The semantics of three Mpyemo prepositions

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Lowe, Ivan and Paul Murrell
SIL International
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SIL e-Books 19

This paper is about three prepositions to, ri, and ti in Mpyemo (Bantu of the Central African Republic). All of them go with nouns to form prepositional phrases. In addition, both ti and ri also function in the tense-aspect-mode system of verbs, while ri functions at clause and sentence levels. To study their meaning, we need to look at the whole clause, at the semantics of the verb in the clause, and at the nature of the nouns in the landmarks of the prepositional phrases. In particular we need to distinguish between transitive, and intransitive motion verbs, non-motion verbs, and the verb ‘be’. The to +noun prepositional phrases function with various kinds of verbs in the place slot of the clause, and the idea of container is crucial. The ri +noun prepositional phrases function with various verbs in the place slot of the clause, within verb structures to mark imperfective aspect, and the ideas of boundary and neighbourhood are crucial. The ti functions within a verb structure to mark immediate past, or at clause level to introduce a conditional or a an adverbial when-clause. Ti and ri are very close to a complementary distribution.

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Central African Republic
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A Mosaic of languages and cultures: studies celebrating the career of Karl J. Franklin, Kenneth A. McElhanon and Ger Reesink
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