The thesis describes verb chains of the Cameroonian language Nizaa, and analyses them according to the theories of Leonard Talmy as presented in “Towards a Cognitive Semantics” (2000). Talmy understands a particular kind of complex events as macro-events, consisting of a framing event and a co-event conceptually welded together. Furthermore, languages are typologically divided into satellite-framed and verb-framed languages by the type of syntactic pattern used to express the macro-event. Cross-linguistic studies show that there is a quite confined set of framing events and only a slightly larger set of support relations between framing events and co-events. The framing events are Motion, Temporal contouring, State change, Action correlating and Realization, all pertaining to how a Figure or a figural entity is related to a Ground or a ground entity. Motion is the basic framing event, the other four are considered metaphorical extensions from the Motion domain to other domains.
The present work is based on a corpus of nearly 400 clauses of narrative texts in Nizaa. The focus is on the semantics side, working in each case to discern the relevant semantic categories. The syntactic structure is used as an instrument: it is impossible to arrive at an understanding of the semantics without observing the actual words and grammatical relations present in the clause. Nizaa verb chains resemble verb series in so far as up to 4 verb roots may be part of the verbal constituent, but unlike verb series in other West-African languages, objects or other arguments cannot be inserted between the verbs. Still. two, three or four verb roots put together affect both the syntactic and semantic structure of a clause.
Chapter 1 shows that verb chains are frequent in Nizaa, covering about 34 % of the total occurrences of clauses with verbs in the corpus. Chapter 2 describes the frequency of the different verbs used in chains in the corpus and groups them according to distributional patterns. Talmy’s theory is then presented in chapter 4 and further expanded and applied to Nizaa in chapter 5. In chapters 6 and 7, Nizaa verb chains are examined from the point of view of this theoretical framework, dividing the material of the corpus into the 5 framing event types. Each framing event type is furthermore divided by co-event. The clauses not directly treated in the text, appears in an appendix.Chapter 8 sums up the finds: that the final verb of a chain is the locus of the framing event and the non-final verb(s) has a support relation of co-event to the framing event. This structure is consistent and overrides e.g. temporal sequence between the events. A possible satellite-status of verbs frequently used in final position is discussed and rejected, placing Nizaa among the verb-framed languages.