To (use) be or not to (use) be: Non-Verbal Predication Strategies in Eastern Bantu




Presented by Western Talks and the Department of Linguistics


Bantu languages are known to exhibit a range of non-verbal predication strategies (Schneider-Zioga, 2018; Gibson, Guérois, & Marten, 2019). In this talk, Aron Finholt provides an overview of non-verbal predication strategies in Eastern Bantu languages, with a particular focus on two languages spoken in South Kivu DRC, Kihavu (JD52) and Mashi (JD53). Whereas Indo-European languages like English and Spanish generally employ the same strategy ­­­­– namely the use of a copular verb like be or ser/estar – across different types of non-verbal predication, Eastern Bantu languages exhibit significant morphosyntactic variation. In ‘pure’ predicational clauses, languages like Kihavu and Mashi distinguish temporary/permanent states using distinct copular be-verbs — a difference that extends to possessive predication as well (Finholt, 2021). In yet other types of predicational clauses, focus-related morphology is employed in lieu of an overt be-verb. In light of these crosslinguistic observations, Finholt concludes with discussion of some theoretical implications and relevant issues pertaining to non-verbal predication, including a brief discussion of the relationship between BE and HAVE.



Aron Finholt, a recent WWU Linguistics graduate (’19),  is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Kansas. His research utilizes a combination of fieldwork and experimental methods to investigate the interfaces between syntax, semantics, and morphology, focusing primarily on understudied Bantu languages spoken in Central/East Africa. As part of a collaborative documentary project, Finholt is currently conducting fieldwork on five different Bantu languages spoken in and around Kansas City KS/MO (e.g. Mashi, Kihavu, Kinyamulenge, Kinyabwisha, Kifuliiru). Some of his recent topics of interest include copular predication, possessive have-verbs, the semantic contribution of complementizers, and verbal tonology. Finholt is also a Kiswahili Language (FLAS) Fellow at the Kansas African Studies Center. 



Thursday, April 28 

4:00 p.m. 



Online – Zoom 



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