Journal of Humanities

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A comparative analysis of the nominal class marking systems of Cisukwa, Cindali and Cilambya

Atikonda Akuzike Mtenje-Mkochi


This paper compares the nominal class marking systems of Cisukwa (M202), Cindali (M301) and Cilambya (M201B) - Bantu languages spoken in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia which have been collectively labelled SuNdaLa in this paper. The paper focused on the Malawi varieties and aimed to analyse the similarities and microvariation exhibited in these closely related languages. The paper couched its focus on the following questions: i) What are the similarities of the nominal class marking systems of SuNdaLa? ii) How is variation exhibited in their noun classes? iii) What factors account for the variations in SuNdaLa? The paper used Guérois, Gibson, Everdium and Marten (2017) parameters to answer the questions raised by the paper but also to test their validity on closely related varieties. The paper demonstrates that the SuNdaLa varieties share similarities on a lot of values, particularly that they have V shaped augments, use the class 5 prefix -li- which alternates with zero. They also have 19 noun classes, express diminutive and augmentative meaning through noun classes and nouns take locative and infinitive prefixes. However, these parameters fail to capture micro-variation of minute details exhibited within the varieties. The paper argues that there is need to refine the parameters by adding sub-parameters that address these issues. It shows how closely related languages exhibit variation and how the variation provides indications of the direction and nature of language change in the nominal class marking systems. The paper concludes that although there are minute variations in the nominal class marking systems of SuNdaLa, their similarities are indeed indications that the varieties are on a dialect continuum.

Keywords: noun, noun class, variation, prefix, augment, pairing

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