Nominal classification in Bantu revisited : the perspective from Chichewa

Msaka, Peter Kondwani (2019-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The present study focuses on the phenomenon of noun class and agreement systems in Chichewa, a Bantu language spoken in some parts of Eastern and Southern Africa. Noun classification is a strong areal feature of Bantu languages, however it remains one of the less well understood phenomena in this family (see i.a. Maho, 1999, chap. 6; Mchombo, 2004: 3; Katamba, 2006: 120). The generally accepted views about this phenomenon centre on the noun-class framework associated with Bleek (1862, 1869) and Meinhof (1899, 1906, 1932) – henceforth referred to as the Bleek-Meinhof system. The major problem with this system lies in the nature of the assumptions that are made regarding the principles underlying the classification system. In terms of the Bleek-Meinhof system, it is assumed that modern-day Bantu noun-class systems can all be understood as being based on a set of reconstructed noun prefixes. If we consider these modern-day systems, however, it emerges that these noun prefixes are not found on every noun and also not in every noun class. This is a distribution pattern that has been argued to have arisen due to language change, which has distorted the original regular morphological and semantic basis of the classes. The present study is centrally concerned with Chichewa, a language whose present-day noun class system poses numerous challenges to the traditional Bleek-Meinhof system. I argue that this latter system can in fact be shown to have been constructed on the basis of a partial dataset. Drawing on a carefully sampled dataset from the Chichewa monolingual dictionary, I outline how many nominal classifications can be shown to be problematic if we adopt the Bleek-Meinhof system. Clearly setting out these facts, constitutes the thesis’ descriptive objective. With the description in place, the second goal is to propose a novel noun-class system that is plausible from a child language acquisition perspective. I propose an agreement-based approach which classifies all expressions in the dataset according to the agreement markers that they control on adjectives, numerals, verbs, etc. Having taken this approach, I demonstrate that we can identify twelve agreement classes (ACs) in Chichewa, with each AC including a wide range of expressions, some of which are non-nominal in nature. In this regard, I propose two subsystems within the agreement classification system, one an agreement-based noun-class (ANC) subsystem and the other a general agreement class (GAC) subsystem. On the one hand, I will argue that in Chichewa, the ANC system has a primarily semantic basis, which gives rise to two super-noun classes, one animate/agentive and the other non-agentive/inanimate. The inanimate/non-agentive is further subcategorised on a phonological basis, taking into account the word-initial element, into six other classes. The GAC, on the other hand, is triggered by on at first sight rather miscellaneous group of expressions, some of which have not traditionally been associated with nominal expressions such as complementiser phrases (CPs), prepositional phrases (PPs), and also underspecified agreement triggers. I also argue that the proposed underlying principles of the Chichewa ANC and GAC systems are at the core of various grammatical structures and language acquisition processes observed crosslinguistically.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie fokus op die naamwoordelike klas- (noun class) en grammatikale kongruensie (grammatical agreement)-sisteem van Chichewa, ‘n Bantoetaal wat in dele van oos- en suider-Afrika gepraat word. Naamwoordelike klassifikasie is ‘n verskynsel wat sterk onder die Bantoetale figureer; nietemin bly dit een van die Bantoekenmerke wat linguiste vandag nog minder goed verstaan (sien o.a. Maho, 1999, hoofstuk 6; Mchombo, 2004: 3; Katamba, 2006: 120). Die perspektief op Bantoe naamwoordelike klassifikasie wat die algemeenste aanvaar word, sentreer op die raamwerk van Bleek (1862, 1869) en Meinhof (1899, 1906, 1932), waarna ons hierna sal verwys as die Bleek-Meinhofsisteem. Die hoofprobleem met hierdie sisteem lê in die aannames wat gemaak moet word aangaande die beginsels waarop die klassifikasiesisteem rus. In die konteks van die Bleek-Meinhofraamwerk word daar aangeneem dat hedendaagse Bantoe naamwoordelike klassifikasiestelsels almal gebaseer is op ‘n stel gerekonstrueerde (reconstructed) naamwoordelike prefikse. Wanneer ons die hedendaagse stelsels bekyk, blyk dit egter dat daar naamwoorde is waar hierdie naamwoordelike prefikse ontbreek, en ook dat die verwagte prefikse nie by elke lid van ‘n gegewe naamwoordelik klas gesien word nie. Hierdie distribusionele patroon word aan taalveranderig toegeskryf: die oorspronklike reëlmatige morfologiese en semantiese basis van die betrokke naamwoordelike klasse sou oor tyd vervorm het. Hierdie studie se sentrale fokus is Chichewa, ‘n taal wie se huidige naamwoordelike klassifikasiestelsel talle uitdagings skep vir die tradisionele Bleek-Meinhofsisteem. Ek dui aan hoe hierdie wydaanvaarde sisteem in feite op grond van ‘n gedeeltelike datastel opgestel is. Met behulp van ‘n datastel wat sorgvuldig op grond van die Chichewa monolingual dictionary saamgestel is, demonstreer ek hoeveel aspekte van die bestaande klassifikasie in die geval van Chichewa problematies is. Om die relevante feite duidelik uiteen te sit verteenwoordig die tesis se deskriptiewe oogmerk. Met dié beskrywing in plek is die tesis se tweede doelwit om ‘n hersiene naamwoordelike klassifikasiesisteem uit te lê wat veral ook vanuit ‘n taalverwerwingsperspektief geloofwaardig sou kon wees. Ek stel ‘n kongruensie (agreement)-gebaseerde benadering voor in terme waarvan al die naamwoordelike items in die datastel op grond van die kongruensiemerkers wat hulle op byvoeglike naamwoorde, telwoorde, werkwoorde, ens. bepaal, geklassifiseer word. As hierdie benadering gevolg word, kan daar vir Chichewa twaalf kongruensieklasse (agreement classes = ACs) onderskei word. Elke AC bevat ‘n wye verskeidenheid items, wat onder andere ook nie-naamwoordelike items insluit. Ek onderskei twee sub-sisteme binne die AC-klassifikasie: enersyds ‘n kongruensie-gebaseerde naamwoordelike klas (agreement-based noun-class= ANC) sub-sisteem, en andersyds ‘n algemene kongruensie klas (general agreement class = GAC) sub-sisteem. In hierdie verband wys ek dat die ANC in Chichewa ‘n hoofsaaklik semantiese basis het, wat aanleiding gee tot twee super-naamwoordklasse, die ene lewend (animate)/agentief en die ander nie-lewend/nie-agentief. Die nie-lewende/nie-agentiewe klas word dan op fonologiese basis in ses verdere klasse onderverdeel, met die kenmerke van die woordinisiële element wat telkens deurslaggewend is. Die GAC, daarenteen, word deur ‘n groep uitdrukkings bepaal wat met die eerste oogopslag nogal uiteenlopend is, met van die bepalers wat nie tradisioneel as naamwoordelike uitdrukkings beskou word nie, onder meer komplementeerderfrases (CPs), preposisionele frases (PPs), en ondergespesifiseerde kongruensiebepalers. Om af te sluit, toon ek dat die beginsels waarop die voorgestelde Chichewa ANC- en GAC-stelsels gebaseer is ook ‘n kernrol speel by ‘n verskeidenheid grammatikale strukture en taalverwerwingsprosesse wat in onverwante tale aangetref word.

CHICHEWA ABSTRACT: Kafukufuku uno akuyang’ana za magulu a maina ndi agwirizinitsi awo mChichewa, chiyankhulo cha chiBantu chimene chimayankhulidwa mmaiko angapo a ku mmawa ndi ku mwera kwa Afrika. Magulu a maina ndi chizindikiro chachikulu cha ziyankhulo za chiBantu, komabe ndi gawo limodzi la ziyankhulo zimenezi limene silinamvetsetseke (Onani mwachitsanzo Maho, 1999, mutu 6; Mchombo, 2004: 3; Katamba, 2006: 120). Magulu a mainawa amagawidwa kutsatira ndondomeko imene anafotokoza aBleek (1862; 1869) ndi aMeinhof (1899; 1906; 1932) – mwachidule, ndondomeko ya Bleek-Meinhof. Vuto lalikulu pa nkhaniyi ndi yokhudza malamulo amene amapanga magulu a mainawa. Motsatira ndondomeko ya Bleek-Meinhof, ambiri amakhulupilira kuti magulu a mainawa amatsatira magulu aphatikirammbuyo amene amaganiziridwa kuti anali mwadongosolo mmake wa ziyankhulo za Chibantu. Vuto ndi lakuti, aphatikirammbuyowa sapezeka pa dzina lililonse kapena mmagulu onse a maina. Kusokonekeraku amanena kuti kunadza kamba ka kusintha kwa ziyankhulozi,kumene kunachititsa kusintha kwa aphatikirammbuyowa ndi matanthauzo awo. Kafukufuku uno akuyang’ana kwambiri pa Chichewa, chiyankhulo chimene magulu ake amaina sangafotokozedwe momveka bwino ndi ndondomeko ya Bleek-Meinhof. Ndionetsa kuti ndondomeko ya Bleek-Meinhof inapangidwa ndi umboni osakwanira bwino. Pogwiritsa ntchito umboni osanjidwa bwino omwe ukuchokera mu Mtanthauzira Mawu wa Chichewa, ndionetsa kuti magulu a maina ambiri sangafotokozedwe momveka bwino ngati tingatsatire maganizo a aBleek ndi aMeinhof. Kotero, cholinga choyamba cha kafukufuku uno ndi kutulutsa umboni oyenerera kuchokera mu Mtanthauzira Mawu wa Chichewa. Ndikatulutsa umboniwu, cholinga chachiwiri ndi kupereka ndondomeko ya tsopano ya magulu a maina ndi mawu ena ofuna agwirizanitsi mChichewa. Ndionetsa magulu atsopanowa pogwiritsa ntchito agwirizanitsi amene dzina lililonse limafuna pa afotokozi, afotokozi owerenga, aneni, ndi mawu ena. Pogwiritsa ntchito njira imeneyi, ndionetsa kuti mChichewa muli magulu a maina okwana khumi ndi awiri. Kuonjezera apo, ndionetsanso kuti gulu lililonse lili ndi maina osiyanasiyana, kuphatikizapo mawu ena amene simaina. Kamba ka izi, ndidzagawa magulu a mawu ofuna agwirizanitsiwa pawiri, gulu loyamba likhala la magulu a maina opezeka potsatira agwirizanitsi (MOPA) ndi gulu lachiwiri gulu la magulu amawu potsatira agwirizanitsi (MAPA). Ndionetsanso kuti gulu la MOPA limatsatira matanthauzo a maina zimene zitipatsa magulu ena awiri, lina la maina onena za ochita/zamoyo ndi lina lotenga maina otanthauza ochitiridwa/zopanda-moyo. Gulu lotenga maina a ochitiridwa/zopanda-moyo likugawidwanso pasanu potsatira kamvekedwe ka liwu loyambirira la dzinalo. Pamene gulu la MAPA, limatenga magulu a mawu opangidwa podzera mnjira zophatikiza mawu monga alozi, ziganizo zosaima pazokha komanso mziganizo zina zimeneagwirizanitsi alibe mawu ogwirizana nawo. Pomaliza ndionetsa kuti malamulo omanga magulu a maina mChichewa amapezekanso mmalamulo a ziyankhulo zina zosiyanasiyana komanso mndondomeko zimene ana amaonetsa kuti amatsata pophunzira ziyankhulo.

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