Topics in Uduk Phonology and Morphosyntax

Don Killian

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the grammar and phonology of Uduk, a language belonging to the Koman branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. It is spoken by approximately 20 to 25,000 speakers in the Blue Nile Province of Sudan. The description provides an analysis of the phonology, morphology, and syntax based on thirteen months of fieldwork between 2011 and 2014. Included in the grammatical description are sixteen glossed texts, to help illustrate the grammar in context.

Most major aspects of the language are described and analyzed in detail. This includes the segmental and suprasegmental phonology, nouns and noun phrases, pronouns and agreement marking, nominal and verbal modifiers, verbs and verb phrases, major clause types, and clause linking.

Uduk has a rich phonology; the main dialect of Uduk has 55 contrastive consonant phonemes, 21 of which occur as a result of the secondary feature labialization. There are three contrastive tone levels in Uduk, and seven possible register/contour melodies on a single TBU. There is also a complex interaction between consonants and tone which has given rise to a depressor consonant effect. This is one of the first Nilo-Saharan languages known to have such.

Argument structure and morphosyntax are equally interesting. Uduk has morphologically marked cases for both Accusative as well as Ergative, depending on the constituent order. Uduk nouns exhibit grammatical gender, the assignment of which has nearly no semantic correlations, even minimal ones relating to animacy or biological sex.

Uduk verb forms use polysemous grammatical suffixes which mark either the location of an action or its internal aspect, and spatial deixis and aspect are heavily intertwined. Spatial orientation and location thus form a fundamental part of basic verbal inflectional categories.

In addition to morphological marking on the basic verb root, many verbs additionally carry discontinuous incorporated nouns called Partarguments. Partarguments are typically body parts, and may function either to classify an argument or then to change the basic meaning of the verb.

These as well as other linguistic features make this description a valuable resource for Nilo-Saharan linguists as well as those interested in the typology of African languages.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-51-1489-1
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-1490-7
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Fields of Science

  • 6121 Languages
  • Linguistics
  • Grammar
  • Uduk
  • linguistic typology

Cite this

Killian, D. (2015). Topics in Uduk Phonology and Morphosyntax. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Department of World Cultures.