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The morphosyntax of Kiswahili causatives

Deo S. Ngonyani


Morphological causatives in Kiswahili are marked by a verbal derivation. There are two forms of the causative affix, the long form –ish- and the short form –y-, each with its variants. The derivation increases the valency of the verb by licensing a new argument, the causer. Scope ambiguity of adverbs and reciprocal binding reveals the biclausal of the structure of the morphological causative construction. Semantically, the causative in Kiswahili may be interpreted as causal, coercive, permissive, or assistive. Using data from the Helsinki Corpus of Kiswahili, several pairwise combinations with applicative, reciprocal, passive, stative and reversive are revealed. (a) The reversive must appear before the causative affix; (b) ab-ba combinations are attested with applicative and reciprocal extensions; (c) Stative and passive affixes always appear after the causative. The findings raise questions about argument structure and about the principles governing affix order.

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