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Title: The Syntax of Object Marking in Sambaa. A comparative Bantu perspective
Authors: Riedel, Kristina
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Atlantic-Congo Languages
Bantu Languages
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Universiteit Leiden
Abstract: This dissertation examines the morphosyntactic properties of object markers in the Bantu language Sambaa, and the Bantu languages more generally. An object marker is a morphemewhich appears attached on the verb stem, usually in the form of a prefix. When discussing object agreement in Bantu languages, the agreement is expressed by the object marker. Object marking patterns across Bantu are diverse: some Bantu languages have one object marker, others have several. Some require object markers with certain kinds of objects, whereas in others, object-marked objects apparently need to be dislocated. This kind of variation has given rise to a sizable literature on object marking in Bantu. However, to date there are no detailed typological studies nor truly in-depth studies of the syntax of object marking in particular Bantu languages. The goal of the present study is to address this gap. Swahili and Haya, two Bantu languages with object marking patterns that are substantially different from the pattern found in Sambaa, are compared to Sambaa through a range of construction types. One of the key questions in the literature is the syntactic status of Bantu object markers as agreement markers or pronouns. It has been argued that there are two types of Bantu languages: those with pronominal object marking and those with object agreement. In this thesis, this dichotomy is rejected based on the three languages discussed in detail and evidence from a range of other Bantu languages. The strongest possible conclusion from that would be that all Bantu languages have object agreement. However, there are more than 500 Bantu languages, most of which are inadequately described at best. Some Bantu languages do not have any kind of object marking, while othersmight have different objectmarking patterns from Haya, Sambaa and Swahili. The conclusion here, then, is that the three languages discussed have object agreement, and that this analysis is extendable to other Bantu languages with the same fundamental syntactic properties. And even though other languages may require different analyses from the one developed here, the in-depth investigation of these three language demonstrates that a simple two-way divide cannot be maintained. Beyond the narrow issue of the syntax of object markers, this thesis touches on questions such as freedom of word order, microvariation, syntactic relations within the sentence and on how different areas of Bantu syntax are connected, or not. In the context of object marking, languages with varying degrees of word order freedom are discussed. It is shown that this property cannot be associated with Bantu in general, and that it is not always affected by object marking. A number of morphosyntactic patterns are discussed which show that even amongst Bantu languages belonging to the same sub-groups a lot of syntactic variation is found. Lastly, it is shown that a number of properties which are associated in the literature, only co-occur in some Bantu languages. Agreement phenomena have been of interest to syntacticians working in different frameworks for a long time. This does not come as a surprise seeing how agreement phenomena illustrate how the most basic elements of a sentence interact and connect, and how the core meaning of a sentence is encoded. Cross-linguistically, subject agreement is more well-studied than object agreement, while languages with object agreement for more than one object, as discussed here, are rare. Moreover, where languages mark two objects on the verb this is generally not analysed as agreement. The data presented here challenges this notion. Finally, the Minimalist theory of Agree is based on subject agreement patterns, and as I argue here, it can be improved by considering object agreement as well. This is because object agreement, especially with more than one object, can elucidate locality effects and interference effects in ways which subject agreement cannot. Sambaa particularly lends itself to an investigation of these questions because it has a range of syntactic properties which are not commonly assumed to co-occur in Bantu. It allows multiple objectmarkerswhile at the same time showing clear animacy effects, and it has a restrictive word order. Swahili is one of the most widely studied Bantu languages and is generally assumed to have object agreement. Its syntax is rather similar to Sambaa, but Swahili allows only one object marker. Haya, finally, allows multiple object markers and has no animacy effects and a high degree of freedom of word order. In combination, these languages can offer insight into the extent of microvariation in Bantu and into the syntax of the Bantu languages as a whole.
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