The challenge of Maa ‘Away’

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All branches of Eastern Nilotic have directionals. The Maa (Maasai) away morpheme has a range of functions, including motion away, direction away, distributive action or situation, continuous aspect, a possible plurality function, an applicative-like function, and with some verbs a valence decreasing function. With some other verbs, away is simply lexicalized as part of the stem. The story of away is coherent once the core semantic function is understood, which Tucker and Mpaayei (1955) called ‘Motion Away’. However, processes of both lexicalization and grammaticalization have taken place, and the synchronic meaning of this morpheme cannot always and only be understood as indicating (even metaphorical) ‘motion away’.


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