Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/11707/2343
Title: Definiteness and Specificity in Runyankore-Rukiga
Authors: Allen, Asiimwe
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Atlantic-Congo Languages
Runyankore-Rukiga
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stellebosch
Abstract: This study investigates the manifestations of the universal categories of (in)definiteness and (non-)specificity in the Runyankore-Rukiga determiner phrase by means of discourse-pragmatic and morpho-syntactic considerations. Runyankore-Rukiga, like all other Bantu languages, exhibits no (in)definite articles, but there are various ways the language employs to encode the definiteness. Lyons’s (1999) semantic principles of definiteness and his definition of specificity are adopted for the study, as well as the Minimalist and Cartographic approaches to syntax. The data come from authentic written materials, recorded spoken discourse and elicitation (backed up by other native speakers’ grammaticality judgement). The study considers modified and unmodified (bare) nouns. Bare nouns are generally (save for those with inherent unique semantic features) ambiguous between (in)definite and (non-) specific readings Thus, an appropriate reading is contingent on a correct discourse-pragmatic setting. Nominal modifiers are categorized into three groups (Visser, 2008). Those which contribute unambiguously to the definiteness interpretation of head nouns, e.g., demonstratives, the functional elements -a and nya-, some quantifiers and the absolute pronoun. The second category includes nominal modifiers which have neutral semantic features of (in)definiteness and (non-)specificity, namely, adjectives, numerals, possessives as well as nominal and clausal relatives. Thirdly, nominal modifiers occur which are assumed to possess an inherent semantic feature of indefiniteness, for example, some quantifiers and the lexicalized element haine. The study investigates the inferences associated with the Initial Vowel (IV) when it occurs optionally in the inflectional morphology of nominal modifiers with the neutral feature of (in)definiteness and (non-)specificity in prenominal, and postnominal positions, as well as in positions when the head of the phrase is a pro category. The intricate relation of the core morpheme of the demonstrative and the IV is investigated. The study concludes that the initial vowel occurring optionally in the inflectional morphology of neutral nominal modifiers and with bare object nouns following a negative verb evolved from the core demonstrative morpheme and exhibits anaphoric features in the absence of a full lexical head as well as functioning as a functional category determiner, expressing specificity, contrastive focus and sometimes emphasis features. Indefinite nominal modifiers contribute to indefiniteness reading of their head nouns although the indefinite feature is not inherent in them, in that they can appear in definite contexts as well. Indefinite quantifiers too allow the IV in their inflectional morphology as a determiner that mainly encodes contrastive focus or emphasis. The results from the study offer explanations of key areas of syntax, morphology and semantics relating to the Determiner phrase system from a perspective of no (in)definite articles, which constitutes a significantly major contribution to Bantu linguistic research.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/11707/2343
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