South African Journal of African Languages

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The copula in Ikalanga

Rose Letsholo


This article discusses the most commonly used methods of expressing the copula in Ikalanga, arguing that although Ikalanga has no single way in which it expresses the copula, it nevertheless has a base copula form, -li, a possible remnant from Proto-Bantu. Evidence for this comes from the fact that not only is -li still used to express copula relations in past and present tense forms, but it is also consistently used in the formation of most negative copula sentences. Further, the article argues that the copulative forms ndi-, i- and the expression of the copula through tone are allomorphs of -li and that the morphological form of each of these allomorphs is determined by the class of the noun involved. In addition, the article also argues that although the copula -li is still in existence in Ikalanga, it is nevertheless fading from the language as there are indications that it is being replaced by the ‘zero copula’ and other forms of expressing the copula.

South African Journal of African Languages 2012, 32(1): 1–9
AJOL African Journals Online