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Three strategies are used for participant identification in Wolaitta, an Omotic language spoken in south Ethiopia. These include direct marking, i.e., participant marking on nominals themselves through case affixes; participant marking on the verb and word order. Of the three, direct marking is the most reliable diagnostic for identifying participant roles since case marking is obligatory in the language and a number of structural and semantic cases are morphologically distinguished. Moreover, non-canonical marking is limited. Verbal marking is also obligatory and robust in the language as distinct person marking morphemes are used in different types of constructions. However, this second diagnostic means is restricted to A/S roles; O and other participant roles are not marked on the verb. Word order can be indicative of participant roles in a restricted sense. SOV is the most frequently used word order and it designates pragmatically neutral assertions, questions or commands. However, word order by itself is not a reliable means for participant identification since it can be altered for focus and topicalization purposes. Like in most other Omotic languages, in Wolaitta texts long sentences with a series of dependent clauses are frequent. Verbal marking extends also to such dependent clauses, since some of the verbs that head dependent clauses are morphologically marked to indicate whether the S/A of the verb in the dependent clause is the same or different from the S/A of the matrix clause. Thus, the three strategies combined work efficiently in processing the role of each participant in such ‘paragraph long sentences’.


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