Manner predication

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Manner predication is a type of secondary predication which ascribes a property to an event. The expression used for manner predication is called Manner expression.


English (Germanic, Indo-European):

(1) Carl walked slowly.
Olga smiled sweetly.
Wycliffe worked efficiently.

Coding strategies

Languages of the world employ various strategies to predicate manner to an event. It seems that most languages have more than one strategy. Below are examples of coding manner predication which are presented in more detail in Loeb-Diehl 2005.

Coordinate clause constructions

In this strategy, manner and event are coded each in a separate clause of the same rank.

Coordinate clauses with same subject

Here the verbs of the coordinated clauses refer to the same referent.

Muna (Austronesian, West-Malayan) (Van De Berg 1989:181)

(2) ne-rimba no-tende 3s-run
He runs fast. (lit. He1 is fast, he1 runs.)
Coordinate clauses with different subjects

This strategy is similar to (2), but the verb in the manner-clause shows default agreement rather than agreement with the argument of the verb in the event-clause.

Ambrym (Austronesian, East-Oceanic) (Paton 1971:77)

(3) om geh faiah
2s.PRES work 3s.PRES be.strong
You work strongly. (lit. You work, it is strong.)

Non-finite clause constructions

Manner is coded as a less finite verb form (subordinated).

Non-finite clauses with same subject

In this strategy, the subject of the non-finite form is the same as the subject of the main clause, which is shown by agreement (e.g. in person, number, gender). Such Forms are traditionally called participles or relative clauses.

Abkhaz (Caucasian, Nort-West) (Hewitt 1979:240)

(4) d-las-nə də-cè-ytˀ a-pħ°əs
3sf-quick-PTCP.PAST.ABS 3sf-go-FIN DEF-woman
The woman goes quickly. (lit. She, who is quick, goes.)

Sanuma (Yanomami) (Borgman 1990:34)

(5) opi-i a kali-palo-ma
be.slow-REL he work-REPET-COMPLET
He worked slowly. (lit. He, who is slow, worked.)
Non-finite clauses with different subject

The non-finite clause is not explicitely referring to the subject of the main clause or is understood to have different subject. The non-finite verb form is referred to as converb (beside other terms like gerund, adverbial participle, verbal adverb, …).

Turkana (Nilo-Saharan, East-Sudanic) (Dimmendaal 1982:379)

(6) è-pès-e-tè nɪ-a-ron-o-nị
3-be.quick-A-PL REL.NEUT-be.bad-SG-REL.CLAUSE
They kicked him badly. (lit. They kicked him, which is bad.)

Abkhaz (Caucasian, Nort-West) (Hewitt 1979:240)

(7) ye-las-nə də-cè-ytˀ a-pħ°əs
3sn-quick-PTCP.PAST.ABS 3sf-go-FIN DEF-woman
The woman goes quickly. (lit. She goes, which is quick.)
Non-finite clauses with copula

In few languages we find participial clauses where the manner coding item itself is not verbal and a copula ‘to do’ or ‘to be’ carries the participial marking.

Malayalam (Dravidian) (Asher & Kumari 1997:112)

(8) aval bhamgiy=aayi prasamgiccu
she beauty=COP.PTCP speak-PAST
She spoke beautifully. (lit. She spoke being beautiful.)

Nubian (Nilo-Saharan, East-Sudanic) (Kauczor 1920:285)

(9) kē=nd-i akra
good=COP-PTCP rest.PRES.2s
Did you rest well (lit. Did you rest being well?)

Adjective-like constructions

Here the manner item is not morphologically a non-verbal, but more like an adjective.

Agreeing adjective

We find languages where the manner coding adjective agrees with the subject, like depictive construction or an apposition, i.e. as a property of a participant of an event.

Gooniyandi (Australian, Bunaban) (McGregor 1990:345)

(10) a. wangmadda wardji
mad.ABS he.went
He walked madly (lit. He walked mad.)
b. gardlooni wangamadda-ngga
I.hit.him mad-ERG
I hit him crazily.

Latin (Italic, Indo-European). (Vroom 1938:74)

(11) mendicus a me tristis stipem petivit from me gift.ACC ask.PERF.3sg
The beggar asked me sadly for a gift.

Hindi (Indic, Indo-European). (McGregor 1977:33)

(12) vah sīdhī cali, phir dāhine
she straight.FEM went then to.the.right
She went straight ahead, then to the right.
Non-agreeing adjective

In this strategy the manner coding adjective has default agreement or no agreement at all. In Bulgarian it is invariably marked for neuter gender

Bulgarian (Indo-European, Slavonic) (Scatton 1984:345)

(13) tja pée xubav-o
she sing.PRES nice-NEUT
She sings nicely.

German (Indo-European, West-Germanic)

(14) Sie arbeiten schnell
They work.PRES.3PL fast
They work fast.

Similative construction

Similative construction is a manner predication based on comparison. Examples:

Susan sang like a nightingale.

Susan sang as if she was on fire.

See also


  • Asher, R. E. & Kumari, T. C. 1997. Malayalam. Routledge Descriptive Grammars. London: Routledge.
  • Borgman, Donald M. 1990. Sanuma. In: Desmond C. Derbyshire & Geoffrey K. Pullum (eds.) Handbook of Amazonian Languages, Vol. 2, 15–248. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Dimmendaal, Gerrit Jan. 1983. The Turkana Language (Publication in the African Languages and Linguistics, 2). Dodrecht: Foris.
  • Hewitt, B. George. 1979. Abkhaz. (Linguia descriptive Studies, 2). Amsterdam.
  • Kauczor, P. D. 1920. Die Bergnubische Sprache: Dialekt von Gebel-Delen. Vienna: Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  • Loeb-Diehl, Flora. 2005. The Typology of Manner Expressions. Diss. Ponsen & Looijen.
  • Van De Berg, René. 1989. A Grammar of the Muna Language. Ph.D. Dissertation, Leyden University.
  • Paton, W. F. 1971. Ambrym (Lonwolwol) Grammar. Pacific Linguistics, B 19.