Iraqw Language – Phonology, Morphology, Syntax & More

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/.

FRONT CENTRAL BACK
CLOSE i  u uː
MID e eː o oː
OPEN a aː

Consonants in the Iraqw Language

The following consonants were listed in writings by Whiteley in 1958 and Mous in 1993.

IRAQW CONSONANT SYLLABARIES
LABIAL ALVEOLAR PALATAL /
PALATO-
ALVEOLAR
VELAR/UVULAR PHARYNGEAL GLOTTAL
CENTRAL LATERAL PLAIN LABIALIZED
NASAL m n ŋ ⟨ng⟩ ŋʷ
PLOSIVE/
AFFRICATE
VOICELESS p t k
VOICED b d ɡ ɡʷ
LARYNGEALIZED tsʼ tɬʼ ⟨tl⟩ qʼ ~ qχʼ qʷʼ ~ qχʷʼ ʔ ⟨’⟩
FRICATIVE VOICELESS f s ɬ ⟨sl⟩ ʃ ⟨sh⟩ x ħ ⟨hh⟩ h
VOICED ʕ ⟨/⟩
TRILL r
APPROXIMANT l j ⟨y⟩ w

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

Gender

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
Hhayso

tail(neut)

i

S.3

harweeriiríná’

make:circles:3.sg.pl

‘The tail is making circles’

i

S.3

harweeriiríná’

make:circles:3.sg.pl

‘They are making circles’

FEMININE VERB FORMS
Hhayse

tails(fem)

i

S.3

harweeriiríin

make:circles:3.sg.f

‘The tails are making circles’

i

S.3

harweeriiríin

make:circles:3.sg.f

‘She is making circles’

MASCULINE VERB FORMS
Daaqay

boys(masc)

i

S.3

giilín

fight:3.sg.m

‘The boys are fighting’

i

S.3

giilín

fight:3.sg.m

‘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
awu m awe f bull
bila’ m bil’aawe f cliff
nyaqot m nyaqootma’ f colobus monkey
hhampa m hhampeeri n wing
tlanka f tlankadu n bridge
lama f lameemo n lie
slanú m slaneemo n python
xweera n xweer(a)du n night

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):

  • an-á

1sg-S:1/2

hiim-ú

rope-construct:masc

urúux

pull:1sg

‘I pull the rope’

 

  • hhar-tá

stick-construct:fem

baabú-‘ee’

father-1sg.poss

‘the stick of my father’

  • waahlá-r

python-construct:fem

ur

big

‘big python’

 

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):

NEUTER FEMININE MASCULINE
hhafeeto ‘mats’ hasam ‘dilemma’ gura’ ‘stomach’
hhafeeto-‘ín

mats:n-3pl.poss

hasam-ar-‘ín

dilemma-f-3pl.poss

‘their dilemma’

guru-‘ín

stomach:m-3pl.poss

‘their stomach’

hhafeeto-qá’

mats:n-that

‘those mats’

hasam-ar-qá’

dilemma-f-that

‘that dilemma’

guru-qá’

stomach:m-that

‘that 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.

CASES CLITIC EXAMPLE
Directive i tlakway-í

sack-DEM1

dahas-eek

put-imp.sg.O

bará

in:CON

hhar-ti

stick-F1:DIR

alé

RESPRO

‘Put this sack on a stick.’ Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

Ablative wa naxés

well

ba’ari

bees

ni-na

pl-pst

bará

in:CON

sla/a-tá-wa

bush-F1-abl

ti’it

appear:3sg.f

‘Then bees appeared from the bush.’[5] Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

Instrumental ar aná

1.sg-S.1/2

dab-ar

hands-instr

fool-íit

dig-MIDDLE:1.sg

‘I dig with my hands.’ [4] Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

Reason sa a

S.1/2

ki/ima-wók-sa

return-2.sg.poss-REAS

gurhamut-a?

regret:2.sg:int-inf

‘Do you regret your return?’ Unknown glossing abbreviation(s);

Syntax in the Iraqw Language

Noun Phrases

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:

hhar-tá

stick-construct:fem

baabú-‘ee’

father-1sg.poss

‘the stick of my father’

waahlá-r

python-construct:fem

ur

big

‘big python’

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’. 

Examples:

/ameeni-r-dá’

woman-fem-that

i-ri

S.3-narrative:past

tsuwa

for.sure

fa/á-r

food-construct:fem

/agagiin.

eat:impf:3s

‘And that woman was surely eating.’

(‘aníng)

I

gitla-dá’

man-that

‘u-na

obj:masc-past

aahhiit

hate:1sg

‘I hate that man.’

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