Relative constructions and the Bantu Relative Agreement Cycle in Western Serengeti

Rasmus Bernander, Antti Laine, Lotta Aunio

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This article offers the first comprehensive study of relative constructions among the members of the Western Serengeti (WS) group, a group of closely related Great Lakes Bantu language varieties spoken in the Mara region in northern Tanzania.
The study has both a synchronic and a diachronic angle. First, we offer a systematic description of the various relativization types found in these varieties with regard to the phonological (prosodic) and (morpho-)syntactic traits of both subject and non-subject relativization. Next, we situate our findings within a historical-comparative framework, with particular reference to Van de Velde’s (2021, 2022) Bantu Relative Agreement (BRA) Cycle. Linking the source of the main relative marker to the proximal demonstrative, we offer a fine-grained reconstruction of its development into a relativizer.
We propose that the WS relative constructions instantiate Stage 1b of the BRA cycle while simultaneously showing remnants of what is either the direct reflex of the relative construction reconstructed for Proto-Bantu (Van de Velde 2022) or the final Stage 3b of an earlier cycle. In this endeavor we are able to zoom in to the processes at play at the turning point where an old and a new relative cycle intersect.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in African Linguistics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)50-84
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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