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date: 16 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Perhaps the most striking feature with regard to ergativity in Africa is its absence. Africa has long been seen as a continent without ergativity. Today a number of languages are being mentioned in the literature as having ergative features, even if only one language can be said to have a full-fledged ergative case system, namely Shilluk. Ergativity in Africa is closely related to marked nominative, where split systems are the norm. Ergativity is areally restricted to Eastern Africa, and runs genetically predominantly through the West Nilotic family of Nilo-Saharan. Ergativity is related to an odd OVA/SV word order pattern. There are different attempts that have been made to explain the emergence of ergativity from an historical perspective. The question whether marked nominative was first and ergativity second or the other way round is discussed controversially in the literature.

Keywords: focused object clause, marked-nominative, OVA/SV, split system, word order, East Africa, Nilotic, Surmic

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