Procedure: DEM+COP Decategorialisation

Kandra interviewing Wenembu in Nen language, Bimadebn Village. 2014.

Notes for myself regarding a Nen/Nambo study my supervisors and I are working on.

Observation: DEM+COP constructions in Nen and Nambo function as a focus marker of some sorts. The copula verb in these sister languages (seems to?) agree on person, number, and tense, with the A/S argument of the clause. This focus marker, however, appears to be losing it’s agreement as the combined DEM+COP is becoming fossilised/grammaticalised.

Question: Is this grammaticalisation happening at the same rate in Nenland and Namboland? What are the heavy-use bilinguals doing?

Need to:

  • See what Nen speakers are doing. Are they decategorialising?
  • See what Nambo speakers are doing. Are they decategorialising?
  • See what the heavy-use bilinguals are going. Are they decategorialising?

Code for Nen:

  • Identify the focus markers (DEM+COP followed by ambifixing verb)
  • Note: Is it decategorialising? Y?N. If yes, on: Tense, Number, Person, All?
  • Mark in also instances where DEM+COP is functioning just as the copula (code = Z)

Tier Structure

Pastor Blag interviewing his wife Sambo in Nen language, Bimadebn Village. 2014.

Tier structure:

  • Prom: Speaker initials and PM (e.g. BT PM)
    • Sph: Spelling (orthographic) Phon. Type whatever is in the transcription text.
    • ClPh: Close Phonetic. Paying attention to consonant voicing, and syllable boundaries where possible. Don’t worry too much about vowel quality at this point in time. (e.g. ge.ym, gym, ge.dn.z.ron)
    • PromGl: Prominence gloss. Break down of demonstrative type, and agreement of copula. (e.g. DEM1+3sgU:nphd. See below, “Types of DEM” and “Copula Code”)
  • WhichV: Where is the main verb? (e.g. R, RR. See below, “Which V”
  • Decat: Is the copula of the prominance marker decategorialising? Yes (D), No (A), others. See below, “Decat Tier Code”
    • Decatcat: Category that is decategorialised.
  • NP: What is the person number of the NP of the prominence construction?

Tier Codes

Rusien (left) being interviewed by Fasawar (middle) and Jimmi (right), Bimadebn Village. 2014.

Types of DEM

  • DEM1 = ge
  • DEM2 = gs
  • PV = äte
  • FUT1 = bä
  • FUT2 = ä

Copula Code

  • ym = 3sgU:nphd
  • tm = 3sgU:ypst
  • dnzron = 3sgU:rmpst
  • däron = 3duU:rmpst


  • R – The first verb to the right (in the transcription) is the main verb.
  • RR -The second verb to the right (in the transcription) is the main verb.
  • Z – Zero copula.

Decat Tier Code:

  • D – Decategorialised
  • A – Agreeing
  • C – Caveat. There appears to be decategorialisation happening, but it may not be a true case due to contextual information (e.g. this bag gs ym, it was made like this back in the past). The Decatcat tier for code C is still to be coded as though a D.

Decatcat Tier Code:

  • N – Number
  • P – Person
  • T – Tense
  • When there is more than one, code in alphabetical order. (e.g. tense and number = NT, person and tense = PT)


NP Tier Code:

  • Orthographic representation of the prominence construction NP.
  • NPDeets: person and number, e.g. 3sg

Examples in ELAN:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 9.02.44 am.png
A regular example of where the prominence marker is agreeing with the NP person numer and the main verb TAM.
Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 9.21.06 am.png
Note the Decat tier. Coded C for ‘caveat’, and Decatcat tier is coded T for tense. The prominence construction reads something like “This house gs ym had been burned.”

Notes on odd cases

  • When the PM or main verb has a super plural
    • Coded as D on the decat tier. The NP tier for the noun phrase sets the person and number as 3sg.

Also coding for gesture

Pastor Blag mid-gesture.

Code on Gesture tier:

  • TO = Touch Object
  • FP = Full Point
  • HP = Half Point
  • FB = Full Beat
  • HB = Half Beat
  • OG = Other Gesture, e.g. motion, eye gaze, nod, without a point or beat. If these other gestures are accompanying a point or beat, it is coded for point or beat.
  • MOT = Motion gesture (e.g. acting out verb, motion of inclusion (e.g. ‘all of us’), motion of hither/thither)
  • NG = No Gesture

Where ‘Point’ includes open hand gesturing to a referent (real or imagined) as well as the canonical one-finger point.

Where ‘Beat’ = non-pointed hand motion approximating a up-down/down-up movement of the hand.

Where ‘Half’ means below the waist.