A system-based typology of mood in Niger-Congo languages

Isaac N. Mwinlaaru, Martin Christian Matthias I Matthiessen, Ernest S. Akerejola

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines the mood systems of Niger-Congo languages. mood systems have been studied in language typology for the past four decades (e.g., Ultan, 1978; Chisholm et al., 1984; Sadock & Zwicky, 1985; Bybee et al., 1994: Ch. 6; Palmer, 2001; König & Siemund, 2007), with certain properties of imperative and interrogative moods being included in the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) (Dryer & Haspelmath, 2013; see also the contributions in Nuyts & van der Auwera, 2016). In addition, systemic functional linguists have investigated the systemic organization of options in mood and of their modes of realization in grammar and phonology (e.g., Matthiessen, 2004; Teruya et al., 2007; Teruya & Matthiessen, 2015; Matthiessen, 2015). In our exploration of the typology of mood systems in Niger-Congo languages, we will draw on findings in systemic functional typology as a guide; these findings shed light on variation in mood systems in terms of three views (cf. Halliday, 1996; Matthiessen, 2007): Viewed “from above,” from the vantage point of the semantics of speech functions (speech acts): the organization of mood systems according to the nature of the exchange of meanings in dialogue. Viewed “from below,” from the vantage point of the grammatical and phonological resources used in realizing options in mood: the strong tendency for mood options to be realized either by phonological prosodies or by modal particles placed as juncture prosodies finally or initially in the clause, indicating its status as a dialogic move. Segments may also occur at a lower rank as modal affixes of the verb or particles within the verbal group. Viewed “from roundabout,” from the vantage point of the system of mood itself-what speech-functional distinctions are grammaticalized, but also from the vantage point of its systemic environment-other interpersonal systems (in particular, polarity), textual systems (e.g., whether the interrogative element of an elemental interrogative is given the status of Theme or of Focus) and experiential systems (e.g., which transitivity roles may be interrogated in an elemental interrogative clause).1
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of African Linguistics
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781315392974
ISBN (Print)9781138228290
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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