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The Structure of the Bantu Noun Phrase

The Structure of the Bantu Noun Phrase  
Type Article
Author(s) Josephat M. Rugemalira
Journal SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics
Publication date 2007
Pages 135-148
Volume Vol.15
Country Tanzania University of Dar es Salaam jmruge@uccmail.co.tz
Annotator Samuel Namugala
Corpus Link The Structure of the Bantu Noun Phrase
Subject(s) Linguistics, Syntax

By: Samuel Namugala

General Information

This article belongs to the TC Category Interlinear Glossed Text from Linguistic Research.

In this category we collect TCwiki pages that feature Interlinear Glossed Text (IGT) from linguistic publications.

IGT are normally demarcated through indenting, numbering and a space above and under the example. One line of text is followed by one line of glosses and a line with free translation completes the pattern. IGTs from linguistic publications are of particular interest, since they represent a unique alignment of language data and linguistic theory. Example sentences from seminal articles are not rarely quoted in linguistic publications for decades which is another good reason why they need our attention.

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  • Bantu languages
  • Noun phrase
  • Elements
  • Modifiers
  • Interrogative words


This article discusses the syntax of the noun phrase in several Bantu languages by examining the syntax of the noun and its dependent elements through addressing the following questions:

• What elements can modify the Bantu noun and in what order?

• Which elements can co-occur and/or recur in the modification structure and what criteria are relevant in characterizing the dependents of the noun?

• Is there a saturation point in the modification structure?

It points out that it’s possible to stack two determiners; a possessive and a demonstrative (consider example 2.b in the table). It’s also possible to stack two or more adjectives in many languages (see 3.a and 3.b). The author claims that nominal dependents in Bantu are post-head with a frequent exception and that in several languages possessives are fixed immediately after the head noun. Other elements follow the possessives with considerably a free ordering (see 16.b). Conclusively, with the exception of demonstratives, possessives and relative clauses, all other elements in the noun phrase are considerably mobile.

The suggested order of elements is; pre-determiner, noun, determiner, modifier, post-modifier. However, there’s considerable variation in the ordering of items in the modifier position (no such freedom in other positions).

Glossed texts in the article

The following are glossed examples as extracted from the article. The link to their glosses by the annotator is [1]

Swahili 2.b)kitabu changu kile
 book mine that
(that book of mine)
Swahili 3.b)kitabu kipya kizuri
 book new nice
(a nice new book)
Swahili 4.)vitabu vingi sana
books many very
(books are very many)
Swahili 6.) kila mtu
each person
(each person)
Swahili 13.a)mtu wangu yule
person mine that
(that person of mine)
Sukuma 22.b)abhanu bhatano bhose abho abhane
 people  five  all  those  my
(all those five people of mine)
Safwa 20.a)bhala abhantu bhani bhasanu
 those people  my  five
(those five people of mine)
Safwa 20.a)abhantu bhani bhasanu bhala
  people my  five  those
(those five people of mine)
Mashami 3.a)kitabu kasha kidodori
  book red  good
(a good red book)
Ha 16.b)abhantu bhanje bhaya bhataanu bhasole
 people   my  those  five  good
(those five good people of mine)

Related Articles

Mark Van de Velde (University of Leuven/FWO). The order of noun and demonstrative in Bantu. Available online at http://llacan.vjf.cnrs.fr/pers/vandevelde/files/pdfs/The-order-of-noun-and-demonstrative-in-Bantu.pdf Accessed on 2012-05-22.