Iraqw Language – Phonology, Morphology, Syntax & More
Iraqw language is one of the tribal spoken languages of Tanzania. It is a Cushitic language and is primarily spoken in the Manyara and Arusha regions. As the Iraqw people merge into neighboring cultural groups, the number of language speakers increases. The language loans many words from Datooga, especially in poetry. The Gorowa language in the south is considered a dialect sometimes since it also shares many similarities with Iraqw.
Iraqw Language Phonology
Vowels in Iraqw Language
The following vowel syllabaries are listed in writings by Whiteley in 1958 for the Iraqw language. All vowels have a short and long-form, except /ə/.
|CLOSE||i iː||u uː|
|MID||e eː||o oː|
Consonants in the Iraqw Language
The following consonants were listed in writings by Whiteley in 1958 and Mous in 1993.
|IRAQW CONSONANT SYLLABARIES|
|LARYNGEALIZED||tsʼ||tɬʼ ⟨tl⟩||qʼ ~ qχʼ||qʷʼ ~ qχʷʼ||ʔ ⟨’⟩|
|FRICATIVE||VOICELESS||f||s||ɬ ⟨sl⟩||ʃ ⟨sh⟩||x||xʷ||ħ ⟨hh⟩||h|
In academic literature such as Mous, 1993 and Nordbustad, 1998, along with collections of traditional Iraqw tales and Catholic and Lutheran materials, most of Iraqw language’s popular orthography is derived from Swahili orthography with the addition of q and x.
Other Iraqw language orthography additions include the sound ʕ which is spelled ⟨/⟩, the sound ɬ which is spelled ⟨sl⟩, the sound ħ is spelled ⟨hh⟩ and the sound tɬʼ which is spelled ⟨tl⟩ (Mous 1993:16).
Iraqw Language Morphology
Nouns in Iraqw Language
Iraqw language nouns are identified with three genders. These genders are neuter, feminine, and masculine. The type of agreement triggered by the noun on other sentence elements determines its gender. However, if the agreement system is uncommon, it obeys the following Mous (1993:41) principle:
- Neuter nouns need plural verbs
- Feminine nouns need feminine verbs
- Masculine nouns need masculine verbs
The different verb forms in the Iraqw language are identified by the form it takes when the subject is a pronoun which is:
- They – 3rd person plural
- She – 3rd person feminine singular
- He – 3rd person masculine singular
|NEUTER VERB FORMS|
‘The tail is making circles’
‘They are making circles’
|FEMININE VERB FORMS|
‘The tails are making circles’
‘She is making circles’
|MASCULINE VERB FORMS|
‘The boys are fighting’
‘He is fighting’
There are several uncommon things in the Iraqw language that should be noted. For example, ‘tail” is neuter when in the singular form and feminine when plural. Despite this change, the plural verb form is used because it is neuter, and neuters require a plural verb. For this reason, the plural form is often used to label this gender. Plural genders are also common in many other Cushitic languages.
Another uncommon thing in the Iraqw language is verbs that do not agree with their subjects in number. For example, the masculine plural of ‘boys’ (daagay) uses a masculine verb form and not a plural.
Numbers in the Iraqw Language
Although nouns usually have differentiating plural and singular forms, there are many clear-cut suffixes. In Mous (1993:44), it is stated that fourteen unique plural suffixes exist in the Iraqw language. The unwritten noun entry must specify its specific required plural suffix.
A plural noun’s gender is generally different from the corresponding singular’s gender. Below is a comparison of plural and singular nouns and their respective genders:
|SINGULAR||SINGULAR GENDER||PLURAL||PLURAL GENDER||MEANING|
The plural suffixes form determines the gender of plural nouns because it is not possible to predetermine which gender the noun will be and which plural suffix it will require. For example, Mous (1993:58) stated that a plural noun with the /-eemo/ suffix is always neuter.
Gender Linkers and Construct Case Suffixes in the Iraqw Language
The gender linker and construct case suffix that a noun requires is determined by its gender. A construct case suffix should be placed after a noun when the noun is directly before an adjective, possessive noun phrase, verb, relative clause, or numeral.
Neuter nouns in the Iraqw language have a construct case marker of /-á/, feminine nouns have a construct case marker of /-Hr/ or /-tá/, and masculine nouns have a construct case marker of /-ú/ or /-kú/.
Mous (1993:95 – 96):
‘I pull the rope’
‘the stick of my father’
Construct case suffixes and gender linkers are similar except that a linker is placed between nouns and other suffixes. These other suffixes include possessive, demonstrative, and indefinite suffixes.
The table below shows examples of neuter, feminine, and masculine nouns before the possessive (their) suffix and the demonstrative (-qá’ ‘that – far, but visible) suffix in the Iraqw language.
Mous (1993: 90 – 92):
|hhafeeto ‘mats’||hasam ‘dilemma’||gura’ ‘stomach’|
Adverbial Case Clitics
The Iraqw language has the ablative, directive, reason, and instrumental case clitics. These occur immediately before verbs and are cliticised to preceding nouns with gender linkers. They can also be positioned after verbs, and when they do, they are followed by the resumptive pronoun alé.
‘Put this sack on a stick.’ Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);
‘Do you regret your return?’ Unknown glossing abbreviation(s);
Syntax in the Iraqw Language
In the noun phrase, nouns precede adjectives, relative clauses, possessors, and numerals. A construct case suffix appears between nouns and the first-mentioned modifiers.
The Iraqw language Morphology section below discusses this:
‘the stick of my father’
Iraqw Language Sentences
Sentences in the Iraqw language contain an auxiliary-like element (known as the selector) and a verb in the final position.
The selectors agree with preceding nouns, and sentence subjects or objects precede the selector (Mous 2004:110). In the below examples, iri agrees with /ameenirdá’ (that woman) and uná agrees with gitladá’.
‘And that woman was surely eating.’
‘I hate that man.’
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