The finite independency A study of the relevance of the notion of

The finite independency A study of the relevance of the notion of
The finite
A study of the relevance of the notion of
finiteness in Hdi
Ghazaleh Vafaeian
Department of Linguistics
Bachelor Thesis 15 ECTS credits
Finiteness in Hdi
Spring semester 2009
Supervisor: Östen Dahl
The finite independency
A study of the relevance of the notion of finiteness in Hdi
Ghazaleh Vafaeian
This paper argues that there is a finiteness distinction in Hdi and that the notion is of value for a
description of the language. The definition of finiteness suitable for the language has been
suggested to be the one given by Anderson (2007) combined with Bisang (2007). The finite
clauses are argued to be the pragmatically independent ones while the non-finite clauses are
argued to be the pragmatically dependent. However, no morphological reductions were found in
the non-finite clauses relative to the finite ones. What is more, negation in Hdi shows a nontypical behaviour regarding finiteness properties as there are aspectual distinctions made for
dependent clauses that are not made for independent. Verbless clauses and imperatives may be
viewed as finite and non-finite depending on their capacity to licence independent predication
or, alternatively, they may be viewed as not displaying finiteness properties at all. The latter is
argued to be preferred in order to avoid a redundant definition of finiteness.
Finiteness, Hdi, Chadic language, independent clauses, dependent clauses.
Abbreviations .................................................................................. 2
1 Introduction ................................................................................. 3
1.1 The purpose of this paper ...................................................................... 3
1.2 Method ................................................................................................ 3
1.3 The definition of finiteness ..................................................................... 4
1.4 Additional studies on Hdi ....................................................................... 6
1.5 Conclusion of section 1 .......................................................................... 7
2 A general introduction to Hdi grammar......................................... 8
2.1 The verbal root and stem....................................................................... 8
2.1.1 Verb-final vowels ............................................................................ 9
2.1.2 Polysyllabic verbs ........................................................................... 9
2.1.3 Verbal extensions ........................................................................... 9
2.1.4 Defining the most basic form ..........................................................10
2.2 The tense system ................................................................................10
2.3 Subject marking ..................................................................................10
2.4 The aspectual system...........................................................................12
3 Independent and dependent clauses .......................................... 14
3.1 Independent clauses: finite clauses? ......................................................15
3.1.1 Independent perfective aspect ........................................................15
3.1.2 Independent imperfective aspect .....................................................16
3.2 Dependent clauses: non-finite clauses? ..................................................17
3.2.1 Dependent perfective aspect ...........................................................17
3.2.2 Dependent imperfective aspect .......................................................17
3.3 The progressive aspect .........................................................................18
3.4 The stative aspect................................................................................19
3.5 Subject pronouns in independent and dependent clauses..........................20
3.6 Conclusion and discussion of section 3 ...................................................20
4 Sí and finiteness ......................................................................... 21
5 Negation ..................................................................................... 22
5.1 Negation in pragmatically independent clauses ........................................23
5.2 Negation in pragmatically dependent clauses ..........................................23
5.3 Negation in the stative and progressive aspect ........................................24
5.4 Conclusion and discussion on section 5...................................................24
6 Verbless clauses ......................................................................... 25
6.1 Verbless clauses and finiteness..............................................................25
6.2 Conclusion and discussion on section 6...................................................26
7 Imperative.................................................................................. 26
7.1 Number and aspect in the imperative .....................................................27
7.2 Conclusion and discussion on section 7...................................................28
8 Complement clauses ................................................................... 28
8.1 Complements of verbs of perception ......................................................28
8.2 Complements of verbs of saying ............................................................29
8.3 Complements of volitional verbs ............................................................30
8.4 Conclusion and discussion of section 6 ...................................................31
9 Discussion .................................................................................. 32
10 Conclusion ................................................................................ 34
References..................................................................................... 36
Appendix ....................................................................................... 37
First person
Second person
Third person
Absolutive extension
Extension coding movement away
Distal extension: Point of view of goal
Preposition coding benefactive/dative
Goal orientation
Extension coding movement to or from an inner space
Object marker
Verbal extension indicating movement from inside out
Past (Referential past tense)
Potential object extension -ay
Sequential marker
Point of view of source
Unspecified human subject
Verbal extension indicating movement upward
1 Introduction
The term finiteness is a term used in traditional grammar to describe a certain verbal or clausal
feature. According to Irina Nikolaeva (2007: 1), the term arises from the Latin finitus which is
the perfective participle of finio ‘finish, limit, set bounds to, determine’. In Latin, the verbs were
divided into two groups: verba finita for verb forms determined by person and number, and
verba infinita for verb forms such as infinitives, participles, gerunds and supines, which are
undetermined for these categories. In modern linguistic theories however, the question has been
raised to what extent the notion of finiteness holds for other languages, in particular non-IndoEuropean ones. Though many languages seem to have one set of verb forms for main clauses
and another set for subordinate clauses, it is often difficult to try to establish the morphological
features determining these distinctions. The aim of this paper is to investigate finiteness in the
Chadic language Hdi and try to establish whether or not the phenomenon exists in the language
and if so, in what way it is expressed. The paper has been written under the supervision and help
from Professor Östen Dahl at the Department of Linguistics at Stockholm University.
Hdi is a Chadic language spoken mainly in Tourou, in the Far North Province of Cameroon,
on the border of Nigeria. There is also a large group of migrant speakers in Nigeria, mainly in
Mubi and Yola. In 1990 the total number of speakers was estimated at 10 000. Hdi is an AfroAsiatic language belonging to the Mandara group of the Central Branch of Chadic. The
language is used only in the first grade of local elementary schools and the speakers of Hdi learn
to speak Fula and Hausa as a second or third language. Hdi has lexical borrowings from Fula,
Hausa and Mafa (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 2f).
1.1 The purpose of this paper
This paper will investigate the notion of finiteness in Hdi by focusing mainly on the difference
between independent and dependent structures or verb forms. The question raised is whether or
not an asymmetry between finite and non-finite clauses is found, and which role this asymmetry
plays in the language. If separate sets of clauses are distinguished in the language that
discriminates the functions generally defined for finite clauses from the ones defined for
non/finite ones, the next question will be to estimate if the notion of finiteness is relevant for
defining this phenomenon.
1.2 Method
For the investigation of finiteness in Hdi, A grammar of Hdi written by Zygmunt Frajzyngier &
Erin Shay has been studied. The theoretical background, summarized in the introduction, has
also been studied when relevant to Hdi. The two main tasks have been defining the finiteness
features in Hdi and analyzing the behaviour of these features. This has been done initially
through the survey of the language as a whole, and later by focusing on the chapters concerning
aspect, tense, negation, verbless clauses, imperatives and complement clauses.
1.3 The definition of finiteness
In the article Finiteness, Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (1994: 1245ff) raises the question of the
universality of the notion of finiteness. She also points out that the definition of finite and nonfinite clauses is far from consensus. The traditional view has been that finiteness is linked to
subordination, more specifically that non-finite verb forms cannot be the only or the matrix
predicate of an independent clause. Finite verbs are considered to take person, number, tense,
mood etc. while non-finite verbs e.g. infinitives, participles and gerunds, do not. Furthermore, it
has been suggested that non-finite verbs typically do not combine with overt subjects, or if they
do, that they do it in a different way than finite verbs. In generative grammar, verb-subject
agreement has been suggested to be necessary in finite clauses.
However, Koptjevskaja-Tamm demonstrates that these definitions may not hold universally.
Even in an Indo-European language such as French, subjunctives, that are only used in
subordinate clauses, have verbal agreement features. Also, within generative grammar,
typological support for distinguishing between clauses on the basis of verb-subject agreement is
insufficient. In languages such as West Greenlandic (Eskimo-Aleut), Abkhaz (northwest
Caucasian), Sotho (Bantu) and Montagnais (Algonquian) the only thing distinguishing
independent clauses from dependent ones, are different moods. The verbs of dependent moods
take personal agreement, have subjects and are coded for tense and aspect. In the Bantu
languages, verbal nouns are marked for class agreement for objects and in Archi (northeast
Caucasian) non-finites show class agreement with their object and with the intransitive subject.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm shows that there are languages that use non-finite forms very sparsely. In
contrast, some languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, use the same uninflected verb form for all
clauses. She concludes that “On the whole, while it is relatively easy to determine whether a
language makes a distinction between independent and dependent verb forms, it is not always
easy or even reasonable to apply the notion of finiteness”.
In the light of the variation shown among the languages of the world, Nikolaeva points out:
[…] tense/mood/agreement morphology and dependent/independent status appear to be
empirically independent parameters, although there may be number implicational
correlations between them: for all languages, if person and /or number and/or tense are
marked on the dependent forms, then they are also marked on independent forms (Nikolaeva
2007: 3).
She shows that these features may well be reduced in independent clauses and she further
argues that “their reduction is better understood as a cross-linguistic tendency motivated by the
functional pressure for economical expression, which applies to some languages and
constructions but not to others” (Nikolaeva 2007: 138).
Due to the difficulties of finding the morphological features defining finiteness, authors have
been suggesting that the form of the verb is not a suitable criterion for establishing the finite
status of a clause. Cross-linguistically, a definition of the notion of finiteness where finite
clauses have certain features while non-finite clauses lack them, cannot hold. Instead
functionalists suggest that finite and non-finite clauses are two extremes on a scale motivated by
different functional effects and that many intermediate variations exist. Thus, functionalists are
concerned with the overt manifestations of prototypical properties rather than defining a set of
morphological features banned in non-finite constructions (Nikolaeva 2007: 7).
Nikolaeva (2007: 4) points out that in the early generativist view, finiteness was a property
assigned to the entire clause and was only secondarily reflected on the verb. The AUX or the
later INFL, indicating finiteness properties, would have a position high up in the tree from
where they could have scope over the entire clause rather than the verb. This changed the view
of finiteness from the traditional view to a more abstract notion of finiteness in the 1960s.
John M. Anderson (2007: 1ff) does not identify finiteness with the presence of
morphological particles, but with the capacity to empower independent predication. He defines
moods as subcategories of finiteness and declaratives as the prototypical finites. He states:
The morphological properties that manifest finiteness in various languages include
centrally marking of tense, aspect and mood, and of person-number. […] But I retain that
these properties, the constitution of the indicative construction, cannot be taken to be
necessary to finiteness […] (Anderson 2007: 5).
He argues that the only way of retaining finiteness, defined through the presence of certain
morphological particles, is to resort to covert categories. He instead argues that there are
prototypical finite clauses and that other clauses may move away from the most prototypical
finite clause by adding features such as mood for example. The prototypical finite clause is an
unmarked positive declarative such as:
Bill smokes a pipe in bed (Anderson 2007: 4).
This particular clause exhibits person-number marking on the verb as well as tense, the selection
of the subject, and the subject being nominative if pronominal (Anderson 2007: 4). Adding the
auxiliary verb may to the clause does not make it non-finite, but moves the clause a step away
from the prototypical finite clause.
However, the subordinate clause in the sentence below is not considered to be finite despite
the same morphological coding on the verb:
This is the pipe which Bill smokes in bed (Anderson 2007: 8).
Anderson argues that as a main clause which Bill smokes in bed can only be interpreted as a
question about the identity of one out of several Bills. Consequently, the clause in its original
interpretation is not able to empower independent predication and will be considered as nonfinite. Thus the interpretation of a clause is involved in defining its finite status.
Although sympathetic to the prototypical approach of Anderson, Dahl & KoptjevskajaTamm point out that if the term ‘finite’ is defined as the capacity to license independent
predication, then the definition will be redundant (2008: 15).
According to Walter Bisang, and summarized by Nikolaeva below, not all languages can be
said to distinguish between finite and non-finite clauses:
Languages create asymmetries between main/independent and dependent clauses. An
asymmetry arises if a cognitive domain that is obligatorily expressed in an independent
clause cannot occur at all, or can only occur with a reduced set of subcategories in a
dependent clause. […] The notion of finiteness is only relevant for those languages that
demonstrate a morphological asymmetry between independent and dependent clauses. […]
[F]initeness, then, is an open concept in the sense that it can involve any category that
overtly marks structural independence at the highest level of sentencehood (Nikolaeva
2007: 13).
Bisang (2007: 133f) suggests that languages like Chinese do not distinguish between finite and
non-finite clauses since they do not display morphological categories for subordination. He
mentions Abkhaz (northwest Caucasian) that has a separate set of non-finite verb forms distinct
from the finite ones and Kistane (South Semitic, Gurage, north-eastern Gurage), also called
Soddo, that has a separate set of verb forms for subordinate clauses. In Kistane the main and
subordinate clauses are divided into perfective and imperfective respectively (Bisang 2007:
125ff). According to Bisang, these languages clearly have a finite/non-finite distinction since
they demonstrate a morphological asymmetry between dependent and independent clauses.
Bisang also concludes that there are no universal categories for finiteness, however he states
that the categories selected for showing finite properties do need to be general and obligatory.
He argues that only if the category selected is frequent and general enough it can be associated
with the entire clause by the parser. After the marker has become associated with the clause
type, it will become obligatory for the clause. At this point an asymmetry has come to exist.
This is the explanation why it is more probable to find categories such as
tense/person/illocutionary force/politeness as markers of finiteness rather than other categories;
they are universally more obligatory and general. In this sense a language can have any category
represented as long as it is semantically general.
Wolfgang Klein (2006: 2, 15) disagrees with the view that languages like Chinese do not
display finiteness properties. He comments that the conclusion that languages with no inflection
on the verb do not display finite distinction “may be a premature conclusion, since the absence
of inflection does not exclude that these languages have other means to express the same
function as finite marking does in Indoeuropean languages”. He defines FIN as the carrier of at
least two components: the tense component that marks past “in contrast to present and future”
and the component ‘assertion’.
In contrast to the authors mentioned above, Elizabeth Cowper (2002: 41f) considers
finiteness to be a purely syntactic property that is involved in dependency structures. Case
licensing to the subject and agreement marking are considered to be the abilities of finiteness.
Tense is separate from finiteness and will not define the finite status of the clause.
1.4 Additional studies on Hdi
In a study on various Chadic and Niger-Congo languages, including Hdi, Frajzyngier argues for
the existence of two or more tense or aspectual systems to be motivated, in addition to their
tense and aspectual functions, by their pragmatic functions. He shows that the languages studied
in his article who display two or more tense/aspectual systems will do so in order to mark
pragmatical functions such as the distinction between independent and dependent clauses. In the
case of Hdi, clauses such as focused element, specific questions, relative clauses, temporal
protasis and apodosis, conditional protasis, sequential clauses, negative clauses and clauses with
the focus on the factuality of the event, will be coded through the temporal and aspectual
szstem. Frajzyniger and Shay (2002: 483) use ”the term protatis for the antecedent event or
temporal background event, and apodosis for the subsequent event or an event contemporaneous
with the background event”. Sequential clauses are clauses that “code a temporal sequence or a
result of the preceding clause. […] There are also sentences denying hearer’s or speaker’s
presupposition […] “instead of S1, S2” (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002. 427)”
In languages that only have one system for tense and aspect, i.e. no distinction between
independent or dependent clauses, external coding will be used. This means that only specific
words will be used to code the type of sentences given above. In questions or negated clauses in
for example Gulfe, a language with only one tense system, the interrogative particle and the
negation particle respectively, will be the only means of coding the functions of these sentences.
No other specific marking, on verbs for example, exists. In Hdi on the other hand, two aspectual
systems exist. The language will also use the aspectual system, and not specific words, to code
the pragmatic status of the clauses. Frajzyngier defines Hdi as a language with full internal
coding (Frajzyngier 2004: 59-65). Frajzyngier concludes:
There exists a complementarity of coding means in that the tense/aspectual system is used
when there are no obligatory external markers for the various functions coded. The
pragmatic functions of the tense/aspect system are therefore motivated by language internal
characteristics (Frajzyngier 2004: 65).
1.5 Conclusion of section 1
What finiteness is and whether or not it is a relevant feature for describing the languages of the
world thus remains a matter under discussion. Surely, some approaches will describe certain
languages better than others since they will focus on aspects that are relevant for that particular
language. As shall be shown further on, this will also be true for Hdi. However, the aim of this
paper is not to answer the question of which definition that is best suited cross-linguistically, but
merely to try to describe the finiteness properties, if any, in Hdi. Nevertheless, this description
will depend on the definition of finiteness.
The main theoretical focus for this purpose will be on two viewpoints: one represented by
Anderson where finiteness is merely dependent on the function of the sentences, and one that
considers non-finite properties to include some kind of morphological reduction in comparison
to the finite-clauses. Klein and Cowper do identify finiteness with certain morphosyntactic
markings; tense and “assertion”, as well as case licensing of the subject and agreement,
respectively. In contrast, Nikolaeva (2007, chapter 6) does not seem to want to define specific
morphosyntactic properties as properties of finiteness explicitly. However, she does seem to
consider some kind of reduction in morphological markings as linked to non-finite clauses. This
issue will be addressed throughout the paper.
Bisang’s suggestions on finiteness properties as well as the observations made by him in
languages such as Kistane will also turn out to be important for the purpose of this paper.
2 A general introduction to Hdi
In pragmatically and semantically neutral clauses, that is, in non-topicalized, non-focused and in
clauses with no role changing markers, Hdi is head-first and nominative-accusative. The subject
and object, if any, will follow the predicate. The predicate can be nominal or verbal. The word
order of a transitive clause with a verbal predicate includes the preposition tá and is VerbSubject-Preposition tá -Object. There are three ways of coding grammatical relations: position
with respect to the verb, extensions to the verb and prepositions.
In A Grammar of Hdi two types of clauses are distinguished; pragmatically independent, i.e.
clauses that can be interpreted on their own without any presupposition, and pragmatically
dependent clauses, i.e. clauses that require specific presupposition for their interpretation.
Verbal forms, aspectual markers and subject pronouns differ between the two clause types.
Specific extensions to the verb mark semantic relations between the verb and its arguments
(Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 5ff).
2.1 The verbal root and stem
Hdi has three basic verbal categories: root, stem and reduplicated stem. Verbs cannot start with
a vowel. The function of consonants is distinct from the function of vowels and tone. The root
of monosyllabic verbs consists of the consonants and the tone. The stem is derived from the root
through regular morphological processes, mainly the adding of one of the vowels a, u, or i and
tonal changes. Vowels occurring within the verbal root are called thematic vowels. The vowels
code specific syntactic or semantic functions of the subject, the point of view from which the
event is presented, the type of clause and the aspect. Note the following examples:
zá-tsí tá
‘Let him eat!’ (100: 4)1
zə ´-tsí tá
SEQ eat-3SG
‘and he is/was eating’ (100: 5)
The vowel added to the root z ´ “eat” will change the interpretation of the verb. However, the
schwa vowel added to the root is an epenthetic vowel carrying the underlying tone of the verb
and does not carry thematic functions (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 99ff).
An interesting detail is that the citation form of the verbs, given spontaneously by native
speakers when asked to give a form without verbal extensions, often include the object marker -
The examples given in the paper will henceforth be referred to through page number followed by
the example number in Frajzyngier & Shay 2002, A Grammar of Hdi.
ay, e.g. z-áy ‘eat’, ts-ày ‘to cut’, s-ày ‘drink’. An intransitive verb inflected by -ay will thus
become transitive (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 103, 309).
2.1.1 Verb-final vowels
The verb may end in the vowels a, u, i or in a schwa. Since schwa is an epenthetic vowel and
carries the tone of the verb it might be interpreted phonologically as the absence of a vowel. The
other three vowels all carry thematic functions. The functions of u and i are specific, while a can
be defined as “everything else”. Nevertheless, the functions of a may still be explained in a
more explicit way.
The verb-final vowel i codes movement away. The third-person singular subject is
hlr´í- ǧí-f-hlrà
forge-AWAY-1SG-UP-forge OBJ hoe
‘He forged a hoe for me’ (112: 67)
Verbs ending in u or a represent “source oriented” and “goal-oriented” points of views
respectively. When the source marker u ends the verb, the subject is included or, for verbs of
movement, the place from which the movement originates is affected. In the reduplicated form
of the verb, the second reduplicated form ends in a unless the subject pronoun ends in a vowel:
gún-ú-gúná sígà
open-SO-open pot
‘The pot opened’ (111: 57)
The goal oriented marker a affects objects and the place towards which the movement is
directed. If used on the example above, it would result in the nonsensical:
gúná-gúná sígà
open-open pot
‘The pot opened something’ (111: 58)
The two point of view markers may also be added to the extension gh marking movement on a
2.1.2 Polysyllabic verbs
The first vowel of polysyllabic verbs may be a, i, u or ə and there are indications that these may
once have been thematic vowels that have been lexicalized. Some verbs containing u code
source orientation e.g. tsúxà “cough” (movement from the body) and súdà “take clothes off”. ə
is a variant of u before a consonant cluster. Various polysyllabic verbs with the first vowel i
code movement away or separation (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 115).
2.1.3 Verbal extensions
The semantic roles of arguments can, in addition to the thematic vowels mentioned above, be
expressed through extensions affixed to the verbal stem. You may for example have extensions
such as allative dá (a type of locative marker) marking movement towards a specific place or
presence at a place that is not the place of speech. This marker may for example be added as an
infix to the reduplicated verb form. A verb may take several extensions (Frajzyngier & Shay
2004: 299).
2.1.4 Defining the most basic form
Frajzyngier & Shay often cite the verbs ending with the vowel a. However, they state that:
In the present work we cite the verbs in their goal-oriented form, i.e. with the vowel a, for
two reasons: (1) in comparison with other forms this form occurs in a larger number of slots
in the verbal paradigm; and (2) choosing to represent a thematic vowel allows us to
represent the underlying tone of the verb in a readable way (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 114)
An interesting question to raise for a language like Hdi is the matter of stating the most basic
form of the verb when different stems include thematic functions. The only form not carrying
any thematic information would then be the verbs ending in schwa. However, as we will see
further on, verb forms with the epenthetic vowel are not restricted to imperatives or dependent
verb forms.
2.2 The tense system
The tense system in Hdi consists of one referential past and several future tenses. The tense
marking is analytical, i.e. the verbs do not inflect for tense. Sí marks the referential past and
occurs at the beginning of the clause. The marker is not obligatorily present in every sentence.
The fact that sí marks the referential past means that the marker is dependent on a previously
mentioned time frame. The time that is being referrenced may be recent or remote (Frajzyngier
& Shay 2002: 335).
The affirmative future tenses are marked with dzà’á, a grammaticalization of the verb “go”.
If tense is unmarked for a clause the interpretation of the time of the event has to be based on
aspectual markings, adverbs of time and other deictic categories. Perfective aspect, and verbs
with the extension ú (affected subject extension) for instance, are often interpreted as occurring
in past time while stative and imperfective aspects are interpreted as present time (Frajzyngier &
Shay 2002: 336).
As mentioned above, Cowper (2002: 41f) among others considers tense to be an independent
property not linked to finiteness. In the question of tense, Hdi seems to confirm this assumption
since the tense markers seem to be optional or context dependent.
2.3 Subject marking
The subject is the unmarked argument of the verb and follows the verb directly unless it has
been fronted as the topic or focus of the clause (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 121). In verbless
clauses, discussed in section 6, the subject will follow the predicate of the clause.
In pragmatically independent clauses, the third-person singular subject is unmarked. Subjects
may be coded in three ways:
- a full noun phrase:
arrive-arrive Mbitsa
‘Mbitsa came down’ (122: 4)
- an independent pronoun:
kághá rà
pass well day-pass well day 2SG Q
‘Did you have a nice day?’ (123: 12)
- and a pronominal clitic:
PAST PREP market-2SG Q
‘Were you at the market recently?’ (124: 15)
As illustrated above, the set of independent pronouns differ from the set of pronominal clitics.
The independent subject pronouns may only occur in dependent clauses (Frajzyngier & Shay
2002: 123). As we shall se below, a specific question, as the example given, will be considered
dependent and consequently receive dependent marking. A complete table that accounts for the
different sets of pronouns is found in the appendix.
There is at least one way of marking subject-verb agreement, but also verb-object agreement.
The reduplicated form of intransitive verbs will indicate the plurality of the subject or in the
case of transitive verbs, the plurality of the object. In this sense, the plural coding in Hdi has
ergative characteristics:
‘They fell down’ (108: 48)
This form is not to be confused with the reduplicated form of the verb when used in the
independent perfective aspect. The reduplicated verb form in the example below instead marks
independent perfective aspect:
dǧ à-gá-dǧ à
‘He fell down’ (108: 49)
There are thus different means of reduplicating verbs.
2.4 The aspectual system
The independent/dependent status of a clause is coded through aspect. The aspectual system
consists of three different aspects: perfective, imperfective and stative. However, only two of
them, perfective and imperfective, will code the pragmatic status of the clause. Table 1
illustrates the aspectual system:
Table 1. The aspectual system (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 296).
tà nominal verb
ndá verb-a
tà verbal root
As will be clear by the definitions that follows, we will have reason to linger on to the aspectual
system in Hdi for the purpose of this paper. The pragmatically independent clauses are
affirmative indicative clauses, yes/no questions and comments on topicalized constituents. The
pragmatically independent clauses do not require any previous knowledge or a specific
presupposition for their interpretation. These clauses are clauses that comment on a previously
mentioned proposition or involve a specific discourse presupposition for their interpretation.
Clauses such as comment on focused constituents, relative clauses, wh-clauses and presentative
clauses are pragmatically dependent clauses (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 295).
If we follow the definition of finite clauses stated by Anderson or Bisang for example, it is
clear that there is a finite non-finite distinction in the language. Thus, the pragmatically
independent clauses could be argued to be finite and the pragmatically dependent clauses could
be argued to be non-finite. Anderson defines finite clauses as clauses with the ability to licence
independent predication and his prototypical finite clause is the unmarked positive declarative
(Anderson 2007: 1ff). Following Bisang, the morphological difference in the aspectual system
will show the asymmetry between main and dependent clauses. For the time being, this view
will be adopted and the pragmatically independent clauses will be considered to be finite
whereas the pragmatically dependent clauses will be considered to be non-finite. However, as
will be clear in the following sections, the system is complex and there might be reasons for
reconsidering this definition.
Table 2 will illustrate the functions of the aspects in the language, i.e. the types of clauses
occurring in each aspectual system:
Table 2. Functions of the aspectual system.
• Bounded events in affirmative
indicative clauses (no element in
• Presentative constructions
• Comment on focused element
• Yes/no interrogative clauses
• Relative clauses
• May be used in imperative mood
• Specific questions
• May occur after a complementizer
• Unbounded events in
affirmative indicative clauses (no
element in focus)
• Questions about the truth of a
• Sequential clauses
• Comment on focused element
• Specific questions
• Reason clauses
• Comment on topicalized elements
• Indicates the existence of a certain state with respect to the subject
• Codes a state resulting from a certain action
One interesting comment on the table is that in Hdi, both focused elements and topicalized
elements are fronted. However, the focused element will take dependent marking while a
topicalized element will have independent marking. The aspectual marking is thus the sole
means of distinguishing between focused and topicalized elements (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002:
As is clear by Table 2, the functions of many of the pragmatically independent clauses
correspond to what has in the literature been considered to be typically finite clauses while the
function of the dependent clauses correspond to the functions of typically non-finite clauses.
However, some clauses such as specific questions are not usually associated with nonfiniteness. Do note that the distinction in the table above does not take into account the amount
of morphologic marking on the verb or in the clause but is a distinction merely made on the
function of the clause.
One crucial point needs to be clarified; in the grammar, Frajzyngier & Shay (2002: 295)
define the independent and dependent clauses as pragmatically independent or dependent.
However, if one studies the Table 2 above, this term seem to include syntactically independent
and dependent clauses as well. While, for example, clauses such as comments on focused
elements or specific questions are pragmatically dependent, clauses such as relative clauses and
sequential clauses are syntactically dependent. Thus, Frajzyngier and Shays definition of
pragmatically dependent seem to include syntactically dependent clauses as well. When talking
about Hdi, the author of this paper will use the term independent and dependent as meaning
pragmatically independent and dependent in this sense. Do note however, that other authors,
e.g. Anderson and Bisang, when discussing finiteness do not use the terms in this sense. In the
literature, dependent clauses are referred to as syntactically subordinated clauses rather than
pragmatically dependent.
3 Independent and dependent
In this section the aspectual system will be looked at in more detail. The independent and
dependent clause will be exemplified and discussed and aspects such as the progressive and the
stative that do not distinguish between pragmatically dependent and independent clauses will be
discussed as well. The different verb forms found for each aspect will be presented in Table 3
and discussed below. The difference between Table 3 and Table 1 is that Table 1 is general and
somewhat simplified whereas Table 3 contains all the different verb forms found. When a
clause type, e.g. dependent imperfective aspect, is represented by several verb forms rather than
one as in Table 1, it is due to the different functions or syntactic environments in which these
verbs occur (Zygmunt Frajzyngier 2009).
As we have seen, Hdi consists of a complex set of grammatical markers. Thematic vowels,
verbal extension, position in relation to the verb, prepositions and the aspectual system all
interplay in coding of the grammatical relations. Frajzyngier & Shay states “there is no one-toone relationship between a given coding means and the grammatical role it codes (Frajzyngier
& Shay 2002: 6)”. These characteristics of Hdi will naturally add to the different problems in
investigating finiteness in the language.
Table 3. Finite and non-finite clauses and verb forms.
Finite clauses
Non-finite clauses
• Reduplicated
• Tà nominal
verb (e.g.
• Verb-a
• Tà verbal root
• Ndà
• Tà
ed verbal
• Verbal root
• When
marking the
object rather
than the
subject: Tà
• Verb form
with an
verbal rootay.
• Ndá
• Ndá
• Nominal verb
• Verb-a-kú
• verb-à
• Verb-a-kú
3.1 Independent clauses: finite clauses?
In this section the pragmatically independent clauses will be illustrated and discussed i.e.
pragmatically independent perfective and imperfective. A short comment on their finiteness
properties will be done in section 3.6. The main final discussion on finiteness will be done in
section 9.
3.1.1 Independent perfective aspect
The perfective in pragmatically independent clauses is coded through the reduplication of the
verb. The form of the reduplicated verb is Verb-(Extension)-(Object)-(Extension)-Verb-Subject.
The first reduplicated form has the stem final vowel, which in the example below is realized as
i. The second reduplicated form ends in the vowel a and the verb ends in a low tone. The thirdperson singular is unmarked:
tá vú
light-AWAY-3-light OBJ fire
‘He lit a fire’ (297: 2)
The verbs in independent perfective aspect only occur in one form, namely the reduplicated
form. Their function is to code bounded events in affirmative indicative clauses with no element
in focus and in yes/no interrogatives. They do not require a previous proposition.
3.1.2 Independent imperfective aspect
In the imperfective independent clauses the verb will take the nominal verb form. The nominal
verbs are derived by adding a verb-final u or i to the verb. Thus, kátá “to help” becomes kátú
‘help’ and và ‘light a fire’ will become vù ‘fire’ (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 116). If there is an
object in the clause, the verb-final vowels u and i will be replaced by the potential object marker
-ay which also assumes the underlying tone of the verb:
tá ghù bàǧ lúmá káwáy
IMPF drink-PO OBJ beer day market only
‘He drinks beer only on the market days’ (307: 50)
The verbal nouns will take possessive pronouns and the genitive marker -á. Some verbal nouns
are derived with the suffix -à. If transitive, these verbs cannot take possessive pronouns directly
but the pronouns will be added to the object (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 116ff).
As is shown by Table 3 above, the independent imperfective verb has three forms. The first
one, tà nominal verb, is expected and examples of this form have been given above. The other
two however are somewhat deviating from Table 1. The first case is perhaps not too remarkable
and occurs, as discussed earlier, when an object is present in the clause, hence the potential
object marker -ay will replace the u and i endings of verbal nouns.
The other form requires some more attention. In the imperfective, the source-oriented marker
is -kú (glossed as ABS) rather than u (glossed as SO). -kú will be added to the verb ending in -a.
The source-oriented marker marks that the subject is being affected. What is interesting is that
there is no distinction between pragmatically independent or pragmatically dependent clauses
with the source-oriented marker. Thus, the finite and non-finite clauses will have the same verb
ndá zwàn-à-ǧà
tà rwá-kú
dá máyá
1PL.EXCL ASSC child:PL-GEN-1SG IMPF suffer-ABS PREP hunger
‘My children and I suffer hunger’ (310: 66)
mndú-xà tà ǣə`rzlá-kú màndá zálá tà
current PREP
líkà mà rúm
river PREP name of a mountain
‘They say that blood of men was running like the current in the river of Rum’
(310: 67)
It is relevant to the topic of this paper to notice that there is no distinction of finite and nonfinite forms when the source-oriented marker -kú is used.
3.2 Dependent clauses: non-finite clauses?
In this section the pragmatically dependent clauses will be illustrated and discussed i.e.
pragmatically dependent perfective and pragmatically dependent imperfective clauses. The
finiteness properties of these clauses will be commented on shortly in section 3.6 but also in the
final discussion and conclusion.
3.2.1 Dependent perfective aspect
In dependent clauses the perfective is coded by the suffix a which precedes the pronominal or
nominal subject. The verb will keep its tone. The following example is in the dependent
perfective aspect:
nə´ sí
what PAST cook:GO-3SG
‘What did he cook?’ (The action has ended, and the cooking has been done)
(300: 22)
Similar to the corresponding independent perfective, the verbs in the dependent perfective only
have one form. The dependent perfective is used in presentative constructions for example. A
presentative construction is a construction that presents one element to be commented on by the
rest of the proposition. Se the example below:
mà ghúmá mantas yá má dzà-tà-xə`ŋ
tá Gulu
DEM even kill-REF:SUBJ-3PL OBJ Gulu
in war like
‘It is in that type of war that they killed Gulu’ (302: 30)
3.2.2 Dependent imperfective aspect
In the imperfective dependent clause, the verb occurs in the root form, that is, without the final
vowel for monosyllabic verbs and with the first vowel of polysyllabic verbs:
nə´ sí də`-tsí
what PAST cook-3SG
‘What did he want to cook [but did not manage to]?’ (The action has ended, but
the cooking has not been accomplished.) (311: 72)
As presented in Table 3, the verbs in the dependent imperfective aspect may or may not be
preceded by tà. However, the verb must occur in the root form in these two cases. Furthermore,
there seems to be additional verbal forms in dependent imperfective aspect. If the object rather
than the subject needs to be marked, an -a is affixed to the verb:
nə´ tà zá-xə`n (nà)
what IMPF eat-3PL Q
‘What eats them?’ (what is their predator?) (312: 77)
This means that the non-finite verb form in the imperfective takes markings for the object. If a
sequential clause is preceded by the form mbàǧ ká, the verb will be represented by the nominal
mbàǧ ká-‘á
kà xàní
then COMP-3SG SEQ sleep:PL:NOM
‘Then he slept’ (313: 85)
If the nominal object follows the verb, it will form a genitive construction with the verb, i.e. the
verb will have to take the genitive marker -à. Thus we have sentences such as:
kàbgà hámáyádzì kə´l xdí kà bábá
because Hamayadzi take Hdi SEQ build:PL:GEN
xgá tá
tà ghwá
house PREP mountain PREP mountain
‘It is because of Hamayadzi that Hdi came to build houses on the mountain’
(314: 91)
However, it seems unclear why the other nominal objects following the verb do not form a
genitive construction with the verb.2 It was mentioned above that the verb form verb-a-kú i.e.
the marking of point of view of the source, is identical in independent and dependent
imperfectives and finiteness as defined above is thus not distinguished for these clauses.
3.3 The progressive aspect
The progressive aspect is defined by Frajzyngier & Shay as a subclass of the imperfective. The
progressive aspect is expressed through tà followed by a reduplicated verbal root. The verb may
have the potential object marker -ay, whether transitive or intransitive:
‘They are running’ (317: 108)
Note that this reduplicated form is not the same reduplicated form as was used for the
independent perfective. The progressive aspect codes the temporal function as expected, but it is
also used for focusing on the verb. The progressive aspect cannot be used if the verb is not in
focus. To illustrate, Frajzyngier & Shay (2002: 318f) show that the progressive aspect can be
used to answer the question What is he doing? An answer such as He is eating would then be
able to be in the progressive form. But the answer to a question like What is he eating i.e. He is
eating mush could not be in the progressive form.
However, one might notice that the sentence given above is an affirmative declarative
sentence and thus a typically finite clause. Now have a look at the following example:
See among others example 81, Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 313.
kǧèrì dzághá-nì
IMPF return-return Kderi home-3SG
‘and Kderi is returning home’ (319: 123)
This is a sequential clause, and as noted in Table 2, sequential clauses are pragmatically
dependent. However, the same verb form is used in the progressive aspect for the affirmative
declarative clause as well as for a clause that is pragmatically dependent. The conclusion is
consequently that finiteness in the progressive is neutralized and that the domain does not
distinguish between finite/non-finite clauses.
3.4 The stative aspect
The form of the stative aspect is the preposition ndá followed by the verb stem and the vowel a.
The stative aspect codes a state resulting from an event or an action. Frajzyngier & Shay (2002:
320) point out that the reduplicated verb form in Hdi codes bounded events and since the stative
is inherently unbounded, it can not have a reduplicated verb form. The stative aspect cannot take
extensions for semantic coding. In the example below, the verb mt “die” if perfective, would
have taken the source-oriented extension u. However in the stative the verb may end in the
vowel -a:
mtá dá-ní
STAT die father-3SG
‘His father is dead’ (320: 125)
The stative aspect, along with the progressive aspect does not distinguish between pragmatically
independent and dependent clauses. If one defines finiteness depending on the function of the
clause, as Anderson, one might conclude that the sentence given above is finite since it is able to
stand independent of anything previously mentioned. Nonetheless, in the following example we
can see that the stative aspect also occurs in clauses that typically take dependent aspect
marking. The sentence below cannot be said to be independent as it is a comment on a
previously mentioned proposition. Recall that that was one set of the pragmatically dependent
kàbgà m`ndrá tsá m`ndú-xà yá yà ndá snà tá
because clan DEF man-PL DEM DEM STAT know OBJ
dùvúl yà ngá lmú nd tsí
make-REF metal DEM FOR war ASSC 3SG
‘It is because this clan knows how to make metals to go to war with’ (322: 138)
We might then conclude that sentences like (23) and (24) demonstrate that the stative aspect can
be used in independent as well as dependent clauses. The verb form, as shown by Frajzyngier &
Shays table on the aspectual system (in this paper Table 1) will not however distinguish
between the two types of clauses. If one still wishes to keep the finite/non-finite distinction in
In Frajzyngier & Shays printed example the verb does not have tone.
the language, there seems to be at least two possible ways of looking at this phenomenon. One
view is that one might have to decide for each sentence whether or not it is finite, which seems
to be more in line with Anderson’s view. The other is that the stative does not display finite
properties whatsoever and that the finiteness distinction is not “activated” for these sentences,
thus they are not finite nor non-finite. In the latter view, finiteness is rather an independent
feature that languages may use or not use. This description looks closer to Bisang’s definition
of finiteness. Hdi will then have a finiteness distinction for perfective and imperfective aspects,
but not for the stative or progressive aspects. The view based on Bisang’s definition contrasts
Anderson’s view:
Table 4. Anderson versus Bisang.
finiteness = the capacity to
license independent
finiteness = to display
morphological categories for
Independent perfective and
Dependent perfective and
One problem with Anderson’s view has already been pointed out and demonstrated with these
examples namely that the definition is too wide and redundant with the notion of
3.5 Subject pronouns in independent and
dependent clauses
In the appendix, a full set of subject pronouns are presented. The independent subjects will be
used in dependent clauses, i.e. they will belong to the non-finite clauses. The dependent clauses
can thus be said to have their own set of subject pronouns, though another set is also used which
they share with the independent clauses. This confirms the observation put forward earlier that
non-finite clauses will make use of a different set of subject pronouns if subject pronouns are
allowed at all (Koptjevskaja-Tamm 1994: 1245).
3.6 Conclusion and discussion of section 3
If one adopts a more traditional view of finiteness i.e. that non-finite clauses show reduction in
their morphological marking, we would have to conclude that Hdi does not show prototypical
finiteness properties. The verbs in this language have aspect, and what is additional, the very
distinction between non-finite and finite clauses is expressed through aspectual markings on
verbs, sometimes together with grammatical particles like tà in the clause. Moreover, we have
noted that in the examples given above, there are no restrictions on subject marking in
dependent clauses, however another set of subject pronouns may be used with the dependent
verb form. These are not prototypical non-finite properties. In this view, Hdi would have to be
said not to distinguish between finite and non-finite clauses since no reduction is to be noticed
in the dependent clauses.
In Bisang’s view on the other hand, the very existence of a separate set of markings for
distinguishing between independent and dependent clauses will indicate that there is a finiteness
distinction in the language. The question is then, which definition of finiteness one wishes to
adopt for describing the language in the best way. If one chooses to define finiteness as a feature
getting morphologically reduced in non-finite clauses, then there are no indications of a
finiteness asymmetry in the language. Consequently, one will fail to link the functions of these
clauses to the cross-linguistic tendency e.g. the link between finite clauses and independency
along with the link between non-finite clauses and subordination. In contrast, if one chooses the
definition of finiteness as put forward by Anderson and Bisang for example, the problem
remains that the term finiteness will be redundant, since it seems as if it does not describe
anything other than pragmatic dependency. However, the language seems to have a separate set
of verb forms and even subject forms to distinguish between functions of clauses that in IndoEuropean languages are distinct through finiteness and the correlation is in my view too big to
be ignored.
Recall that Kistane showed a very similar pattern to Hdi; in Kistane the main and
subordinate clauses were divided into perfective and imperfective verb forms. However, in the
description of the language written by Leslau (1992: 164ff) it seems as if the subordinate
clauses are syntactically dependent rather than pragmatically.
Yet it has also been shown that the definition of finiteness in the language in this sense is not
without exception. The stative and the progressive aspects have been shown to occur in
pragmatically dependent and independent clauses with the same form and the extension -kú,
used in the imperfective, does not distinguish between the finite and non-finite forms either. The
finiteness properties have been neutralized in these domains.
4 Sí and finiteness
Recall that tense was not an obligatory marker in Hdi. However, if one wishes to define
finiteness through the asymmetry of independent and dependent clauses existing in the
language, one would expect all clauses taking the marker sí to be dependent since sí is a marker
of the referential past and is thus dependent on a previously mentioned time frame.
Unfortunately very few examples are given of sentences with the referential past, but the ones
given seem to be able to have both independent and dependent verb forms. Consider:
zá wlíwá-ǧî ndá tà’á
grà, ká-‘á
PAST IMPF eat walk -1SG ASSC PREP-DEM friend COMP-3S
“I was taking a walk on the other side, my friend, he said” (336: 3)
Frajzyngier and Shay (2002: 336) states that the time referred to is depending on a previously
mentioned time. However, the verb ‘walk’ is taking a pronoun from the set of possessive subject
pronouns (see appendix). The verb is thus nominal. Recall that tà nominal verb is an
independent imperfective form (see Table 1). Whether this means that there is an additional
form to be added to the list of dependent imperfectives or that the referential past may take
independent aspect marking remains unclear due to lack of additional examples. If the latter, it
would cause problems for our preliminary definition of finite/non-finite clauses in the language
as a clearly dependent clause is taking independent marking.
5 Negation
In this section the means of negating in Hdi is presented. Interestingly, the means of negation,
with one exception, is also linked to the pragmatic status of the clause. Thus, Table 4,
representing the negating means of Hdi, will present all the negated forms of Table 3, except for
the progressive aspect. As you may notice, the negating manners separate the independent forms
from the dependent forms. The finite clauses are still assumed to be the independent clauses and
the non-finites the dependent ones:
Table 5. Negation.
Finite verb forms
Non-finite verb forms
clauses (no
Progressive Stative
• Non-referential
Simple verb form4
• Xáǧú verb-a
• Xáǧú tà
verb… wà
• Referential events:
Simple verb form
• Nominal verb
The term “simple verb form” is used as opposed to any kind of reduplicated form.
• Cannot
• Verb-tà
5.1 Negation in pragmatically independent
The negating means of the finite verb forms will not change based on the aspectual
characteristics of the clause, as is the case for the non-finite verbs. Thus, the distinction in the
aspectual system of perfective and imperfective is not kept when pragmatically independent
clauses are negated.
In negated pragmatically independent clauses, the negation consists of two particles a and
wà. The particle a will occur after the verb and the particle wà occurs at the end of the clause:
snà á índià xdí tá màxtsím wà
know NEG all
Hdi OBJ next day NEG
‘Not all Hdi know the future’ (380: 6)
The verb cannot have the reduplicated form in negated clauses. Thematic vowels and extensions
may be added if needed. The tone of the particle a will change depending on the referentiality of
the event. Low tone on the particle will mark the referentiality of the event while high tone
marks the non-referentiality of the event.
Frajzyngier & Shay point (2002: 380) out that “the temporal and aspectual interpretation of
such clauses [negated pragmatically independent clauses] is determined by the discourse
environment, and it could be past, present or future, perfective or imperfective”.
5.2 Negation in pragmatically dependent
The clauses in the negative dependent aspect are negative relative clauses, negative conditional
protasis and negative conditional and temporal apodoses. In the imperfective aspect the
dependent negative clause is coded by a framing initiated by the word xáǧú “lack, not to exist”.
Since this word is clause-initial and thus occupies the verbal position, it is assumed by
Frajzyngier & Shay to be an auxiliary. The auxiliary will be followed by the preposition tà, a
nominal verb and the clause final particle wà:
àmá xàǧú-lú tà táw-áy
but lack-UH IMPF cry-PO
‘But one does not complain about it’ (385: 34)
Note that the verb form is taken from the dependent imperfective set (see Table 3 above). The
negative pragmatically dependent clauses will also display perfective aspect:
xàǧú skwí mútsá-f-tsí wà
lack thing get-UP-3SG NEG
‘There is nothing that he got’ (i.e. ‘he did not get anything’) (386: 40)
Note that in this case, the verb form is instead a verbal stem ending in the vowel -a, which is the
dependent perfective verb form. We have now seen that the negative can display aspectual
differences in pragmatically dependent clauses (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 388).
5.3 Negation in the stative and progressive
The stative aspect cannot be negated and instead the dependent imperfective will be used. The
explanation given is that the stative has originated from the associative preposition ndá “with”.
The use of the negation would thus be a contradiction (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 324).
Unfortunately, no information has been found about the negation of the progressive aspect.
5.4 Conclusion and discussion on section 5
In this section, the negation system has been shown to distinguish the independent clauses from
the dependent ones. If the definition of finiteness for Hdi holds, it could be said that there is a
close link between finiteness and negation. Perhaps one might view this as an outcome of the
functions of the pragmatic status of the clause, i.e. independent or dependent, as well as the
function of negation. The former will determine the status of the proposition of the clause, i.e.
whether the clause is dependent on former knowledge or not, while the latter will negate it.
Interestingly, it was shown that the language does distinguish between perfective and
imperfective aspect when dependent clauses are negated, while there is a reduction in finiteness
properties for the independent clauses. We might therefore conclude that, in negated clauses in
Hdi, the implicational correlation mentioned above by Nikolaeva and repeated here, does not
hold: “for all languages, if person and /or number and/or tense are marked on the dependent
forms, then they are also marked on independent forms (Nikolaeva 2007: 3)”.
In Dahl (2008) the interaction between negation and finiteness is discussed. In this paper
only the aspects relevant for Hdi will be mentioned. One interesting point is that the study of
negation as a typological phenomenon has focused on the standard negation defined as “the
negation constructions used in main verbal declarative clauses”. This is the same clause type
identified by Anderson as the prototypical finite clause. Dahl (2008: 2) points out that in the
study of negation there is little discussion on why a declarative verbal sentence should be
considered more basic than imperative or copula constructions for example. In this way,
finiteness has traditionally been related to negation in the literature.
Miestamo distinguishes between “symmetric” and “asymmetric” negation. “Symmetric”
negation is negation that does not require anything more than the adding of a negation marker to
the affirmative clause whereas “asymmetric” negation does imply additional structural
differences. Three categories of “asymmetric” negation are defines, for A/Fin finiteness
properties of verbs are affected, A/NonReal distinguishes negated clauses as irrealis and for
A/Cat grammatical categories such as tense, aspect, mood and person are involved in the
negation process. According to Dahl (2008: 3), Miestamo distinguishes between asymmetries in
general rather than between negation constructions. He further points out that languages may
involve more than one of the categories in their negation constructions. As has been shown in
section 4, negation constructions in Hdi are linked to the finiteness properties of the language as
well as the aspectual system since finiteness is intertwined with the aspectual system. In this
case, both A/Fin and A/Cat are involved in negating processes.
6 Verbless clauses
In this section verbless clauses will be discussed. There are many different types of verbless
clauses and a set of them will be presented in this section. The verbless clauses cannot take
aspect but they may take tense. This follows from the fact that the aspectual system is expressed
through verbs. The tense markers are independent words attached to the beginning of the clause
and do not depend on the form of the predicate (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 343).
6.1 Verbless clauses and finiteness
There are three types of verbless clauses in Hdi; clauses with nominal predicatives, clauses with
pronominal predicatives and clauses with adjectival predicatives. Equational clauses has as their
function to “assert the identity of two nominal referents or [to include] one nominal referent in
the set represented by another nominal referent (e.g., John is a soldier)” (Frajzyniger & Shay
2002: 343). The role of the subject and the predicate is expressed through the word order
Predicate Subject:
m`nd-á ráyá mbítsá
man-GEN hunt Mbitsa
‘Mbitsa is a hunter’ (344: 1)
The pronominal subject may be drawn from the verbal set or the independent set:
‘They are Hdi’ (344: 5)
The following is an example of a verbless clause with an adjectival predicative:
kítíkw mbítsá
small Mbitsa
‘Mbitsa is small’
Verbless clauses equivalent to the English ‘it is X’ may be expressed with a copula. The copula
will be drawn from the set of demonstratives. These identificational sentences lack a subject and
can only be used if the subject has been mentioned earlier or is present in the discourse
environment (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 344):
lúwá xdí à
village Hdi COP
‘That is a Hdi village’ (345: 9)
The set of verbless clauses include locative sentences. The form of the locative phrase is
Preposition Noun:
zlə´ŋ dèrí
bed hat
‘the hat is on the bed’(352: 47)
6.2 Conclusion and discussion on section 6
If one defines finiteness as a property of the verb, and if the aspectual system are the “bearers”
of the finiteness properties, then one would have to say that the verbless clauses are not finite. If
one would consider the finiteness properties to be a property of the function of the clause, one
might be able to consider the ones that do not require any previous proposition for their
interpretation as finite. What is more, verbless clauses might take tense, which is usually
identified with finite forms rather than non-finite. In contrast, clauses like (32) will have to be
regarded as non-finite since they require previously mentioned information for their
If one chooses another view, for example the one of reduction put forward earlier, the same
conclusion may be drawn since in clauses like (32) morphosyntactic reduction has taken place;
the clause is not able to take its subject. The finite verbless clauses on the other hand may
express tense and they may as well use subject pronouns from both sets; independent and clitics.
This is in analogy with independent clauses with aspect marking. One conclusion drawn from
this section is that if one regards finiteness as the property of the function of the clause rather
than of any morphosyntactic marking, the finiteness properties in Hdi in general cannot be said
to be exclusively linked to the aspectual system of the language. In Anderson’s view then, all
clauses given above in section 6 are finite except sentence (32). It would however, be interesting
to know whether or not clauses like (32) may take tense or not, but unfortunately no such
sentences with tense were found.
Following Bisang (2007) one might conclude that the verbless clauses do not distinguish
between finite and non-finite properties at all, since they do not have specific marking to
distinguish them. One could, however, consider subject marking to be the marker distinguishing
these two clause, but the problem would then be that subject marking as an indicator of
finiteness would not be consistent with the rest of the language. Even though there is a separate
set of subject pronouns for dependent clauses, there are no restrictions on the markings of
subjects, i.e. whether or not a clause may take a subject, in these clauses.
7 Imperative
The simple verb in the imperative mood is identical to the indicative mood. The indicative
mood is the default unmarked clause that is not marked for other moods such as the
7.1 Number and aspect in the imperative
In Hid, the imperative mood is used as a direct order and may distinguish between the firstperson dual inclusive and first-person dual exclusive on the one hand and second person
singular and second person plural on the other. Only the former two, first-person dual inclusive
and first-person dual exclusive, may be added to the verb. The second person addressee is
unmarked in the singular and expressed through the marker wá:
xgà tá krì
call OBJ dog
‘Call the dog!’ (274: 12)
‘drink’ (plural addressee) (278: 30)
Do notice that the imperative can both agree with the addressee and take verbal extensions.
What is more, aspect may as well be expressed in the imperative. The reduplicated form of the
verb will implicate bounded events:
‘Lie down!’ (275: 15)5
In contrastive constructions, independent pronouns may follow the verb. Recall that
independent pronouns were used in dependent clauses only. The form verb-a is used for
dependent perfective constructions:
nzànzà kághá kà lá-b-l-ìyù
remain 2SG SEQ go-OUT-go-1SG COMP dog
’”You stay, I should go,” said Dog’ (276: 21)
The coding of the object in the imperative mood is dependent on extensions to the verb and the
reduplicated form of the verb. If there are no extensions to the verb, the object will be preceded
by the objectmarker tá as in the indicative mood:
ksá tá mbə`gá
catch OBJ mouse
‘Catch a mouse!’ (276: 24)
The imperative mood may occur in complements to verbs of saying:
lá ká-xə`n mná-íxà-tà
go COMP-PL6 tell-1SG-REF
In Frajzyngier’s example the translation is given without glossing.
‘They told me to go’ (451: 47)
7.2 Conclusion and discussion on section 7
As has been noticed, the imperative may agree with the addressee and be marked for person and
verbal extensions as well as show aspect. Nikolaeva (2007: 140) points out that in the literature
imperatives have been associated with agreement categories such as number, gender/class and
honorification. In the case of Hdi, number agreement seems to be in line with the typological
observations made.
There is very little reduction in the imperative form in Hdi. The only limitation seems to be
that not all persons are allowed as addressees, however, when they are, they are explicitly
marked in three cases out of four; only in the second person singular is the addressee unmarked.
If one were to define finiteness as reduction in morphology, one would have to regard the Hdi
imperatives as finite forms. If one assumes finite clauses to be able to function without a
presupposition, then one would have to define imperative clauses as finite clauses as well.
8 Complement clauses
In Hdi, complement clauses may precede or follow the matrix clause. Complement clauses
preceding the matrix clause are called de dicto complement clauses and the clauses following
the matrix clause are called de re complement clauses. In this section a selection of complement
clauses that are interesting for the present discussion will be presented. All complements will
receive dependent aspect marking, since they need the matrix clause for their proper
interpretation. 7
8.1 Complements of verbs of perception
The clausal order for complements of perception is Matrix clause - Complement clause. Direct
perception is coded through complementizers, nominalization and subject-to-object rising.
Below you will find examples of the three respectively. In the first example direct perception is
coded through the use of the complementizer kàwák:
`nghá kàwák-íyù sí
tà vàlá vlì
look how-1SG PAST IMPF jump place
‘Look how I jumped’ (469: 1)
In Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 451, the subject is marked through PL only. I think this is a typing
mistake and should be marked 3PL. See example 48 where the same pronoun is marked 3PL.
In this section, the possessive subject pronouns and the object pronouns have been marked to
facilitate for the reader. These markings are made by the author.
One might also mark direct perception through nominalization. In this case the subject pronoun
may be added to the nominalised verb. Only the possessive subject pronouns may inflect the
verb of the non-matrix clause when the nominal verb is used. The possessive marker -á will
precede the subject:
tá dzà’-á-ǧá
hear-3.OBJ-hear OBJ go-POSS-1SG.POSS
‘He heard me go’, ‘He heard my departure’ (470: 4)
In the following example the subject of the embedded clause has been raised to the object
position of the main clause. The verb may be nominal. The structure of the sentence is X [verb
of perception] Y at Z, where Z is a nominal verb. Third person singular object is unmarked.
Again, the preposition tà in the complement gives the clause an imperfective interpretation:
`ngha-ìxà-`ngha tà dzà’á
see-1SG.OBJ-see IMPF go
‘He saw me go’ (472: 15)
In indirect perception the subject may be marked in the dependent clause (subjunctive mood):
ká zlày tà dzá’-í ká-‘á
‘He heard that I should go’ (473: 22)
The potential object suffix -ay also indicates that the subject is controlling. The absolutive suffix
-kú indicates that the subject of the embedded clause is affected:
tá drá-kú-á-ní
hear-3.OBJ-hear-1SG OBJ burn-ABS-GEN-3SG.POSS
‘I heard it burning’ (471: 11)
tá dr-áy-ní
hear-3.OBJ-hear-1SG OBJ burn-PO-3SG.POSS
‘I heard him burn [something]’ (471: 12)
As shown by the examples, the verbs in the embedded clauses might have marking for subjects
as well as thematic role marking e.g. ABS or PO. There seems to be little limitations on the
embedded clause that are translated with non-finite forms in English. Only sentence (42) could
not take its subject.
8.2 Complements of verbs of saying
Verbs of saying, including the verbs mná “say”, imá “forbid”, ǧáwá “ask”, txá “expel” (words)
and gwàǧá “talk”, will take clausal complements. There are different means for the use of these
verbs. In this paper, however, only the use with a complementizer will be discussed. The verbs
of saying themselves are often omitted in the matrix clause leaving the complementizer as the
only marker of the matrix clause. The complementizer ká occurs after the complement clause
and is followed by the subject of the verb of saying. If the verb of saying occurs, its position is
after the subject. Thus, the matrix clause consists of the de dicto complementizer followed by a
pronominal or nominal subject. Hence, in the sentence below, the clause followed by the
complementizer is the main clause. Pronominal subjects of the main clause will follow the
wá ká’-à
what COMP-3SG
‘What did he say?’ (442: 2)
In the example given above the verb of the matrix clause is omitted. The complementizer will
have to take the subject pronoun. It has earlier been established that verbs in specific questions
will have to take independent aspect marking. The question remains how one should define
clauses where the main verb is omitted.
The complementizer will also occur in sentences that are not questions:
lá-wá-lá ká-xə `n
go-PL-go COMPL-3PL tell-1PL:EXCL-REF
‘they told us to go’ (451: 50)
This leads us to the conclusion that the verb in the complement clause is controlled by the object
of the main clause. Thus the verb in the complement clause will agree with the controlling noun
phrase, which is the object of the main clause, if the addressee is plural. However, if you
express the clause with a prohibitive, the verb in the non-matrix clause will take a subject
pronoun. The prohibitive clause will also precede the matrix clause:
zə ´-í ká-‘á
‘He forbade me to eat’ (454: 59)
8.3 Complements of volitional verbs
The order of the clauses of the volitional complements are either Matrix clause - Complement
clause or Complement clause - Matrix clause. If the subject of the matrix clause and the subject
of the embedded clause are the same, the subject must be marked only once, either in the matrix
or in the embedded clause (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 469). This suggests that the marking of
the subject is not necessarily bound to the independent clause. Again, we observe a non-typical
Consider the following example where the subject is marked in the matrix clause:
‘We wanted to leave’ (478: 2)
Now consider the next example where the subject is marked on the embedded clause. In this
case the subject is not allowed to be marked in the matrix clause. This applies to some
complement clauses and is referred to as “subject lowering”:
ǧvá hlîí-xə `n
want leave-3PL
‘They want to leave’ (478: 7)
Examples with transitive verbs that have their subject marked in the embedded clause rather
than in the matrix clause are also found:
ǧvá s-ày-xə `n
IMPF want drink-PO-3PL OBJ beer
‘they want to drink bilbil’ (479: 11)
A nominal complement clause will take a possessive pronoun:
ǧ v-áy-xə `n tá hlí’y-á-mú
‘They wanted us to leave’ (lit. ‘they wanted our leaving’) (480: 15)
If one considers subject coding to be the crucial and defining property of finiteness, as Cowper
does, then one must consider the embedded complement clause to be finite, while the main
clause is not. The fact that the subject can only be marked in the subordinate clause in (50) is
non-typical if one recalls that in many languages, non-finite clauses show reduction in their
morphological markings. Frajzyngier & Shay (2002: 513f) put forward a hypothesis to explain
the phenomenon:
As an explanation for the phenomenon, we propose that the verb ǧvá has a lowered subject
when it functions as an auxiliary verb coding a hypothetical modality, something similar to
“would” in English. Unfortunately, this must remain a hypothesis, as we have no natural
language data to support it.
However, auxiliary verbs seem to be able to take subjects. The auxiliary verb klá “take” takes
pronominal subject pronouns (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 529).
8.4 Conclusion and discussion of section 6
There seems to be little reduction in the complement clauses of the language. Only one type of
complement clause, exemplified in (42), did not seem to be able to take its subject. For
complements of volitionary verbs, both the complement clause and the matrix clause are able to
take the subject. What is more, example (50) shows that in some clauses the subject must be
expressed in the subordinate clause rather than the matrix clause.
9 Discussion
It has been noted that there is little or no reduction on morphosyntactic markings for non-finite
clauses in the language. If one wished to define finiteness with certain morphosyntactic
markings, like Klein and Cowper, one would have to conclude that Hdi does not exhibit
finiteness properties. On the other hand, one might point out that the language does have
specific markings for displaying the asymmetry between independent and dependent clauses. In
Bisang’s definition of finiteness, this is enough for establishing that the language indeed does
hold finiteness properties. The problem is that if one chooses this viewpoint, i.e. defining
independent clauses with finite clauses and dependent clauses with non-finite clauses, there is
no additional information in the term ‘finiteness’ for a language such as Hdi.
Nevertheless, if finiteness cross-linguistically is the means of expressing subordination, often
with some morphosyntactic reduction, one might want to argue that Hdi indeed does have
specific marking for subordination. I would suggest that Hdi does display finiteness properties
and that the notion is in fact relevant to the language. Not only is the means of subordination
dependent on the asymmetry between the independent and dependent clauses, but the means of
negating have also been shown to be linked to this asymmetry.
The assumption of finite clauses being the pragmatically independent and non-finites being
pragmatically dependent will however have some consequences. Following Anderson (2007),
verbless clauses and imperatives might be finite or non-finte depending on the context of each
sentence. Another view presented, Bisang (2007), would perhaps instead say that verbless
clauses and imperatives do not display finiteness properties at all since they do not have
separate sets of forms for the finite/non-finite forms.
Perhaps one might be able to solve the problem of the redundancy of Anderson’s definition
of finiteness by combining it with Bisang’s definition. In this way, for Hdi, finiteness could be
defined as “the capacity to licence independent predication if the linguistic domain exhibits
distinct sets of marking to separate independent clauses from dependent ones”. The independent
and dependent clauses are still pragmatically independent or dependent for Hdi. What this
definition is trying to establish is, that for Hdi finite clauses are defined as clauses that function
independently without former knowledge. However, the term finite is only relevant to use if the
marking of independent clauses is distinct from the dependent ones. To illustrate this point three
imaginary languages are created below. We are only looking at the verb forms in this
Table 6. Verb forms and language types.
Independent verb forms
dependent verb forms
Language A
Language B
Langauge C
The two languages A and B have a way of separating the finite verbs from non-finite ones and
thus will be said to have finiteness properties. However, in language B there is no reduction in
the morphology of the verb whereas in language A the Y morpheme (e.g. tense) is not allowed.
In language C however, the same form is used for dependent clauses as well as independent
ones. Following the definition of finiteness most suited for Hdi, in languages like these, e.g.
Chinese, finiteness is not a relevant term to use. Hdi on the other hand could be said to be a
language B type though some domains of the language, i.e. the –kú marker, the stative aspect,
the progressive aspect, verbless clauses and imperatives, behave like a type C language.
Whether the marking of dependent clauses includes morphosyntactic reduction or not is a
secondary question. In the case of Hdi, as opposed to the cross-linguistic tendency, there is no
morphosyntactic reduction in the marking of dependent clauses. The morphosyntactic reduction
may thus be seen as a scalar property. This is illustrated below:
Non-finite clauses
No morphosyntactic
reduction relative to
reduction relative to
The illustration may, with some exceptions as always when dealing with languages, account for
the means of subordination in Hdi given the definition of finiteness as stated above.
As there is no separate set of verb forms (may that be reduction in morphosyntactic marking
or merely another separate verb form) or any other morphosyntactic marking to distinguish
independent clauses from dependent ones for the –kú marker, the stative aspect, the progressive
aspect, verbless clauses and imperatives, these linguistic domains will be considered not to
display finiteness properties at all. Recall that in the imperfective, if the source, e.g. the subject,
is affected, no finiteness distinctions are made. The means of negation were shown to display
the finiteness asymmetry in the independent and dependent clauses. Table 4 may then be
adjusted into Table 7. A — line in the table indicated that there is no finite/non-finite distinction
for that particular component in the language:
Table 7. Finiteness properties of Hdi.
Finiteness: the capacity to licence independent predication if the language exhibits
distinct sets of marking to separate independent clauses from dependent ones.
Independent perfective and imperfective
Dependent perfective and imperfective
The source-oriented marker in imperfective: -kú
Negated independent clauses
Negated dependent clauses
Verbless clauses
10 Conclusion
It has been argued that there is a finiteness distinction in Hdi and that the distinction is relevant
since it describes a crucial property of the language. The best suited definition of finiteness for
Hdi has been shown to be the one put forward by Anderson (2007) and combined with Bisang
(2007). However, this definition is one suggestion and there may be alternative definitions,
shown in Table 4 for example. Clauses with stative and progressive aspect, the source-oriented
marker in imperfective, -kú together with verbless clauses and imperatives have caused some
difficulties in defining finiteness for the language. Nevertheless, in this paper they are argued
not to have finiteness properties as opposed to Andersons view.
The non-finite clauses in Hdi do not show any sign of morphological reduction as was
discussed in section 8 and 7, contrary to the cross-linguistic observations. The negation means
also showed non-typical behaviour as they had more distinctions in the negated dependent
clauses than in the negated independent clauses. Accordingly, the implicational universal stated
by Nikolaeva (2007: 13) does not hold in negated clauses in Hdi.
Anderson, J.M., 2007. Finiteness, mood and morphosyntax. Journal of Linguistics, 43, pp. 1-32.
Bisang, W., 2007. Categories that make finiteness: discreteness from a functional perspective
and some of its repercussions. In I. Nikolaeva, ed. Finiteness: Theoretical and Empirical
Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 5.
Cowper, E., 2002 (in press) Finiteness. University of Toronto.
Dahl, Ö., 2008 (in press) Typology of negation.
Dahl, Ö., & Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M., 2008. Grant Proposal to the European Research Council.
Department of Linguistics, University of Stockholm.
Frajzyngier, Z., & Shay, E., 2002, A Grammar of Hdi. Mouton de Gryter, Berlin ; New York.
Frajzyngier, Z., 2004, Tense and Aspect as Coding Means for Information Structure: a Potential
Areal Feature. Journal of West African Languages, XXX (2), pp. 53-67.
Frajzyniger, Z., 2009. Conversation on independent and dependent clauses in Hdi.
[conversation] (personal communication 24 April 2009).
Klein, W., On Finiteness. (in press) In V. Van Geenhoven, ed. Semantics meets acquisition.
Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M., 1994. ”The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics”, Finiteness,
vol 3, pp. 1245-1248.
Leslau, W., 1992. An outline of Soddo. Gurage Studies: Collected Articles. Wiesbaden: Otto
Nikolaeva, I., 2007. Introduction. In I. Nikolaeva, ed. Finiteness: Theoretical and Empirical
Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 1.
Nikolaeva, I., 2007. Constructional Economy and non-finite independent clauses. In I.
Nikolaeva, ed. Finiteness: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. Ch. 6.
Independent pronouns (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 83)
úú (INCL)
ámú (INCL)
áŋní (EXCL)
Subject pronoun clitics (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 124)
í, íyù
Unspecified human
Ø, a, tsí
mú (INCL)
ŋní (EXCL)
mú (INCL)
Possessive pronouns (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 54)
ŋní (EXCL)
Independent object pronouns (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 164)
ámú (INCL)
áŋní (EXCL)
Direct object affixes (Frajzyngier & Shay 2002: 135)
úú (INCL)
í, ǧ, í-xà
mù (INCL)
ŋní (EXCL)
Ø, n
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