Metatony, S-constituent linkage, and cognate objects

Ronald P. Schaefer, Francis O. Egbokhare


We examine metatony and its grammatical conditioning in an under described Edoid language of West Africa. In Emai, metatony on verbs is signaled by perfective suffix with underlying high tone. With a following adjunct, tone on this suffix is high and retained. When clause final, is retained but with low tone. When followed by a verb argument, the suffix is prohibited. Verbs with a following S-constituent exhibit metatonic asymmetry. Class one verbs prohibit suffix , treating S-constituents as verb arguments. Class two verbs require high tone , as if their S-constituent were an adjunct. When these same class two verbs occur with an immediately following cognate object nominal, they prohibit suffix . We interpret this asymmetric behavior of class two verbs in terms of boundary permeability (Berg 2014). We posit that class two forms are transitive and that their S-constituent derives historically from a complex Noun S-constituent structure that has become truncated and assumed a simple S-constituent form, having lost its erstwhile “cognate object noun.” It is thus the strict boundary for transitivity imposed by perfective suffix that signals a weakened status of S-constituents with class two verbs.


metatony; S-constituents; cognate objects; boundary permeability; Emai; Edoid

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Copyright (c) 2021 Ronald P. Schaefer, Francis O. Egbokhare

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