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Journal Article

The coding of topological relations in verbs: The case of Likpe (SEkpEle)


Ameka,  Felix K.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Ameka, F. K. (2007). The coding of topological relations in verbs: The case of Likpe (SEkpEle). Linguistics, 45(5), 1065-1104. doi:10.1515/LING.2007.032.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-187A-F
This article examines the grammar, use and meaning of fifteen verbs used in the Basic Locative Construction (BLC) of Likpe — a Ghana-Togo-Mountain language. The verbs fall into four semantic subclasses: (a) basic topological relations: t 'be.at', tk 'be.on', kpé 'be.in', and fi 'be.near'; (b) postural verbs: sí 'sit', ny 'stand', fáka 'hang', yóma 'hang', kps 'lean', fus 'squat', and labe 'lie'; (c) “distribution” verbs: kpó 'be spread, heaped,' and tí 'be covered'; and (d) “adhesion” verbs: má 'be griped, be fixed', mánkla 'be stuck to'. Likpe locative predications reflect an ontological commitment to the overall topological relation between Figure and Ground and are not focused just on the Figure or the Ground. Various factors determine the choice of “competing” verbs for particular scenarios: animacy, nonindividuation of the Figure, permanency of the configuration and the speaker's desire to be referentially precise or to present stereotypical information. It is demonstrated that in situations where there is a choice, speakers tend to use the more general verbs (stereotype information). The implications of this tendency for the development of a language from a multiverb language using several verbs (e.g., 15) in its BLC to using only a small-set of verbs in its BLC, just as some of Likpe's neighbors have done, are considered.