South African Journal of African Languages

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Tense marking in copulatives with particular reference to isiZulu

Lionel Posthumus


While the realisation of tense in the main verbs of isiZulu has been described in detail, the realisation of tense in copulatives has not been described adequately. The aim of this article is to supply a systematic account of the realisation of the absolute tenses in copulatives; however, it is necessary first to consider the sub-categorisation of copulatives and to distinguish clearly between the (copulative) particles and copulative verb stems of isiZulu, since tense is marked in verbs. The interrelatedness between tense and the other verbal categories of mood, implication (an umbrella term for the binary opposition inchoative versus stative) and polarity (an umbrella term for affirmative and negative) furthermore necessitates a brief discussion of these categories in terms of their relationship to tense. This article also accounts for the employment of relative tense forms to mark absolute tense, especially in the case of the defective underlying stative copulative verb stem *-li.
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