Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus

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Resolving verbal reduplication paradoxes in Malawian Tonga

Winifred Mkochi


The paper describes three verbal reduplication paradoxes in Malawian Tonga, a southern Bantu language spoken in the northern part of Malawi. The reduplicant (RED) is either total or partial and is either prefixed or suffixed to the base. The problem of whether the relevant level of prosodic (reduplicative) stem analysis is the syllable or the mora and thus whether the minimal size of RED should be two syllables or two moras is considered. The paper argues that this language offers three possibilities for reduplication, namely partial prefixal reduplication, total suffixal reduplication, and partial suffixal reduplication. Thus, reduplication in the language is optionally prefixal or suffixal, although the latter appears to be the default. The paper also argues that the relevant unit of prosodic stem analysis is typically the syllable and that reduplicative prosodic stems, like the base stem, are therefore required to be minimally bisyllabic, as in many other Bantu languages.

Keywords: Bantu, Malawian Tonga, phonology, reduplication, minimality
AJOL African Journals Online