The Function of the Post Verbal la in Dagbani


  • Samuel Alhassan Issah



Dagbani, Gur, focus, discourse


This paper investigates the function(s) of the post verbal particle la in Dagbani, a Gur language spoken in Northern Ghana. I contend that the particle marks neither imperfective aspect nor contrastive focus on NP objects and adjuncts, as suggested by earlier researchers. Here, I refine the existing analyses and put forth an alternative proposal in which the particle la marks presentational focus. I suggest that la could mark presentational focus on NP complements, adjuncts or the entire VP. I demonstrate that full NPs follow la, while object pronouns precede it, suggesting that object pronouns either undergo object shift or are syntactically bound to the verb. I also discuss ka and n, which have been proposed to have functions similar to la. More information on the interaction of these elements will be relevant for the understanding of the latter’s function. I further show that there is co-occurrence restrictions between ka/n and post verbal la, as has been claimed by earlier research. I show that although we can have la that co-occurs with the focus markers ka/n, that la is probably a deictic discourse particle and not the presentational focus marker. I propose that when the deictic la co-occurs with ka/n, it appears only clause finally. I conclude that the use or non-use of the post verbal la is due to discourse-pragmatic considerations.


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