Subject marking, coordination and noun classes in ciNsenga

  • Silvester Ron Simango


Subject marking on the Bantu verb seems to be a straightforward process in clauses with simple subject noun phrases (NP) as the verb only has to agree with a single NP. With conjoined NPs, on the other hand, subject-verb agreement is more complicated as there are three possibilities for such agreement: (i) agreement with both conjuncts (total agreement); (ii) agreement with one of the conjuncts (partial agreement); (iii) no agreement at all (default agreement). This study reveals that in ciNsenga partial agreement with conjoined NPs is not permitted; that total agreement and default agreement are determined by a combination of number, human, and gender features. Total agreement is possible only if the conjuncts denote nouns from the same plural class. Default agreement comes in two different forms: (i) if two conjuncts from different noun classes denote humans then agreement is with Class 2; (ii) if the conjuncts denote singular non-humans or they conflict in noun class then agreement is with Class 8. The study also reveals that default agreement for non-humans is restricted by word order, which suggests that agreement patterns are restricted by a combination of semantic and syntactic factors.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2012, 30(2): 171–183

Author Biography

Silvester Ron Simango
Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614