Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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FEKEDE Menuta, Hawassa University, Ethiopia

Entities existing in space are quantified and measured differently. The way they are conceptualized and their units of measurement vary across languages. This article aims to describe how entities in space are perceived in terms of generic-specific, mass-collective, definite-indefinite and masculine-feminine poles, and how they are measured in the Gurage language. Gurage has a number of language varieties; the data for this study was collected from the Gumer variety. Three key informants were used to elicit the data. An introspective method was also used, as the researcher speaks the language. It was found that nouns can be singular (ərʧ ‘boy’), plural (dengja ‘boys’) or collective (səb ‘person’). Singular is not marked, but plural is expressed by lexical means and verb agreement. Pronominal suffixes that also mark definiteness distinguish singular and plural: fek’-hut (goat-DEF ‘the goat’) and fek’-hɨno (goat-DEF.PL ‘the goats’). Pronominal suffixes also express honorific masculine and feminine nouns. The collective plural is expressed with {nə-}: nə-gwənʧə (PL-hyena ‘group of hyenas’). Gender interacts with animacy but not with number. Only animate and human nouns distinguish feminine grammatically; otherwise, all nouns are masculine. Flat objects are measured with units, such as k’it’er ‘leaf’, ʤef ‘foot’, ʒɨr ‘stick’ and wədərə ‘rope’. Liquids are measured with their container: ank’əfwə ‘spoon’, wəʃər ‘pot’, t’ɨwa ‘ a small size pot’, and ʤəbən ‘kittle’. Solid objects are measured with units such as əʤ ‘hand’; k’una, jibanguna, gurət, k’ərʧ’at all referring to different types of baskets; ʤunja ‘sack’, and ʃat ‘granary’. Parts are measured with fɨnt ‘half’, fwɨrɨm ‘piece’; pairs with t’ɨmd ‘tame’ and ləmʧa ‘twin’; set of entities with angədo ‘cattle in cages’. Objects are also measured with gwəʤə ‘hole’, t’or ‘ load on a head’, finʧ’ə ‘sip’, and t’ɨmwjət ‘roll’. Some units measure liquids and solids. The same entity can be an object and unit of measurement. Syntactically, measure phrases precede the entity measured.