Parameters of morphosyntactic variation in Bantu1

Authors


  • 1

    Parts of the research reported in this paper have been conducted within the AHRC project ‘Clitics, pronouns and agreement in Bantu and Romance’ (B/RG/AN8675/APN16312). We are grateful to the AHRC for supporting this study, as well as to the British Academy for providing funding for an International Network project on ‘Bantu grammar: theory and description’ between the University of Leiden, ZAS Berlin and SOAS, from which we have immensely benefited. We are furthermore deeply indebted to our language consultants, Rehema Ngowi, Mutale Nyerenda, Deograssia Ramadhani, Zelda Sam, Clara Simango, Wakumelo Sindano, and to Denis Creissels, Katherine Demuth, Jekura Kavari, Ruth Kempson, Malin Petzell, Devyani Sharma, and two anonymous TPhS reviewers, as well as to audiences at the University of Addis Ababa, the Linguistic Society of Southern Africa, the University of Zambia, the Johan-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and SOAS, where we have presented parts of this study, for comments and suggestions. All mistakes and shortcomings remain, of course, our own.

Lutz Marten
School of Oriental and African Studies
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London
WC1H 0XG
Email: lm5@soas.ac.uk

Nancy C. Kula
Department of Language and Linguistics
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
Email: nckula@essex.ac.uk

Nhlanhla Thwala
School of Oriental and African Studies
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London
WC1H 0XG
Email: nt26@soas.ac.uk

Abstract

Bantu languages are fairly uniform in terms of broad typological parameters. However, they have been noted to display a high degree of more fine-grained morphosyntactic micro-variation. In this paper we develop a systematic approach to the study of morphosyntactic variation in Bantu by developing nineteen parameters which serve as the basis for cross-linguistic comparison and which we use for comparing ten southeastern Bantu languages. We address conceptual issues involved in studying morphosyntax along parametric lines and show how the data we have can be used for the quantitative study of language comparison. Although the work reported is a case study in need of expansion, we will show that it nevertheless produces relevant results.

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