The Perfect in Gã
Keywords:perfect, Gã, grammaticalization, past tense, aspect
This paper investigates the meaning and distribution of the perfect in Gã (Niger-Congo, Kwa). Data from natural speech and elicitation reveals that in addition to uses of the perfect that have been established cross-linguistically, Gã makes use of the perfect for the predication of qualities (perfect of quality), for overtly signalling a change of state (inchoative perfect) and for marking iterative, habitual or predictable events (sequential perfect). A polysemous view of the perfect is advanced, and the semantic element of relevance is proposed as constituting the semantic core of the perfect. The paper also shows that the Gã perfect may be in the nascent stages of grammaticalization to a perfective or past tense, as it is now possible to use the perfect with hodiernal and prehodiernal temporal adverbs. The paper’s significance lies in its documentation of an ongoing grammaticalization process that is uncommon in Niger-Congo and a novel use of the perfect in the sequential perfect, which has not been attested cross-linguistically.
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