Descriptive issues of derivation and inflection in Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho) with particular reference to ‘number’

  • Inge Kosch


The binary division of morphological processes into derivation and inflection was originally devised with regard to the classical languages. This division is often challenged by data from individual languages, especially those from a non-classical origin. In the Bantu languages, for instance, the noun class system provides an interesting example of an overlap between derivation and inflection. To illustrate this, the focus in this article will fall particularly on ‘number’, traditionally classified as an inflectional feature of nouns. Due to the unique formation of nouns in the Bantu languages (where both singular and plural forms are marked for number) and their classification into noun classes (grammatical class genders), the prefixes employed to mark number not only exhibit inflectional characteristics, but also productive derivational characteristics. This contribution aims to approach the marking of nouns for number within the context of two approaches to word formation in the Bantu languages, namely the so-called ‘root-based approach’ versus the ‘word-based approach’. Although examples will be provided from Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho), one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, it is believed that the observations will also be valid for other Bantu languages.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2011, 29(1): 89–96

Author Biography

Inge Kosch
Department of African Languages, PO Box 392,UNISA 0003, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614