Larry Hyman will be giving a colloquium talk titled “Multiple argument marking in Bantoid” in the Linguistics department this Friday, 3 April at 3:30pm in ILC N400 (abstract follows). All are welcome.
“Multiple argument marking in Bantoid”
Given the typological similarities between the geographically and genetically distant Atlantic, Kordofanian and (Narrow) Bantu languages, it is generally assumed that early Niger-Congo had a synthetic structure with extensive noun class marking and derivational verb extensions (causative, applicative, etc.). However, other Niger-Congo languages show varying degrees of analyticity, some coming close to the endpoint of one morpheme per word. Much of the variation is quite clearly areal. In this paper I am concerned both with the mechanisms of change that lead from syntheticity to analyticity in the Nigeria-Cameroon borderland area, as well as the different strategies that are adopted as these languages lose their verbal extensions. The Bantoid languages I report on are typologically quite diverse. I am particularly concerned with what has replaced dative (recipient, benefactive) and instrumental applicative marking on verbs which historically allowed multiple object noun phrases (send-APPL chief letter, cook-APPL child rice, cut-APPL knife meat). The languages of this area show a remarkable variation: (i) Some languages allow multiple objects (typically with restrictions), while others do not (including some which have relic verb extensions); (ii) some have replaced verb extensions with serial verbs (take knife cut meat give child), others use adpositions (cut meat with knife for child). Still others have adopted multiple strategies for marking such arguments. In this study I sort out these strategies and attempt a micro-mapping of who has developed what where—and grammaticalizing from what (nouns? verbs?)? I will show that even adpositional languages have extensive verb serialization which they exploit for other functions (aspectual, directional, comparatives etc.), thereby raising the question of why only some Bantoid languages use serial verbs for argument marking. Although information is lacking for many languages, there does appear to be a southerly band of languages which mark datives and instruments with serial verbs. Information from Nigeria suggests that a similar distinction separates much of Lower Cross-River from Upper Cross River languages as well.