Aspect and Tense Marking in Sonoran O’otam

A major difference between O’odham spoken in southern Arizona and the O’otam of northern Sonora is the marking of primary aspect (imperfective vs. perfective). (O’otam distinguishes this variety from O’odham, and is the preferred term by the remaining native speakers). In O’odham, the marker of primary aspect appears as the second element in a clause; for third person subjects, the imperfective is marked with /’o/ and the perfective is marked by /at/. The O’otam cognates of O’odham /’o/ and /at/ do exist, but have much narrower semantics. The particle /’o/ in O’otam marks an immediate action that is actually in progress. In O’otam, the clitic /=t/ is an antecessive that marks an action that has already happened. This narrower aspect marking in O’otam (immediative; antecessive) obtains in texts of both the modern and colonial periods, so this is not a recent development in O’otam. Data from Akimel O’odham (the Piman variety spoken around the Phoenix area) suggest that O’otam preserves the original functions of aspect marking particles found in all three Piman varieties.

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