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South African Journal of African Languages

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Lexical generality as a determinant of extension position in Northern Sotho

AE Kotzé

Abstract


To date, no comprehensive study of verbal extension sequencing in Northern Sotho has been undertaken.This article is about verbal extension sequencing and emanates from research towards the buildingof a computational morphological analyser for Northern Sotho. It recognizes two theories about affixordering, namely Hyman (2002) who argues in favour of a Pan-Bantu suffix template as the determinant of verbal extension order and Bybee (1985) who ascribes affix ordering to the semantic function andscope of affixes.

The applicability of Hyman’s Causative-Applied-Reciprocal-Passive (CARP) order to Northern Sothoverb stems is not doubted, but due to the nature of this study, the ordering of all other verbal extensionshad to be investigated as well.

The article seeks explanations for the ordering of verbal extensions in Northern Sotho by means of ananalysis of verb stems taken from a sizeable portion of the Comprehensive Northern Sotho Dictionary (CNSD). Lexical generality (Bybee, 1985:16–17) is one of a range of criteria that are applied to determinewhether affixes are inflectionally or derivationally inclined. It is used to determine the productivity of allverbal extensions of Northern Sotho that are listed against each of the 458 Northern Sotho verb stems inthe CNSD selected for this study. The data shows a near direct correlation between the relative positionsof verbal extensions and their productivity.

The article confirms the link between two criteria for inflection as opposed to derivation for NorthernSotho, namely the criteria of generality and of proximity to the stem, as originally proposed by Bybee(1985). Further research is required to throw more light onto the question of whether or not extensionordering is determined by the morphology proper as proposed by Hyman (2002) or by morphologyexternalfactors as proposed by Bybee (1985).




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