What's in a Bantu verb? Actionality in Bantu languages

Thera Marie Crane, Bastian Persohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The lexical and phrasal dimensions of aspect and their interactions with morphosyntactic aspectual operators have proved difficult to model in Bantu languages. Bantu actional types do not map neatly onto commonly accepted categorizations of actionality, although these are frequently assumed to be universal and based on real-world event typologies. In this paper, we describe important characteristics and major actional distinctions attested across Bantu languages. These, we argue, include complex lexicalizations consisting of a coming-to-be phase, the ensuing state change, and the resultant state; subdistinctions of coming-to-be phases, and other issues of phasal quality. Despite these fine-grained distinctions in phasal structure and quality, evidence for a principled distinction between activity- and accomplishment-like predicates is mixed. We review the current state of evidence for these characteristics of Bantu actionality and sketch methodological directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLinguistic Typology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)303–345
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Bantu
  • ILE
  • actionality
  • aspect
  • lexical semantics
  • 6121 Languages

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