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Title: The Shona Adjective as a Prototypical Category
Authors: Mpofu, Nomalanga
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Atlantic-Congo Languages
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: University of Oslo
Abstract: This study is an examination of the adjectives in Shona. It employs the prototype theory of Cognitive Grammar (inter alia Langacker 1987 and 2008; Taylor 2002; Croft and Cruse 2004) as its theoretical framework. Previous Shona grammars have focused on morphological criteria that specified that the defining criterion of the adjective is the form adjective prefix + adjective stem. This study argues that this criterion is too restrictive because the Shona adjective class comprises of other adjectives that do not have this morphological form. The study will highlight at the onset the existence of loanwords and other adjectives that had not been hitherto identified in previous studies. The existence of these other adjectives is proof that firstly, there are more adjectives in Shona than had previously been described; and secondly that the Shona adjective class warrants a comprehensive analysis through the use of criteria that take into account their different morphological and syntactic characteristics. As such, this inventory of adjectives will be analysed using syntactic, morphological and semantic criteria, and will give precedence to syntactic function rather than morphological form. The prototype theory allows for membership gradience in a category and therefore views categories as having prototypical and peripheral members. The study will highlight the category structure of the Shona adjective class in relation to prototypicality and membership gradience. The notions of frequency of occurrence and entrenchment vis à vis prototypicality will also be incorporated into the discussion. The semantic criterion will encompass the adjective semantic types propounded by Dixon (2004). This semantic analysis will reveal that some semantic types are not found in the adjective class, but that these are expressed by nouns and verbs. The overt structural coding mechanisms that nouns and verbs require in order to function as modifiers will be the other objective of the study. Croft (2003) postulates that in their unmarked status, parts of speech discharge their prototypical functions; and that they can also perform nonprototypical functions when they are marked, taking on extended category functions. The markedness of nouns and verbs will be discussed in light of the semantic types that they denote.
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