Unlocking the Ik instrumental case


  • Terrill Schrock


Ik, Kuliak, case,


Ik, a Kuliak (Nilo-Saharan) language spoken by roughly 7000 people in northeastern Uganda, has up to now been described as having a case system with seven cases (König 2002, 2008). However, evidence from morphophonological variations on case suffixes requires that an eighth case be posited. Based on the semantic roles the eighth case marker encodes, it can be called the ‘instrumental’ case. The present paper provides a brief description of this so-named instrumental case in Ik. It does so by first giving an overview of the allomorphy of all eight case suffixes to provide some analytic context for distinguishing the instrumental from other case markers, particularly the ablative. Then it gives examples of the six semantic case roles that the instrumental case suffix encodes. By introducing an eighth case, the paper shows that a supposed instance of case syncretism (between the ablative and the instrumental) should no longer be thought to obtain in this East African language.