Toward a typology of directional motion for African Languages


  • Ronald P. Schaefer
  • Richard Gaines


motion, direction, typology, manner,


This paper examines the syntactic and semantic expression of basic directional motion and its manner counterparts across the four language phyla of Africa. We sample languages from each phylum, concentrating on basic, non-deictic, directional motion and its counterpart in which motion, direction, and manner of motion occur simultaneously. Two primary findings emerge. Across Africa, basic directional motion tends to be verb-framed with respect to direction; it conflates the semantic components Motion+Direction in verbs equivalent to 'enter, circle, traverse'. Manner of motion, while maintaining this lexicalization pattern, syntactically registers a Motion+Direction verb and its linear order relative to a Manner verb through either of two primary strategies. Manner precedes Motion+ Direction when the two verbs are conveyed through serial verb sequences, verb compounding, or verb coordination. Manner follows Motion+Direction when the former is specified as a deranked verbal form, e.g., as a gerundive, or as part of a deranked clause, e.g., a subordinate clause.