Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Second Advisor

David Rood

Third Advisor

Erin Shay

Fourth Advisor

Jose Javier Rivas Rodriguez

Fifth Advisor

R. M. W. Dixon


Makary Kotoko, a Central Chadic B language, is spoken in the north of Cameroon just south of Lake Chad. It is one of nine Kotoko languages. Published works on Makary Kotoko to date include about a dozen articles on different aspects of the grammar of the language. The present work, which is based primarily on a substantial corpus of recorded texts, is a systematic description of many aspects of the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the language.

Makary Kotoko has six vowels and twenty seven consonants, including a series of implosives, a series of ejectives, and a series of prenasalized stops. The tone system (including a high, low, mid, and falling tone) functions both lexically and grammatically, though the functional load of tone is not heavy. Nominal morphology is limited, coding plurality, a diminutive, and three nominalization processes. The language has lexicalized a basic ontological distinction between concrete things and abstract things. Verbal morphology is also limited, coding plurality, an applicative, and a causative. The language codes aspectual/modal distinctions on the subject marker which precedes the verb. Tense is not coded in the language, but spatial orientation is coded through a small number of locative particles.

The relative order of the direct object and the expression of location within the clause is affected by the nominal/pronominal realization of the arguments.

There are four primary non-verbal predication constructions used to express notions of identity, attribution, possession, location, and existence.

Makary Kotoko places noun phrases in pre-subject position, followed by a small number of markers, to code pragmatic information for the clause (i.e., topic, contrastive focus, switch reference). The presence or absence of a resumptive pronoun for noun phrases placed in pre-subject position (and for head nouns of relative clauses) is conditioned by a complex of factors, including verb argument structure, the grammatical function of the noun phrase, the human/non-human nature of the referent of the noun phrase, and the ongoing saliency of the referent of the noun phrase within the discourse.

Combining clauses is done through various means, including the use of two sequential markers which code (in different domains) the succession of events in the discourse.