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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ANBESSA Teferra, Department of Hebrew Language and Semitic Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities, Tel Aviv University, Israel

The aim of this paper is analyse the quantification and numeration system of Sidaama, a Highland East Cushitic (HEC) language spoken in south-central Ethiopia. Among other things, nouns in this language are marked for number. Three categories of number are distinguished: basic form (collective), singulative, and plural. The basic form is unmarked for number but some of its members may have a collective reading. A singulative has an individuating function and denotes a single referent as in woš-i-ččo ʻdogʼ. It can also mark a diminutive, particularly in adjectives. The singulative is marked by /–čo/ ~ /–ččo/. Some nouns in their synchronic form carry either /–ššo/ or /-kko/ as singulative markers. The plural marks more than one referent. Among HEC languages, Sidaama has a rich plural system whereby it is marked by /-Ca/, /-uwa/, /-aasine/, etc. The formative /-Ca/ (whereby C is a copy of the stem-final segment) appears to be the default plural marker because it has a higher frequency and is the preferred plural for loan words. Although singular with numerals is possible, the preferred form in Sidaama is plural with numerals. Sidaama exhibits quite a widespread polarity whereby the gender is reversed between the singular and plural of nouns (for instance masculine noun in the singular but feminine in the plural). Numerals from 20 up to 90 are derived from unit numerals but involve a number of sound changes. Non-count nouns are specified by means of measure phrases. The head of the measure phrase can consist of traditional measure nouns such as č’igile ‘arm’, saffe ‘a grain measure’, etc. or modern measure nouns such as t’armuse ‘bottle’ or farasula ‘a dry measure of 17 kilogramsʼ which are usually loan words.