (following any other verb form). The comitative marker na is optional and is rarely used, especially when verbs share the same subject. Conditional sentences Clauses describing likely or possible conditions do not involve a logical word like ‘if’ in Digo, but rather depend on TAM marking, notably in the protasis. This TAM marking mirrors that in consecutive and sequential clauses. Whilst consecutive and sequential clauses describe events which occur after some other event, conditional clauses represent events which must happen before some other event can occur. Interestingly, in Digo, the two forms which occur in the protasis of possible/hypothetical conditional sentences have the same forms (chi- and ka-) as the consecutive and sequential TAM markers. The speaker’s evaluation of the protasis as likely, unlikely, or hypothetical is not encoded by chi- or ka- but must be inferred, which makes these constructions less specific than the English translations ‘if’ and ‘when’. Contrary-to-fact conditionals are usually expressed using a logical word plus conditional TAM marking in the apodosis.