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Switch-reference and Omotic-Cushitic Language Contact in Southwest Ethiopia

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Africa has up until now been considered a continent where switch-reference systems are extremely rare. This study shows that there is a confined area in the South of Ethiopia where many Omotic languages and a few Cushitic languages have fully grammaticalised switch-reference systems on dependent (co-)subordinate non-final verbs, so-called converbs. The paper describes in detail the switch-reference system of Kambaata (Cushitic) and gives an overview of the distribution of switch-reference systems in Ethiopia in general. It is argued that switch-reference marking in Cushitic languages is the result of contact with neighbouring Omotic languages.

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Affiliations: 1: LLACAN (CNRS, INALCO), Villejuif, France, Email:


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