The Mehweb language: Essays on phonology, morphology and syntax
This book is an investigation into the grammar of Mehweb (Dargwa, East Caucasian also known as Nakh-Daghestanian) based on several years of team fieldwork. Mehweb is spoken in one village community in Daghestan, Russia, with a population of some 800 people, In many ways, Mehweb is a typical East Caucasian language: it has a rich inventory of consonants; an extensive system of spatial forms in nouns and converbs and volitional forms in verbs; pervasive gender-number agreement; and ergative alignment in case marking and in gender agreement. It is also a typical language of the Dargwa branch, with symmetrical verb inflection in the imperfective and perfective paradigm and extensive use of spatial encoding for experiencers. Although Mehweb is clearly close to the northern varieties of Dargwa, it has been long isolated from the main body of Dargwa varieties by speakers of Avar and Lak. As a result of both independent internal evolution and contact with its neighbours, Mehweb developed some deviant properties, including accusatively aligned egophoric agreement, a split in the feminine class, and the typologically rare grammatical categories of verificative and apprehensive. But most importantly, Mehweb is where our friends live.
In this paper, I describe the phonetic inventory of Mehweb, consonants and vowels, as well as the main productive alternations. Two separate sections treat the rules of syllable placement and gives a preliminary treatment of pharyngealization. In Mehweb, pharyngealization is a feature which extends the basic vowel inventory [i, e, a, u] to include [oˁ] (the pharyngealized variant of [u], along with pharyngealized [iˁ, eˁ, aˁ]) and the inventory of radical consonants by the process of epiglottalization (where [ʡ] is a pharyngealized variant of [ʔ] and [ʜ] is a pharyngealized variant of [ħ]).
Mehweb Dargwa features a particle gwa, a peculiar element which is basically used for emphasizing the assertion. The paper explores some grammatical characteristics of this particle. It is shown that, in both verbal and non-verbal clauses, gwa serves as a predicative marker forming a complete predication and is an equivalent of a copula (even though, unlike the neutral copula in Mehweb, it lacks inflection). Similarly to typical East Caucasian predicative markers, gwa may occur in different positions, though its place is syntactically constrained (e.g., it cannot be embedded within syntactic islands). Still, Mehweb speakers allow gwa not to be adjoined to either the predicate or the focus. This makes the distribution of the particle surprising as compared with similar predicative markers in well-described East Caucasian languages, where they may either occur on the predicate or immediately follow the focused element.
East Caucasian relative clause constructions (RCCs) are sometimes viewed as constructed mainly on the basis of semantic and pragmatic information. In this paper, we consider RCCs in Mehweb and argue that, despite the fact that the interpretation of some of them may rely exclusively on semantics, syntactic mechanisms may also come into play in their organization. We present evidence that Mehweb has grammaticalized the resumptive use of reflexive pronouns, which thus can be contrasted with other uses of reflexive pronouns due to the restrictions on animate antecedents observed only in RCCs.
The paper is a description of moods in Mehweb, a lect of the Dargwa branch of East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) languages, Republic of Daghestan. The data were collected in the course of several field trips to the village of Mehweb. The forms of non-indicative moods and common constructions where these forms occur are described. Mehweb has inflectional forms for the imperative, prohibitive, optative, irrealis and apprehensive. Hortative and jussive are expressed periphrastically. Keywords: Nakh-Daghestanian, East Caucasian, modality, mood, imperative, hortative, jussive, optative, irrealis, conditional, apprehensive, volitional.
This paper describes the sociolinguistic situation of Mehweb, a lect of the Dargwa branch of East Caucasian, spoken in the Republic of Daghestan. In the course of several field trips to the village of Mehweb (officially, Megeb), sociolinguistic interviews were conducted in Mehweb and four neighbouring Avar- and Lak-speaking villages. The paper describes the demographic situation in Mehweb, the villagers’ official status, their social and economic life in the past and at present. The multilingual repertoire of Mehwebs and their neighbours is described in both qualitative and quantitative terms. I conclude that, while there are no signs of language loss, the traditional patterns of multilingualism in Mehweb are highly endangered.
The paper describes the morphology of the verb in Mehweb, a Dargwa lect of central Daghestan, Russia. The description is partly based on previous research (Magometov 1986, Sumbatova unpublished) and partly on the field data the author has been collecting from 2009 to the present. Mostly, formal morphology of synthetic verb forms and complex verbs are discussed.