Instrument, cause, & manner: deserialization in Akan


This presentation concerns a curious construction in Akan which is used to introduce instrumental arguments. Called 'de-serialization' by Ossam (2003), this construction appears at first to be a serial verb construction. However, morphosyntactically it behaves like a monoverbal clause, with only the second verb being capable of taking tense and aspeect inflection. Ossam (2010) notes that the construction is also used to express certain causative meanings, but I will show that there are at least three other uses: A limited number of ditransitive verbs have an alternate form using de-serialization; certain verbs allow a commitative reading; and manner adverbial readings are also possible. The particular readings allowed are heavily dependent on both the main verb and the potential volitionality of the intermediate argument. Martin (2014) provides an analysis which derives three out of the five readings, but at the cost of stipulating complicated remnant movement. This presentation uses the semantics and morphosyntax of de-serialization to motivate a new analysis of serial verb constructions in Akan, in which the first VP acts as a kind of sentential subject for the second (rather than embedding it as in Aboh 2009). This analysis helps to explain both the divergent properties of de-serialization and the typologically unusual nature of Akan SVCs in general.

Presented at the ECO-5 graduate student conference, held at Harvard University.