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The Missing Component in Ibibio Linguistic Time
Willie U. Willie and Mfon E. Udoinyang
240-256 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The component elements that languages utilize to mark temporality together form what Ayoun and Salaberry (2008), following Comrie (1976), Smith (1997), Langacker (1982), etc., refer to as 'linguistic time', which consists of tense, viewpoint aspect, and lexical aspect. A complete understanding of how a language relates extra-linguistic concepts of time and events to the linguistic concepts of tense and aspect requires analysis of all the components of the linguistic time in the language. Tense and viewpoint aspect have been analyzed in the Ibibio language, a Lower Cross language spoken by about 4 million people in the Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, whereas lexical aspect has never been analyzed. This paper argues for a bipartite temporal specification of past and future, in agreement with Jorge and Oliveira (2009) but in contrast with Essien (1990), who presents a tripartite system of past, present and future. We reanalyze the Ibibio viewpoint aspect by employing a set of empirical tests—the serial-verb-construction test and the question test—to reveal three major aspectual distinctions in the language: perfective, inceptive, and imperfective. This paper argues in addition for a tripartite lexical aspectual classification in Ibibio based on the peculiar nature of telicity assignment in the language. These include states which are inherently atelic and are specified by the linguistic feature [-Telic], punctual events which are inherently telic and are specified by linguistic feature [+Telic], and durative events which are not specified for telicity and have the linguistic feature [±Telic]. The implication of the interaction among these temporal components to language acquisition is also discussed.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context
edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00