A grammar of the Lopit language
AuthorMoodie, Jonathan Paul
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Jonathan Paul Moodie
This thesis is the first comprehensive description of the grammar of Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic language traditionally spoken in South Sudan. It is based on extensive fieldwork with Lopit speakers living in Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. It focuses on the Dorik variety of the language. Following introductory discussion, analyses are presented of Lopit phonology; word classes; and morphology of the noun phrase and the verb. This is then followed by analyses of verbal tense, aspect and mood; basic sentence structure; the expression of property concepts and adverbial notions; and clause combining constructions. This study shows that, in many ways, Lopit is a typical non-Bari Eastern Nilotic language. Lopit has a nine-vowel system with an Advanced Tongue Root distinction, and tones used for both lexical and grammatical distinctions. Number marking follows the tripartite system of singulative, plurative and replacement marking, and property concepts are mainly expressed with stative verbs in relative clause constructions. As is typical of Eastern Nilotic languages, Lopit has two classes of verbs and bound pronominal marking on verbs. It is a verb-initial language and the unmarked word order is VSO. Lopit has a marked nominative case system, with nominative and absolutive case distinguished by tone. Lopit does, however, exhibit a number of features which are either not present or have not been identified in other Eastern Nilotic languages. These include the ‘greater singular’, where a morphologically singular noun can be used to indicate a very large number. Lopit also appears to differ from other Eastern Nilotic languages in that there is a three-way contrast in aspect: neutral, imperfective and perfective. In addition, the marking of aspect is determined by the phonotactic structure of the verb root. Lopit appears to have a larger range of modal distinctions than other Eastern Nilotic languages, including the irrealis, the potential, the conditional and the obligative. While inclusory constructions are present in other Eastern Nilotic languages, Lopit appears to be unique in that it distinguishes two kinds of inclusory constructions, one of which has a topicalised, but not expressed, noun phrase. The detailed description of Lopit morphological and syntactic structures presented in this thesis offers valuable insights in relation to several grammatical features which are cross-linguistically rare or under-described, while also making a significant contribution to the typological and historical understanding of Eastern Nilotic languages, and Nilo-Saharan languages more generally. As the first comprehensive grammar of Lopit, it also offers a strong foundation from which more detailed examinations of specific phenomena can proceed.
KeywordsLopit; Eastern Nilotic; grammar; language description
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