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Language Analysis and Microvariation: a case Study in Bantu Relatives

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Language Analysis and Microvariation: A Case Study in Bantu Relatives

J. Ndayiragije

This talk shows how a close investigation of syntactic and phonological properties of relative clauses in Bantu may shed light on the national origin of asylum seekers. I examine relativization strategies in four languages: CiShona (Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia), Bemba (Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo -DRC), Kirundi (Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania), and Kinyarwanda (Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Tanzania).

Cheng (2006) identified two relativization strategies in Bantu languages: the Possessive strategy (1a-b), from ChiShona, and the Demonstrative strategy (2c), from Bemba:

(1) a. ndimi za-va-nótaúra OBJ Relative
10language 10Rel-2SM-speak
“Languages that they speak”

b. múunú wa-ku-húúva Infinitival use

1person 1REL-INFL-have.problems
‘a person (who is) in trouble’

(2) a. Umulembo a-ka-belenga ibuku

1boy 1SM-FUT-read 5book
‘The boy will read the book’

b. Umulembo u-u-ka-belenga ibuku SUBJ Relative

1boy 1Rel-1SM-FUT-read book
‘The boy who will read the book’

c. Ibuku ilyo umulembo a-ka-belenga OBJ Relative

5book 5Rel 1boy 1SM-FUT-read
‘The book that the boy will read’

Cheng and Kula (2006) also found that phonology matters, witness tone lowering on the subject marker (SM) in Cishona (3b), and Bemba (4b):

(3) a. ba-kafúndisha á-bá-léé-lolesha pansé ni ba-Mutale.
2PFX-teacher 2REL-2SM-TNS-look 16outside COP 2PFX-Mutale
‘The teacher who is looking outside is Mr Mutale’

b. ba-kafúndisha bà-léé-lolesha pansé ni ba-Mutale.

2PFX-teacher 2SM-TNS-look 16outside COP 2PFX-Mutale
‘The teacher who is looking outside is Mr Mutale’

(4) a. murúmé á-ca-tongá nyika

1man 1SM-FUT-rule country
‘The man will run the country’

b. murúmé à-ca-tongá nyika SUBJ Relative

1man 1SM-FUT-rule country
‘The man who will run the country’

On theoretical grounds, (1-4) raise interesting questions about the relevance of tonology in syntactic computation, and the parametric source of the Possessive-Demonstrative asymmetry.

This talk answers to those questions by deriving the tonal change and the Demonstrative-Possessive asymmetry from a general PF (phonological) requirement of complementizer lexicalization in those languages, similar to V-second effect in germanic languages.

Evidence supporting the proposal comes from other syntactic similarities and contrasts found in other Bantu languages: Kirundi and Kinyarwanda, in which Possessive and Demonstrative strategies are banned where they are required in CiShona and Bemba, but tonal change is mandatory. Methodological implications are drawn on the relevance of syntatic and phonological features of asylum seekers’ speech in the determination of their national origin.

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