Vol 28 No 3 (2019): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

The morphosyntax of the exhaustive focus particle na in Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE)

Leonel Tadjo Fongang
The University of Yaounde I
Published December 31, 2019
  • Cameroon Pidgin English,
  • information structure,
  • focus,
  • Strong Modularity Hypothesis for Discourse Features


The study analyses na- ‘focus’ constructions in Cameroon Pidgin English. The data are drawn from existing literature on the language and my own intuitions about grammaticality, given that I am a speaker of the language. Some of the sentences analysed in the paper were also submitted to selected speakers of the language for judgments on grammaticality. I begin the discussion with a cross-examination of constructions in which na has been analysed as a copula in the literature. I argue in line with Yakpo (2019) that in copula na-constructions, na remains a ‘focus’ (exhaustive) particle that helps identify its copula complement as focus. As such, I propose an analysis that gives them a pseudo-cleft account with EPP features. The analysis of foci is done within the purview of Horvath’s (2010) Strong Modularity Hypothesis for Discourse Features, according to which the interaction between Information Structure (IS) and the syntax is indirect and accounted for by interface considerations in the spirit of Reinhart (1995, 1997, 2006). I show that na-‘focus’ is necessarily associated with an exhaustive interpretation that identifies an entity (the focus) as maximal from the set of alternatives triggered by the process of focalisation. In terms of syntactic distribution, I propose that na-‘focus’ should be given a cleft-like interpretation in which case it heads an Exh(austive)P(hrase) and the element in focus is part of its complement. As such, foci occur inside TP in post-verbal na-‘focus’ constructions and in Spec-RelP in pre-verbal na-focus constructions. In both cases, na has EPP features following the uniformitarian analysis of particle-type languages. The only difference with other particle-type languages such as Gungbe, Duala and Tuki is that these features are checked at LF. I provide an account of predicate focus that is in line with Aboh’s (2006) and Aboh and Dyakonova’s (2009) parallel chains analysis in that both copies of the verb move and form two chains; one in the A’-position (V’F and V) and the other in the A-position (VAsp and V).