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The morphology of tense and aspect in Nama, a Papuan language of southern New Guinea

Jeff Siegel
Published Online: 2015-02-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opli-2014-0011


This paper describes the complex tense and aspect morphology in Nama, a previously undocumented Papuan language of southern New Guinea. Tense/aspect suffixes followed by agent/actor referencing suffixes occur in combination with one of two sets of patient referencing prefixes. Most of the tense/aspect suffixes mark two possible tenses, and the choice of a prefix from a particular set determines the appropriate interpretation. The distinction between imperfective and perfective aspect is central to the Nama tense/aspect system, and the forms of the perfectivity markers depend on the number category of the grammatical arguments: dual versus non-dual, which encompasses both singular and plural (i.e. more than two). At the same time, the agent/actor suffixes and patient referencing prefixes generally index two different number categories: singular versus non-singular. Each of the two basic aspects has three different tenses, with some other aspectual distinctions occurring only with singular arguments. A combination of imperfective and perfective marking is also used.

Keywords: Papuan languages; New Guinea; imperfective; perfective; dual number; inceptive; immediate; proximate; remote


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About the article

Received: 2014-06-30

Accepted: 2014-10-31

Published Online: 2015-02-27

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 1, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opli-2014-0011.

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© 2015 Jeff Siegel. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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