Relative clause formation in the Bantu languages of South Africa.
Zeller, Jochen Klaus.
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This article discusses (verbal) relative clauses in the Bantu languages spoken in South Africa. The first part of the article offers a comparison of the relative clause formation strategies in Sotho, Tsonga, Nguni and Venda. An interesting difference between these language groups concerns the syntactic position and the agreement properties of the relative marker. Whereas the relative markers in Sotho, Tsonga and Venda are clause-initial elements, which express agreement with the head noun, the relative markers in the Nguni languages are relative concords, which are prefixed to the verb and agree with the subject of the relative clause. The second part of the article addresses this difference and shows that there is a historical relation between these two types of relative constructions. It is argued that earlier forms of Nguni employed relative markers similar to those used in present-day Sotho and Tsonga. In Nguni, these relative markers underwent a grammaticalisation process which turned them into relative concords. A detailed analysis of the syntactic conditions for, and the properties of, this grammaticalisation process leads to a hypothesis about the reasons why relative concords have developed in Nguni, but not (to the same extent) in Tsonga, Sotho and Venda.