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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BAYE Yimam, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

The literature on Amharic numerals recognizes number as cardinal and ordinal references to definite or indefinite objects. The ordinal is marked with the suffix -äňňa, as in and-äňňa ‘1st’. This is used in reference to an object situated in a ranking order. The ranked object is one among a definite or indefinite group of objects organized in a linear or hierarchical manner. In addition to this, there is a third type attested in the counting of siblings in descending order. This comes from the variety of Amharic spoken in rural villages of North Wällo. In this variety, expressions like, hulätt-∂yya, sost-∂yya etc. are used to refer to one’s second, third, fourth, etc younger sibling. The suffix also occurs in the form, mänt-∂yya ‘one’s twin’ from the noun mänta ‘twin’. All such expressions are genitive with an implicit possessor assumed. With the cardinal numeral and ‘one’ the suffix renders the sense of an action done once and for all, as in and-∂yya-u-n hedä ‘he left for good’ or az∂mära-u and-∂yya-u-n t’∂ftowal. ‘The harvest is totally/completely destroyed’. In such contexts the expression has a wide scope interpretation of the manner of an action or state. Could such references be characteristic of other languages of the region?