The applicative construction and object symmetry as a parameter of variation in Kiswahili and Maragoli

  • Paul Murrell


Over the last 20 years there has been much debate concerning double objects in applicative constructions in Bantu languages and the symmetry, or lack of it, in the behaviour of objects. It would appear that object symmetry depends to some degree on the precise family to which a language belongs. This paper is therefore a largely descriptive comparative study, which investigates the applicative construction and object symmetry in two Bantu languages from different families, Kiswahili (Nairobi dialect) from Bantu (G40) and Maragoli from Bantu (J30). Based on the results of several syntactic tests which reveal object behaviour, it is argued in this paper that Kiswahili is an asymmetrical language while Maragoli is a typical symmetrical language. It is further argued that the divergent object behaviour observed between different asymmetrical languages such as Kiswahili and Chichewa is determined by a feature described as an optional alternating object parameter.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2012, 30(2): 255–275

Author Biography

Paul Murrell
SIL International, 7500 W Camp Wisdom Road, Dallas TX 75236-5629, USA

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614