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A typology of Bantu subject inversion

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Marten, Lutz 
van der Wal, Jenneke 


jats:pThis study charts variation in subject inversion constructions in Bantu languages. It distinguishes between seven types of inversion constructions: formal locative inversion, semantic locative inversion, instrument inversion, patient inversion, (clausal) complement inversion, default agreement inversion and agreeing inversion. Based on a set of nine surface variables, a matrix of inversion constructions is developed which identifies characteristics of the set of constructions overall as well as of each individual construction type. The distribution of the different inversion constructions is documented with reference to a sample of 46 Bantu languages, from which geographical and typological generalisations are drawn. For example, languages with instrument inversion or with patient inversion always have locative inversion (but not vice versa), or if a language has at least one inversion construction, it always has at least either default agreement inversion or agreeing inversion. Finally, underlying parameters potentially accounting for the variation are discussed, such as the status of preverbal locatives as DP or PP, the agreement parameter and the syntactic and thematic restrictions on the preverbal element.</jats:p>



agreement, Bantu, information structure, inversion, subject, typology, variation, word order

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Linguistic Variation

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John Benjamins Publishing Company
Lutz Marten’s part of this research has benefitted from a British Academy UK-Africa Academic Partnership Scheme grant for ‘Language and Linguistic Studies of Southern African Languages’, and Jenneke van der Wal’s part is funded by the European Research Council Advanced Grant No. 269752 ‘Rethinking Comparative Syntax’, both of which are hereby gratefully acknowledged. Earlier version of this paper were presented to audiences at Durban, Lyon, Manchester, Paris, SOAS, and Surrey and we are grateful for 61 helpful comments and suggestions received on these occasions as well as from Oliver Bond, Leston Buell, Thilo Schadeberg, Oliver Stegen, Jochen Zeller and two anonymous referees. For information about specific languages we are grateful to Leston Buell (Zulu), Jean Chavula (Tumbuka), Denis Creissels (Tswana), Maud Devos (Makwe and Shangaci), Yussuf Hamad (Swahili), David Iorio (Bembe), Langa Khumalo (Ndebele), Ahmed Kipacha (Swahili), Heidrun Kröger (Mozambican Ngoni), Nancy Kula (Bemba), Michael Marlo (Tiriki), Ferdinand Mberamihigo (Kirundi), Peter Muriungi (Kîîtharaka), Minah Nabirye (Lusoga), Jean Paul Ngoboka (Kinyarwanda), Steve Nicolle (Digo), Malin Petzell (Kagulu), Eva-Marie Ström (Ndengereko), Nobuko Yoneda (Matengo), and Jochen Zeller (Zulu). All mistakes and shortcomings remain our own.