Friday, October 12, 2012


AAP Sondernummer 1991


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

Department of Afncan Lmguistics, University of Leiden


is a problematic morpheme in Iraqw: it does not fit in the major grammatica! categories

and its meaning is hard to discover. Whiteley (1958:61) characterises qo as follows: "Mention

must also be made of the item 'qo', which invariably occurs between the selector and the

radical. In some contexts it can scarcely be translated at all, merely giving continuity to the

utterance. In other contexts it may best be translated by 'then, so then'." Qo can be added to

nearly every sentence without changing the meaning drastically. Some speakers use qo more

often than others do.

1. Qo in verbal clauses: lts status as a grammatical element.

Most frequently,

qo occupies the same position as verbal adverbs. Both verbal adverbs and

qo follow the se)ector. The selector is the verb 'to be' (copula, locative, dependent,

impersonal), which obligatorily occurs in every clause. The Iraqw predicate phrase has the

following order: Selector (Object)-(Adverbial)-Verb. Most tense/aspect/mood distinctions are

encoded on the selector; subject and object are also marked on the selector.

Qo partly occupies positions that are similar to those of adverbs, but is excluded from some

other adverbial positions. Adverbials, for our purpose, are of two types (1) verbal adverbs, viz.

mak 'just, somewhat', lak 'altnost',

baló 'ever', male' 'again', and (2) lexical nouns with

* We would hke to express our gratitude te Berend Hoff and Felix Ameka for many helpful comments and

suggestions. Furthermore, we would like to thank the Iraqw speakers Joan Mrutu and Jerry Kirway for their help

as language mformants, and the Instituut voor Beschrijvende en Vergelijkende Taalwetenschap for their fmancial



Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

one of the followmg case markings -as 'causal', -ar 'instrumental, -i 'directive', -wa



These adverbs and

qo may appear between the selector and the verb, and there adverbials

may both precede and follow argument nommals, but qo always precedes the adverbials of

both types and the argument nommals


(1) iaati tsa?amto g-a-qo mak baal-ii-ka

wel] chmbing O 3 O F X just succeed S 3 INF NEG

'Well, as for chmbing, hè does not succeed'


*ga mak qo baaliika

Qo never appears after the verb, as the adverbials may do In postverbal position, they are

always followed by the resumptive pronoun

alé Qo never follows the verb, and itself is never

followed by the resumptive alé

(3) aning küung u-na atéet male alé

I you O 2 SG M PAST call l SG agam RESPRO

'I called you agam'


xareemi-qa? bar hee ngw-a mut-ir a

hom PL DEM3 COND man O 3 PL O M PERF beat 3 PL COP

i-qo gwaa? wa'a wak-wa alé

S 3 X die 3 SG M time CON one ABL RESPRO

'These horns, if they beat a man, it is that he will die at once

Thus, even if qo is an adverb, its positional behaviour clearly mffers from that of other

adverbs In actual fact, there are mdications that qo is a clitic It depends phonologically on the

precedmg word, which may be either the selector, or a nominal It cannot be separated from

these by a pause, nor by one of the other adverbs

If qo is not a fully autonomous word, it isn't a suffix either This may be concluded from the

fact that it is tacked on both to the selector and to nouns, elements that are not likely to share


hh is a pharyngeal voiceless fricative, hl is a voiceless lateral fricative, tl is a voiceless ejecüve lateral


ts is a voiceless ejective alveolar affncate ng is a velar nasal contmuant Intervocalically, U is

followed by an oral voiced velar stop The high tone is indicated by an acute accent on the vowel, for long

vowels, on the first vowel Symbol, low tone is not marked

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw


one and ihe same suffixation process. Such an overlap would be unique in the word class

system of Iraqw. Admittedly, the negative suffix

-kä does occur both in the nominal and in the

verbal paradigm, but the classes maintain their separateness even here by adding the

background suffix -o in the case of the nouns, and the infinitive suffix -a in that of the verbs.


Tara a doohliitee-r-o-ka

Datooga COP faimers-F-BGND-NEG

'Datooga are not farmers'




'I did not win'

In accordance with its clitic status,

qo follows the rightmost suffix that may be added to the

selector, the perfect tense suffix -a.


biri-nd-a-qo hardah-aan xweera-wo, daqata

COND-VENT-PERF-X arrive-l.PL night-BGND that.-time

amo-r-ós a kaw-aan

place-F-3.SG. POSS O.F go-l.PL

'If we are leaving at night, we visit his place'

2. The syntax of qo in other constructions.

In the preceding section we have dealt with the syntactic behaviour of qo in verbal clauses.

The element is also used, together with the copula, in clauses with a nominal predicate, and in

quantifier noun phrases. In both construction types qo avoids sentence-final position, as we

have already seen in the verbal context. Separate subsections will now be devoted to the

nominal predicates with a copula (2.1) and to the quantifier phrases (2.2).


Qo after the copula.

As we have seen, qo can be cliticised to the selector. The selector is in essence the verb 'to

be'. It does not come as a surprise that qo can also occur after the copula. An example of qo in

a copular construction with a nominal predicate is (8). The nominal predicate is




Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous


murüu ïayma a-qo xweera

things:M:CON eating COP-X night

'The meal is at night.'

Cleft-like constructions with a nominal predicate are very common in Iraqw. These cleft-like

constructions consist of a head noun with a relative clause followed by the copula a and a

specifying noun phrase.

Qo is often found on the copula as is the case in (8) and (l 1).


hée ga kwaahh a kwaïangw

man:CON O.3:O.N:PERF throw:3.SG.M:PAST COP hare

'He who threw them was the hare.'


ma laati ga-r ta gäas a dasi-r do-?in

but well thing:CON-F IMPS kill:PAST COP girl:CON-F house-3.PL.POSS

'But what they killed was the girl of their house.'


gim adó-r ki-r hlaw-aan a-qo

well manner:CON-F O.3:DEP.S.1/2:O.N-INSTR get-l.PL COP-X

u-n gaas-aan

O.M-EXPEC kill-1.PL

'Well, how we will get them is to kill him.'

The head noun of the relative clause has a general meaning:

gaa (f) 'thing', (10), hee (m)

'person', (9),

du (f) 'place', (13), amoo (f) 'place', adoo (f) 'manner', (11). The noun

phrase-after the copula functions äs a specification. These nouns include question words, äs is



geesó duqa naïaay ga-r kw-a ?is a milä

Geeso Duqa child thing:CON-F O.3:DEP.S.1/2:O.M-PERF do:2.SG COP what

'Geso Duqa, what did you do to the child?'


hikwa-qä? di-r ngi-wa hläy a diima

cattle-DEM3 place:CON-F O.3:DEP.S.3:O.N-BGND get:3.SG.M COP where

Where did he get those cattle?'


also occurs in constructions with the copula a preceding a clause.

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw



a-qo u-n qati aw-aan xweera-wo


'The solution is that we go to his bed at night.'


a-qo is br-a de'éengw äy,

COP-X 3.SG CONEXS.3>-PERF herding:CON go:3.SG.M

muru-w-i ku-n axwées.

things-M-DEMl O.3:IMPS:O.M-EXPEC say:PAST

'It is when hè goes herding that these things are said.'


Qo in quantifier noun phrases.


can occur in certain noun phrases, provided that the neun phrase does not follow the


Qo shares this property with the adverbs Iowa 'very' and kilós 'self, alone, only'. In

Iraqw noun phrases, the modifiers follow the head noun and the head noun is in construct case.

Construct case consists of a high tone on the last syllable and a suffix agreeing with the gender

of the head noun. In the majority of examples, the noun phrase with

qo involves quantification.

See (16) and (48).


xarma-sing-ee bare hée gw-a rniit

hom-DEM2-BGND SURPISE man:CON O.3:O.M-PERF beat:3.SG.F

a u-n wa'a-qo wak-ar gas

COP OJsl-EXPEC ümc:CON-X or.e-INSTR kill:2.SG

'This horn, if it beats a man, it is that you kill him at once'

Qo is commonly used in noun phrases of which the head is the noun

umiiu 'every'. Such

noun phrases require the background suffix -o. The background suffix expresses completeness

in these examples.


kwaïangw umiiu-qo déelo-r-o koonkomo gu

hare every-X day-F-BGND cock O.3:O.M

ado-r-di ar-a'ar.

manner-F-DEM4:DIR HAB-see:3.SG.M

'Every day the hare sees the cock like that.'

Qo also occurs in noun phrases containing modifiers such as

kilä 'exact, just, only, alone',


'big, many', saaw 'far, deep'.


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous


laa dasi-r kila-r doo-rén a-na

today girl CON-F just CON F house M-l PL POSSL O F-PAST



'Did we kill the very girl of our house today?'


geera-wo dóo-qo yaangariit ngu-n kón

before-BGND house CON-X big O 3 DEP S 3 O M EXPEC have 3 SG M

'First, hè must have a really big house.'


hhalang-qo sawa-saaw-o Iowa alé

wellX RDPfarBGND very RESPRO

'a very deep well'

In noun phrases,

qo cliticises to the head noun. Placing qo after the modifier was

considered ungrammatical in (19), but it was accepted in (16) and (17). In spontaneous speech


never occurs on modifiers.

3. The use of qo.

In this paragraph we will discuss the constructions in which qo cannot be used and those m

which qo is often used, in order to determine the meaning of qo. The meaning of qo is then

dealt with in paragraph four.

In 2.1. we have seen that qo can occur in questions. It occurs in sentences with the question

words "which?", "what time?", and "where?". It does not occur, however, in questions askmg

"what?" or "who?" The addition of qo to a question askmg "what?" or "who?" renders the

sentence ungrammatical.


daqama kar ngaa-qo fäak

what time well O 3 DEP S 3 O 3 PERF-X finish 3 SG M

'When on earth did hè finish it?'


loohi-r ki-r hayoh-aan a-qo gaala

path CON F O 3 DEP S 1/2 O N-INSTR carry off l PL SBJV COP-X which

'How do we carry them off?'

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw



*hee-qä läa ga gurbiiu? a-qo heema

man-DEM3 today O 3 O F mform 3 SG M COP-X who

'Who informed you today?'


*geeso duqa na*aay ga-r kw-a ïis a-qo milä

geeso duqa child thmg CON F O 3 DEP S 1/2 O M-PERF do 2 SG M COP X what

'Geso Duqa what did you do to the child?'


*i-n ó?: laa kii m-a-qo xii'

S 3-EXPEC say 3 SG F today 2 SG M WHAT O F-X know 2 SG M

'She says: "Today, what do you know?'"

In fact, in a sentence with the question word "what?", the addition of

qo is possible but it

changes the meaning of the sentence. The sentence is no longer a neutral question asking

"what''", but rather a rhetorical question expressmg a negative statement.


ham ga-r ku-r gaas-aan a milä

now thmgCON-F O 3 IMPS O M-INSTR kill-1 PL COP what

'How shall we kill him?'

b. ham gär kur gaasaan

aqo milä

'Why should we kill him? (implying we should not)'


na^ay kutsuhba-r-o br-a hhe?ées,

child pmchmg « BGND COND PERF finish 3 SG M

an daqa-da? a-qo <5o ay-sing-ee="ay-sing-ee" na="na" p="p">

l SG moment DEM4 S 1/2-X say l SG child DEM2 INT BGND


m-i i'aaïaam-in.

WHAT S ', cry DUR 3 SG M

'When you finished pmching the child, at that moment I'll say That child, what is it

crying for?'

b. na^ay kutsuhharo bura hhe?ées, an daqadä? aqo óo?


naïaysïngee mi^ro


'When you finished pmching the child, at that moment

I'll say. That child, what is it crying for? (implying that it should stop)'


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

The fact that

qo is perfectly possible with a question word such as gaala 'which7', but not

with a question asking "what

7", indicates that qo has somethmg to do with partitionmg

Further evidence is the predominance of quantifiers in noun phrases with



cannot be combmed with the indefinite nominal suffix Nouns with the indefinite suffix

refer to a specific, indefinite referent, "a certain", (28) We conclude that

qo is defmite


*Ioo?a-r-ka-qo wak-ee baha i-na lóVa hï?iit

sun F INDEF X one BNGD hyena S 3 PAST very go out

'One day the hyena has walked a lot'


*loo?arka wakeeqo baha ina ló?wa hi?iimaamiit

c *loo?arka wakee baha inaqo lóVa htfimaamiit


is often found with verbs meaning "to say", (29,30)


i-na-qo óo? heema laa ga adbay

S 3 PAST X say 3 SG M PAST who today O 3 O 2 SG F PERF call 3 SG M

'He said "Who has told it to you today



ta-qo kay xay däsi ham a adooma

IMPS X say PRES really' girl VOC now COP how

'They say "Well, girl, what now


If no context is given, the difference between sentences with or without

qo is often

mterpreted as one of tense or mood The sentences with

qo are translated as future


ta-na do? ïagmo-rén br-qo

IMPS PAST say PAST canmbal M l PL POS S CONEkS 3> X

di-r-qa?, hikwa i-n hayoh-äan

place F DEM3 cattle O.N EXPEC take l PL

'They said "If our canmbal will be there, let us take

the cattle " '

b tana óo? ïagmorén bir dirqa?, hikwa in hayohaan

'They said "If our canmbal is there, lel us take the cattle " '

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw



hee-qä? laa ga gurbuu? ga ar

man-DEM3 today O.3:O.F inform:3.SG.M O.3:O.F see:3.SG.M

'The man who has informed you today will be punished'

(lit. the man who has informed you today will see it)

b. heeqa? laa ga gurbuu? gatjro ar

'The man who has informed you today will be punished (sometime in the future)'


umiiu hee-wo chumba-r-os a tsat-aan

every man-BGND room-F-3.SG.POSS O.F cut-l.PL

'Let everybody divide his room.'

b. umüu heewo chumbarós aqo tsataan.

'Everybody will divide his room.'


hikwa i-qo

cattle S.3-X go:out-3.PL

'The cattle will come out.'


is rare after selectors with the expectational marker -n, but quite common in clauses

immediately following one with such an expectational marker.


*adó-r ta laq a i-n-qo gaas

manner:CON-F DFP.S.1/2 do:2.SG COP O.2.SG.F-EXPEC-X kilhl.SG

'Your next step (lit.what you do) is that I will kill you!'


gim adó-f ki-r hlaw-äan yä

well manner:CON-F O.3:DEP.S.1/2:O.N-INSTR get-l.PL ya

a-qo J-n gaas-äan.

COP-X O.M-EXPEC kill- 1. PL

'Weil, how we will get them (the cattle) is to kill him.'


is rare with the imperfective past marker -na. This may be due to the fact that the

imperfective past marker is historically derived from the expectational marker -n followed by

the perfect marker -a.


*bäl tsär i-na-qo

day:CON two S.3-PAST-X return:3.SG.M

'The second day he returned.'


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

4. The meaning of


In a number of sentences

qo indicates that the state of affairs expressed by the sentence is

the only possible one. The function of qo is to exclude other possibilities and thereby to make

the statement stonger. English equivalents are "only, for sure, really", and in negative

statements "at all, anyway". We can illustrate this with a few sentences from the story "The

buffalo and Gesó Duqa". The buffalo has urged Gesó Duqa not to eat her meat after her death

but instead to bury her bones and her skin apart. Gesó Duqa agrees and says:


an-a-qo infoliit.

l.SG-S 1/2-X buryMIDDLE.lSG

'I will only bury (them).'

Later on in the story, the cannibals try to kill Gesó Duqa. After the failure of several more

subtle ways, they conclude that the only possibility remaining is to kill him while hè is asleep:

(39) a-qo u-n qati aw-aan xweera-wo


'It is that we go to his bed at night.'

Afterwards, Gesó Duqa becomes an old man. Very old indeed because "his children's

children had already died, and they died a natura! death, nothing eise":


a-qo dimay gi-na tsüu?.

COP-X old age O 3 O N-PAST kill 3 SG M

'It was old age that killed them.'

The fact that qo excludes comparable situations can also be deduced from the following

minimal pair:


umüu-qo hee-wo i-qo hare-r-ós kón

evcry-X man-BGND S 3-X wife F-3 SG POSS have 3 SG M

'Every single man has his wife.'

b. umiïu héewo i harerós kón

'Every single man has his wife (at a certain occasion)'

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw


The second sentence, the one without qo, is not a general truth, but restricted to a particular


Due to its sense of exclusiveness, qo easily combines with words such as kila 'exactly,

truly' in (18), kilós 'alone, only' in (42), and umüu 'every' in (17) and (41).


is a-qo kilós

3.SG COP-X alone

'He was all alone.'

Qo is only compatible with question words such as "which?", "what time?" and not with

"who?" or "what" because "this and no other" presupposes the possibility of seeing the

questioned variable as broken down into comparable parts.

The fact that qo focusses on "this one and no other" rules out its combination with indefinite

markers which mean "a certain, it is not important which one".

As a consequence of its meaning of exclusiveness, qo evokes exhaustive listing focus, i.e.

focus on one member out of a limited set of possible alternatives (see Kuno 1972) which Sasse

calls contrast (Sasse 1981: 264). In Iraqw, constituents after the copula in cleft-like

constructions are in focus. Qo is often added to the copula in these sentences adding contrast to

the focussed constituent, see 2.1.

Exclusiveness in combination with future time reference brings "certainty". The following

sentence is once again from the story about Gesó Duqa. It is uttered by Gesó Duqa when the

child of the buffalo reveals how the cannibals are going to kill him. Gesó Duqa sees no way out

and says:

(43) a-q-ö gwäa'

S.i/2-X die:l.SG

'l will die for sure.'

On the verb, there is no distinction between present and future tense. Consequently, in

isolation, the difference between sentences with and without qo is future tense or not, cf. (31-


In expressing certainty, qo overlaps in meaning with the expectational marker -n, which

indicates that the action is expected to happen. Therefore, qo is not often cliticised to a selector


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

with -n, instead, as an alternative to -n, U is öfter» used in a phrase immediately precedmg or

following one with - n. See (35,36).


is favoured with verbs of claiming, such as "to say". lts sense of certamty serves to take

away any doubt on the side of the listener, sec (29,30).

In a negative sentence,

qo enforces the negation. It can be translated with 'at all, anyway' or

"überhaupt" in German.


i-qo xuruumit-ii-ka

S 3-X suspect-S 3 INF NEG

'He won't suspect anything at all.'


tsaïam-t-o ga-qo mak baal-iika

chmbmg-Fl-BGND O3OF-X just succeed-S 3 INF NEG

'As for climbing, hè just does not succeed at all.'

The same translation can be maintained in a rhetoncal question. The following sentence is

uttered by the Hare at a point in the story where hè is quite sure that he will not eat a child of the

Pigeon again. The question is a rhetorical one.


ga-r-qä an hami a-qo ïaay-a

thmg-F DEM3 l SG now S 1/2 X eat l SG INT-INF

'That thing, will I now eat it at all?'

In neutral yes/no questions

qo expresses doubt, and can be translated by "really". The

certainty is questioned.


saga i-qo yaïan-a

head S 3-X agree 3 SG M INT-INF

'Will the head agree?' (i.e. is it really possible for the head to be cut off and then put

on the body again?)


murüu-qo tsär a xareemï-wo laqäa ii?aa-wo

thmgs M CON-X two COP homs INT-BGND or ears-BGND

'Are these two things really horns, or are they ears?' (The hyena talking about the

ears/horns of the donkey.)

The Adverbial qo in Iraqw


Concluding we may say that

qo expresses exclusiveness and contrastive focus, and as a

consequence its referent is definite. The exclusiveness parameter presupposes that the relevant

world is seen as being partitioned so that

qo can put contrastive focus on one part as opposed

to the others. Derived from the exclusiveness meaning

qo can express certainty in the attitude

of the speaker, for example with verbs of claiming and in the context of future time reference.

List of abbreviations:

1 first person, first deixis (for demonstratives)

2 second person, second deixis (for demonstratives)

1/2 first or second person

3 third person, third deixis (for demonstratives)

4 fourth deixis (for demonstratives)

ABL ablative

BGND background

CAUS causative

COND conditional

CON construct case

COP copula

DEM demonstrative

DEP dependent

DIR directive

DUR durative

EXPEC expectational

F feminine

F l subgroup of feminine nouns

HAB habitual

IMPS impersonal subject

INDEF indefinite

INF infinitive

INSTR instrumental

INT interrogative

M masculine


Stefan Elders & Maarten Mous

Ml subgroup of masculine nouns

MIDDLE middle voice

N neuter

NEG negative

O object

PAST past

PERF perfect

PL plural

POS S possessive

PRES present

REAS reason

RESPRO resumptive pronoun

S subject

SBJV subjunctive

S G singular

VOC vocative


infix boundary

affix boundary

separates abbreviations that are part of a single morpheme

: separates abbreviations of different morphemes fused into one


Kuno, Susumu. 1972. Functional sentence perspective: a case study from Japanese and


Linguistic Inquiry 3:296-320.

Mous, Maarten, (forthcoming.) A grammar of Iraqw.

Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 1981. "Basic word order" and functional sentence perspective in Boni.

Folia Linguistica


Whiteley, W.H. 1958.

A short description of item categories in Iraqw. (With material on

Gorowa, Alagwa and Burunge).

Kampala: East African Institute of

Social Research.

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