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The Maa (Eastern Nilotic) Impersonal construction

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Abstract

The Maa (Maasai) Impersonal construction occurs with intransitive, (di)transitive, active and stative verb stems. It implies either no agent or at most unspecified non- referential &#8220;people&#8221; as a possible agent. Likely because of the possible implication of &#8220;people&#8221;, it has not been found with meteorological verbs. The Maa Impersonal may focus on an event or situation, and is sometimes functionally used where passive constructions are found in other languages. It can further combine with <i>ata</i> &#8216;have&#8217; to render an existential function. Though structurally this existential is entirely the same as the Impersonal, the existential cannot so easily be said to always have an impersonal sense. Historically the key morphological element of the Impersonal derives from a plural affix, but it is not certain this was necessarily pronominal. Keywords: Maasai; Nilotic; impersonal; passive; historical development

References

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