Verbal suffixes and suffix reduction in Surkum and other Northern Burun languages: Interaction with focus

Torben Andersen 1
  • 1 Aarhus University.


Surkum and other languages belonging to the Northern Burun branch of Western Nilotic have a word-final verbal suffix (with several allomorphs) which does not contribute to the propositional content of the sentence. It is obligatory in, for instance, affirmative declarative clauses with the verb in final position, while it is precluded in, for instance, negative clauses, constituent questions and cleft sentences. Thus, this “affirmative” suffix is in complementary distribution with explicitly or inherently focalized constituents or elements. Therefore, it is arguably a grammatically controlled focus marker which obligatorily focalizes the verb or the polarity whenever nothing else is in focus.

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The Journal of African Languages and Linguistics was founded in 1979 and has established itself as an important refereed forum for publications in African linguistics. The journal welcomes original contributions on all aspects of African language studies, synchronic as well as diachronic, theoretical as well as data-oriented.