Stefan Bruckhaus: Motion in Datooga – A Southern Nilotic Language of Tanzania [PDF]


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NISA Nilo-Saharan – Studies in Language and Context Volume 31

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XII, 205 pp.
2 maps, numerous diagrams, tables and charts

Text language: English

With roughly 88,000 speakers (2022), Datooga is a southern Nilotic language spoken in Northern and Central Tanzania. Spatial orientation, translational motion, and leadership are fundamental for the Datooga community as well as communicating ideas from those domains through their language.

What has become known as linguistic relativity hypothesis, as articulated by Benjamin Lee Whorf (1939/2000), is the idea that language, cognition, and external environment are interrelated and mutually influencing. Every ethnic group is unique and adjusts its conventions according to its specific ecologic environment and socio-economic demands. In consequence, languages also differ from one another, at least with respect to elaboration of the lexicon.

It has also been claimed that ethnic features may impact grammar. As far as the Datooga grammar is concerned, one can find several motion-related verbal suffixes that indicate directions, sources, or goals. Moreover, the language features a dedicated associated motion suffix, denoting that the event expressed in the verbal base is performed while moving from some place to another.

Both semi-nomadic pastoralism and the grammatical category of associated motion designate the Datooga language to especially contribute valuable insights into the linguistic study of motion. Thus, the primary aim of this dissertation is to provide a comprehensive description of the semantic and morphosyntactic structures of motion events in the Tanzanian language cluster Datooga, as represented by the two closely related varieties Barbayiiga and Gisamjanga. This dissertation constitutes the first monographic account of motion events in a Nilo-Saharan language including a comprehensive lexico-grammatical scope as well as a multidimensional analytical approach.

A second aim of this dissertation is to advance the overall grammatical description of the Datooga language, thus it addresses several verbal derivational categories with respect to their morphophonology, semantic facets, and combinatorics. Moreover, motion verbs are examined carefully with regard to their basic semantics and – to a lesser degree – with regard to their metaphoric usages. Metaphors are both relevant for understanding cognitive linguistic structures and for learning about Datooga culture and world-views. It is also opted that, by presenting aspects of Datooga language and culture, this study will highlight cross-cultural similarities and idiosyncrasies of Barbayiiga and Gisamjanga and facilitate the intercultural dialogue within the Tanzanian state and beyond.

In some paper collections of our programme aspects of Datooga grammar have been featured:

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