1887
Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2210-2116
  • E-ISSN: 2210-2124
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Abstract

Abstract

The North-Angolan Bantu language Kisikongo has a present tense ( R = root) that is morphologically more marked than the future tense (). We reconstruct how this typologically uncommon tense-marking feature came about by drawing on both historical and comparative evidence. Our diachronic corpus covers four centuries that can be subdivided in three periods, viz. (1) mid-17th, (2) late-19th/early-20th, and (3) late-20th/​early-21st centuries. The comparative data stem from several present-day languages of the “Kikongo Language Cluster.” We show that mid-17th century Kisikongo had three distinct constructions: (with present progressive, habitual and generic meaning), (with present habitual meaning), and (with future meaning). By the end of the 19th century the last construction is no longer attested, and both present and future time reference are expressed by a segmentally identical construction, namely . We argue that two seemingly independent but possibly interacting diachronic evolutions conspired towards such present-future isomorphism: (1) the semantic extension of an original present-tense construction from present to future leading to polysemy, and (2) the loss of the future prefix , as part of a broader phenomenon of prefix reduction, inducing homonymy. To resolve the ambiguity, the construction evolved into the main present-tense construction.

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2020-08-21
2020-09-26
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