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To break or be broken ‒ A study of valency-decreasing alternations in East Ruvu Bantu languages

Research project
Active research
Project period
2020 - 2023
Project owner
Department of Languages and Literatures

Short description

This project will investigate diachronic, semantic, and syntactic aspects of Bantu valency-decreasing verbal morphology, as well as its relation to and effect on verbal semantics in the East Ruvu languages, a genealogical group of six under-analysed Bantu languages spoken in Tanzania. Despite their close genetic relationship, there is a significant degree of grammatical diversity among these languages which makes them ideal for a comparative study. The project will be the first comprehensive documentation and analysis of valency-decreasing morphology in these languages, and will involve data collection through linguistic fieldwork in the Morogoro region of central Tanzania.

Background and purpose

This project will investigate valency-decreasing verbal morphology in a group of six under-analysed Bantu languages, namely Kagulu, Kami, Kwere, Kutu, Luguru and Zalamo. They make up a genealogically closely related unit termed East Ruvu Bantu. Despite their close genetic relationship, there is a significant degree of grammatical diversity among these languages which makes them ideal for a comparative study. Although valency-decreasing morphemes are widely attested in Bantu, they are often poorly described in grammars.

Goal

The goal of this project is to examine the distribution, semantic and syntactic properties, and diachrony of valencydecreasing morphemes in East Ruvu Bantu. We will build on previous research on the six languages, as well as previous research on valency-decreasing morphology in other Bantu languages. This project involves the analysis of valency-decreasing morphemes and also their relationship to and effect on other components of the grammar (e.g., the temporal/aspectual system). Data will be collected through linguistic fieldwork in the Morogoro region of central Tanzania with native speakers, and added to an existing database of the East Ruvu languages. The project is the first comprehensive documentation and study of valency-decreasing morphology in these languages. As such, it will contribute to the description of Bantu languages in general, and will result in wider theoretical implications for our understanding of verbal lexical semantics.