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A diachronic and synchronic account of the multifunctionality of Saramaccan táa

Claire Lefebvre1 / Virginie Loranger2

1University of Quebec at Montreal

2MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology

Claire Lefebvre, Département de linguistique, Case postale 8888, succursale A, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal (Québec) H3C 3P8, Canada; E-mail: .

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 46, Issue 6, Pages 1167–1228, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2008.037, October 2008

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This article bears on the properties and on the historical derivation of the multifunctional lexical item táa in Saramaccan, an English and Portuguese based Creole of Surinam. Táa fulfills several functions: it may be used as a verb, a complementizer, a quotative marker, and as a marker conveying similarity or manner. Táa is thus a multifunctional lexical item. Its functions parallel in a remarkable way those of the semantically closest substrate languages lexical entries. Furthermore, a review of the early sources reveals that táa was already a multifunctional item in early SA. This constitutes a major drawback for a grammaticalization account of the relationship between táki and táa. The properties of táa are argued to have been derived through the process of relexification. This process consists in assigning a new label to an existing lexical entry; relexification thus reduces to relabeling. Finally, the parameters of relexification/relabeling are shown to be compatible with a monosemic account of multifunctionality, and to not be compatible with a polysemic account of the phenomenon.

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