In this and the following two chapters, we will look at different kinds of experiencer constructions, expressing situations involving ‘headache’ (Chapter 66), ‘liking’ (Chapter 67), and ‘fear’ (Chapter 68). There is little systematic typological literature on experiencer constructions. The few studies available mainly focus on European languages (see Bossong 1998, Haspelmath 2001). A study that is of interest for creoles with West African substrates is Ameka (1990), where experiencer constructions in Ewe are analyzed.
Experiencer constructions vary significantly depending on the more specific type of experience, e.g. languages may have a different construction for expressing sensations like pain, emotions like fear, and cognitive experiences like hearing. For example, in Korlai having a headache is expressed differently from having a cold:
(1) Korlai (Clements 2013)
a. Kabes duwen mi.
head hurt.PROG me
‘I have a headache.’ (Lit. ‘The head hurts me.’)
b. pari difludz hikad
me.DAT cold be/become.PTCP
‘I have a cold.’ (Lit. ‘To me has become cold.’)
In the questionnaire, we asked for the expression of ‘headache’, but some contributors could not provide a ‘headache’ example from their language. In this case, examples expressing similar pain experiences were also accepted.
So here we ask about the type of constructions expressing pain, and more specifically headache, as in English She has a headache. Such headache-constructions involve three participants, an experiencer who experiences the pain sensation (‘she’), the sensation itself (‘ache’), and potentially a body-part (‘head’) to which this sensation is related.
There is a lot of interesting variation in such constructions. However in this feature, we mainly focus on the question which of the three participants is coded in subject position. Subject is defined here as an argument that is coded like the typical agent in a monotransitive clause, or the single argument of an intransitive clause.
Many languages are reported to have several different ‘headache’ constructions.
In this feature, we distinguish five values.
|Experiencer is subject||16||20||36|
|Body-part is subject||31||24||55|
|Pain is subject||0||4||4|
|Experiencer is dative||1||2||3|
|Incorporated body-part noun||0||1||1|
The first value is shown by languages which code the experiencer as subject, as in ‘She has a headache’ (value 1). This type is fairly wide-spread among the APiCS languages.
(2) Ambon Malay (Paauw 2013)
De saki kapala.
3SG sick head
‘She has a headache.’
(3) Juba Arabic (Manfredi & Petrollino 2013)
ána índu wója ras
1SG have pain head
‘I have a headache.’
In the second type, the body-part is coded as the subject of the sentence, as in ‘Her head is aching’ (value 2). This type is the most prominent construction in the APiCS sample. Within the languages showing value 2, there are several subtypes. The experiencer can be retrievable via the object of the transitive verb ‘hurt’ as in example (4a) from Angolar and example (4b) from Cape Verdean Creole of São Vicente (see also 1a from Korlai), but it can also be expressed as a possessor of the body-part noun, as shown in examples (5a-b), again from Angolar and from Chinese Pidgin English.
Ghanaian Pidgin English shows a third subtype: the experiencer is expressed both through the possessive pronoun ma and the object pronoun mi.
In yet another construction type for value 2, the experiencer is not expressed at all and has to be inferred from the linguistic or extra-linguistic context. One example comes from Diu Indo-Portuguese.
(7) Diu Indo-Portuguese (Cardoso 2013)
kabes tə dw-e.
head IPFV.NPST hurt-INF
‘(My) head is hurting.’
The third value is only marginally represented within the APiCS sample. Here the ‘pain’ itself is coded as subject, as in ‘Headache is affecting her’. An example comes from Sranan:
(8) Sranan (Winford & Plag 2013)
Ede-hati e kiri mi.
head-hurt IPFV kill me
(lit.) ‘A headache is killing me.’
In the next construction type (value 4), the experiencer is marked as dative, i.e. like the recipient of a typical ditransitive verb like ‘give’. In the following examples, the preposition a in (9) and the case suffix -ðang in (10), which otherwise occur on recipients, mark the human experiencer (see also 1b from Korlai):
(10) Sri Lankan Malay (Slomanson 2013)
Go-ðang kupala a-pinning a-peegang.
1SG-DAT head PRS-pain PRS-pound
‘I have a splitting headache.’ (Lit. ‘To me the head is
Example (10) could alternatively have been classified as an instance of value 2 (body-part is subject). But here the dative marking of the experiencer is the more characteristic property of the construction, therefore we have subsumed this construction under value 4.
Finally, value 5 represents an incorporation construction, which is only found in the mixed language Michif. In this language, normally nouns are from French and verbs from Cree. But in this construction the nominal stem ‘head’ (the body-part) is a Cree lexical element incorporated into the verb ‘hurt’.
(11) Michif (Bakker 2013)
‘I have a headache.’
As one can see on the map, values 1 and 2 (experiencer is subject and body-part is subject) are by far the most widespread options in the APiCS languages. There is no clear patterning either along the pidgin/creole distinction, or along lexifiers, or along geographical areas. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that many APiCS languages with English, Dutch, and French as their lexifiers only have body-part subjects (e.g. Nengee, Jamaican, Seychelles Creole, Tayo). This option is at best one possible construction in these European lexifiers, but it is certainly not the most prominent construction, as the most neutral way of referring to this experience is to express the experiencer in subject position, e.g. I have a headache, French J’ai mal à la tête [I.have pain at the head][Note 1: But Spanish and Portuguese show a dative-marked experiencer with postverbal body-part as subject, e.g. Portuguese Doi-me a cabeça [hurt-me the head].]. This leads us to suspect substrate influence, and indeed Ameka’s (1990) description of Ewe, a Kwa language of West Africa, shows that the body-part subject in ‘headache’ situations is the only construction type available in this language. Thus, quite a few of the Atlantic creoles showing only value 2 are probably influenced by their substrates.
The construction type represented by value 4 (experiencer is dative) is geographically restricted. The three languages with this value are all located in South Asia: Diu Indo-Portuguese, Sri Lanka Portuguese, and Sri Lankan Malay. If one looks at the relevant substrate/adstrate languages, one finds that the corresponding pattern of dative-marked experiencers is widespread in South Asian languages. In the literature this construction is called dative subject construction (see also Chapter 67 on experiencer constructions with ‘like’). The marking of experiencers in the South Asian APiCS languages by this kind of dative case or adposition can thus clearly be traced back to their substrates/adstrates.