Home DP Positions in African Languages

Project Directors: Vicki Carstens, University of Missouri, Michael Diercks , Pomona College, Loyiso Mletshe , University of the Western Cape, Juvénal Ndayiragije, University of Toronto, Justine Sikuku, Moi University

A central concern of syntactic theory has long been to explain and predict the distribution of nominal expressions (DPs), and their involvement in morpho-syntactic relations. Where can they occur? When can they move, control agreement, and bear Case? The study of Indo-European (IE) languages has yielded strong generalizations upon which the theory is based, based on empirical contexts such as subject-verb agreement, properties of infinitives, raising constructions and passive constructions. Carstens (2011) and Diercks (in press) show that these generalizations do not hold of Bantu languages. Some additional research points towards the same conclusion for various non-Bantu languages of Africa (see for example Ura 1998; Baker and Willie 2010; and Ouali, 2007). A large-scale cross-linguistic study is therefore well-motivated from a theoretical standpoint and has the potential to drive serious reconsideration of our theories of DP licensing as a component of the universal human faculty of language.

Given the broad range of empirical contexts in which DP licensing must be investigated, the data that arise out of this project should be of interest to anybody whose work intersects with those areas; people interested in complementation patterns will likely find our data on raising and infinitives versus tensed clauses relevant, while people working on inversion constructions will be interested in our data on locative inversion, subject-object reversal, and impersonal passives. At first we expect our investigations to focus on Bantu languages, but we are very interested in expanding beyond this family to non-Bantu Niger-Congo and Afro-Asiatic.

Those interested in serving as native-speaker linguist consultants for this project should begin by consulting the DP Positions Questionnaire (DPPQ), which can be viewed and downloaded below or on the Become a consultant page. Those who decide to participate should then follow the instructions on the Become a consultant page, where details concerning how to participate (and remuneration) are provided. If you do decide to become a consultant, be sure to send a consent form which can be downloaded on that page.

You can access the DPPQ here: [pdf] [doc]