Home Situating the Subject in Bantu

Project Directors: Vicki Carstens, University of Missouri-Columbia, Michael Diercks, Pomona College, Luis Lopez, University of Illinois-Chicago, Loyiso Mletshe, University of the Western Cape, Juvenal Ndayiragije, University of Toronto, Justine Sikuku, Moi University

It has often been claimed that overt preverbal subjects have A’ properties in null subject languages (henceforth NSLs) because “rich” subject agreement precludes lexical material from occupying the canonical subject position, Spec, TP (see Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1998). Because the 400+ Bantu languages are NSLs, they are highly relevant to this hypothesis. We accordingly propose a thorough investigation of the syntax of Bantu subjects.

There has been some previous work claiming Bantu preverbal subjects exhibit A’ properties and hence are always topicalized or left-dislocated (see Baker 1996, 2003 and Schneider-Zioga 2007). But we find the arguments quite inconclusive: not enough languages are represented, not enough tests have been conducted, and the evidence provided is easily reinterpreted as arising from extraneous factors.

What is needed in our view is a very thorough questionnaire to gather data from a broad range of Bantu languages, first establishing the properties of left-dislocation and topicalization constructions in each language and then comparing these with the properties of preverbal subjects. We will then carefully compare them to subjects in other non-Bantu NSLs and in non-NSLs.

Those interested in serving as native-speaker linguist consultants for this project should begin by consulting the Properties of Subjects in Bantu Questionnaire (PSBQ), 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 Properties of Subjects in Bantu Questionnaire (PSBQ) here:  [pdf] [doc]