Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Comparative conjugation
Question: Kabiye (Gur, Togo) expresses comparison by means of a
subordinate clause flanked by the morphemes ɛzɩ … yɔ like, as. It
is in this context, and only here, that one of two verb conjugations
may occur, a Comparative Perfective and a Comparative
Imperfective. Does anyone know of other languages that have
dedicated verb paradigms for expressing comparison or similitude?

Here are some examples:

Comparative Imperfective

1 Maacɛkɩ́ kpakpá ɛzɩ ŋcɛkʋʋ́-yɛ́ yɔ́.
Je-NEG-coupe noix-de-palme comme tu-coupes-lesSUB
I don't cut palm nuts like you cut them.

2 Maañɔɔzʋʋ mon-kpokpó ɛzɩ́ ŋñɔɔzʋʋ́ ñɛ́ŋ́gʋ yɔ́.
je-NEG-répare ma-moto comme tu-répares la-sienne SUB
I don't repair my motorbike like you repair yours

3 Maahʋŋ mɛ-ɛyáa ɛzɩ́ ŋhʋngʋʋ́ ñɛ́ḿba yɔ́.
je-NEG-coiffe mes-gens comme tu-coiffes les-tiens SUB
I don't cut my clients' hair like you cut yours.

Comparative Perfective

4 Mɛntɛcɛ́ kpakpá ɛzɩ́ ŋcɛ́bʋ-yɛ́ yɔ́.
je-NEG-ai-coupé noix-de-palme comme tu-as-coupé-les SUB
I didn't cut the palm nuts like you cut them.

5 Mɔntɔñɔ́ɔ́zɩ mon-kpokpó ɛzɩ́ ŋñɔɔzʋ́ʋ ñɛ́ŋ́gʋ yɔ́.
je-NEG-ai-réparé ma-moto comme tu-as-réparé la-tienne SUB
I didn't repair my motorbike like you repaired yours.

6 Mantahʋ́ mɛ-ɛyáa ɛzɩ́ ŋhʋ́m ñɛ́ḿba yɔ́.
je-NEG-ai-coiffé mes-gens comme tu-as-coiffé les-tiens SUB
I didn't cut my clients' hair like you cut yours.

Dave Roberts

Reply: I've just seen this query after returning from a holiday, and since no-one else appears to have responded meanwhile, let me just say: Gosh! No, I have never encountered anything like that. To me it seems quite surprising that an inflexion subsystem would be reserved for a purpose as specialized and, surely, relatively infrequent as comparison. If no-one else has responded, I surmise that may be because they haven't seen anything like it either. (Each of us of course has experience only of a limited number of languages, but between the panelists I think we probably have quite a wide coverage.)

I hope this negative response is useful to you.

Geoffrey Sampson

Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 15-Oct-2012

Back to Most Recent Questions