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What the giant tells us about agreeing post-verbal subjects in Xhosa

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Eva-Marie Bloom Ström
Publicerad i Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus
Volym 52
Sidor 73-100
ISSN 2224-3380
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Institutionen för språk och litteraturer
Sidor 73-100
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.5842/52-0-710
Ämnesord Xhosa, subject inversion, information structure, phonological phrasing, thetic sentences
Ämneskategorier Lingvistik, Bantuistik, Afrikanska språk


Constructions with the subject following the verb phrase is a widely studied topic in Bantu linguistics. One such construction, whereby the subject is dislocated, is not considered core subject inversion but is generally considered an afterthought construction. This study takes a spoken text as its point of departure, in this case a narrative, to examine this kind of construction more carefully in terms of its function and morpho-syntactic structure in Xhosa, a Bantu language of South Africa. The paper shows that such agreeing post-verbal subject constructions are used for re-activating semi-active concepts that have already been mentioned previously in the narrative. They reintroduce a concept which then becomes the topic of the sentence and also in the phrases to follow, in which the subject is then often pronominalized. It is also shown that the expected penultimate lengthening, one of the diagnostics used to differentiate core inversion from constructions with a dislocated subject, is often not in place. The function of the construction and other morpho-syntactic diagnostics point to the subject being dislocated, however. Furthermore, it is argued based on a few examples from the narrative, followed by grammaticality judgements, that there is agreeing inversion in Xhosa, with the subject in the immediately after verb position. This inversion construction has not previously been attested in Xhosa and further research is needed in order to corroborate the results. The appendix presents the recorded, transcribed, glossed and translated narrative on which the analysis is based.

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