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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Volume 30, Issue 1


Differential object marking in Tigrinya

Dirk Kievit / Saliem Kievit
Published Online: 2009-08-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JALL.2009.004


Tigrinya, a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia, is one of about 300 known languages world-wide that mark certain direct object nominals while leaving others unmarked. Cross-linguistically, this phenomenon, known as differential object marking (DOM), is most often correlated with the relative definiteness and/or animacy of the object. The divergence among languages in DOM is explained in Optimality Theory by the different ways in which languages resolve the tension between iconicity (favoring marked structures) on the one hand and economy (penalizing marking) on the other hand. Based on a statistical analysis of object marking in a chapter of a contemporary Tigrinya novel, this paper argues that Tigrinya is an example of two-dimensional DOM in which nominal object marking largely correlates with the definiteness and, to a lesser degree, the animacy of the object. The paper also considers the relationship between nominal and verbal object marking.

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Published Online: 2009-08-21

Published in Print: 2009-08-01

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Volume 30, Issue 1, Pages 45–71, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JALL.2009.004.

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Gerrit J. Dimmendaal
Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 2010, Volume 31, Number 1

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