• Samuel Atintono

Student thesis: Phd


The thesis entitled "The Semantics and Grammar of Gurenɛ Positional Verbs: A Typological Perspective" handed in by Samuel Awinkene Atintono at the University of Manchester for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on March 12, 2013 provides a detailed study of the semantics, grammar, and pragmatics of positional verbs from a typological perspective in Gurenɛ, a Gur (Niger-Congo) language spoken in Northern Ghana.The study documents and describes Gurenɛ positional verbs in detail focusing on a set of over thirty contrastive positional verbs using a documentary corpus of natural and stimuli-based elicited data. "Positional verbs" is used in this study as a cover term that refers to a class of verbs that semantically encode the static assumed body posture or position of animate entities (humans and animals) or the static location of inanimates (objects) in space. The study discusses the Gurenɛ data in the context of recent cross-linguistic studies on posture, positional and locative verbs (Newman 2002a; Levinson & Wilkins 2006a, Ameka & Levinson 2007a) which suggest that some languages employ verbs rather than adpositions to describe locations. It compares the Gurenɛ data to these typological studies to establish the similarities and the differences of the semantics of these verbs. Like other languages observed in these studies, the use of verbs in the Gurenɛ locative construction is obligatory and the verbs constitute the main linguistic means that the speakers use for locative descriptions.The thesis further explores in part, the basic locative construction (BLC) typology of Levinson & Wilkins (2006a) and Ameka & Levinson (2007a). The BLC typology is concerned with the use of verbs in languages to express spatial locative information with the claim that languages can be classified into four main types according to the number and types of verbs used in their BLC; Type 0 (no verb), Type I (one locative verb or a copula), Type II (three to seven postural verbs), and Type III (seven to +100 positional verbs). In Gurenɛ over thirty verbs are identified that can be used in its BLC. As a result, Gurenɛ is classified as a Type III language. Like any other Type III language, as predicted by the BLC typology, the language uses its verbs to describe a wide range of precise semantic notions involving different locative relations between the Figure and the Ground such as body position, elevation, attachment, containment, distribution, and relative distance. The findings among others suggest that in a locative scene where the Ground is elevated more specific verbs of elevation with very precise meanings associated with the Figure's properties which include stable base support, shape, and position are used. Additionally, the Ground elevation disregards the actual posture of the Figure. Thus, if a speaker observes a Figure on the ground (earth or floor level) the actual posture verb is used, but if the Figure is on an elevated Ground (e.g., a tabletop, a rooftop) the actual posture is disregarded. This "elevation" phenomenon has not been fully discussed in the cross-linguistic studies of the positional and locative verbs in the semantic literature. The Gurenɛ data make a contribution toward clarification of the range and type of distinctions to be accounted for in the semantic typology of the use of these verbs in locative descriptions.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMartina Faller (Supervisor) & Andrew Koontz-Garboden (Supervisor)


  • Guren?, Positional Verbs, Semantics, Grammar, and Typology

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