Secondary concepts and internal dynamics of Emai Serial Verb Constructions

  • Ronald P. Schaefer Department of English, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA
  • Francis O. Egbokhare Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Keywords: Emai, Edoid, serial verb constructions, secondary concepts, preverbs


We examine verbs in series as they relate to Dixon’s (1991, 2010) notion of secondary concepts. Our verb samples and their structures derive from an Edoid language of southern Nigeria. Emai shows asymmetrical and symmetrical serial verb constructions. However, our analytic concern is the differential realization of secondary concepts according to form class. Most verbs that realize secondary concepts appear in A-SVCs as a minor component. Some verbs that code secondary concepts shun serialization and generally take complements that are clausal, truncated, or obliquely marked gerundives. Other form classes expressing secondary concepts are preverb and particle. Members reveal a verb heritage that is either lexical or phrasal. Even a few nouns convey secondary concepts. Auxiliaries, while referencing secondary concepts, do not disclose a verb heritage. Secondary concepts in A-SVCs reveal an asymmetry as occupants of positions V1 or V2 in series. V1 manifests event and participant qualifiers, whereas V2 exhibits primarily event qualifiers. Both positions also evidence serial-within-serial structures. Overall, secondary concepts only partially align with Emai verbs in series. Since a significant number of preverbs and particles actualize secondary concepts and have a verb heritage, we assume they have grammaticalized from earlier verb-in-series structures. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the pre-verbstem position in the canonical simplex clause of Emai has had a privileged role in the emergence of secondary concepts as preverbs from verbs in series and in the continual development of serialization as an expressive means for event and participant qualifiers.
Part 4: Dynamization of synchrony – Single-language states