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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 12, 2019

On the development of two progressive constructions in U̠t-Ma’in

Rebecca Paterson
From the journal Folia Linguistica


U̠t-Ma’in (Kainji, Benue-Congo), spoken in northwestern Nigeria, has two morphosyntactically distinct progressive constructions – the Intransitive Progressive Construction and the Transitive Progressive Construction. This paper presents the synchronic structure of each construction, proposed historical sources of the distinct morphological pieces, and a comparison of the U̠t-Ma’in Progressive Constructions with cognate elements from four Kainji language clusters. No single source component has grammaticalized to mark progressive aspect in U̠t-Ma’in. Rather, the combination of several elements created the progressive. Formal changes in several morphosyntactic elements within each of the constructions provide evidence that originally nominalized verb forms are gradually becoming less noun-like and more verb-like. These developments are examples of constructionalization, as the Progressive Constructions exist as new form-meaning pairs distinct from the source. These formal changes also show signs of adjustment, whereby a construction moves toward isomorphism, that is, a one-to-one correspondence between form and meaning. Specifically, various stages of morphological loss are evident in particular lexemes when used in U̠t-Ma’in Progressive Constructions, gradually spreading throughout the lexicon.



1st person


3rd person


agent-like argument


agreement marker


associative marker




class marker






















locative marker




noun phrase






object argument


object form






perfect tense


progressive aspect






relative marker


single argument












verb phrase


I wish to thank the members of the U̠t-Ma’in speaking community who have welcomed me over the years and taught me so much about their language and way of life. I also thank my colleagues at the University of Oregon specifically, Doris L. Payne, Spike Gildea, Sara Pacchiarotti, Shahar Shirtz, Marie-Caroline Pons and Don Daniels for input on previous drafts of this study. I am grateful to Muriel Norde, the editorial board, and two anonymous reviewers at Folia Linguistica Historica for their encouragement and input. Funding for this study was provided by the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon (2016) and the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research (2016). The last stages of this project have received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 758232).


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Received: 2018-09-27
Revised: 2019-03-13
Revised: 2019-07-26
Accepted: 2019-08-28
Published Online: 2019-11-12
Published in Print: 2019-11-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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