Volume 43, Issue 4
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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Bantu languages employ a combination of simple and compound verb forms to encode tense-aspect-mood distinctions. Compound constructions typically involve an auxiliary form followed by an inflected main verb. However, the six East African Bantu languages under examination in this paper exhibit a word order in which the auxiliary appears after the verb. This order is typologically unusual for languages with SVO word order and comparatively unusual in the context of the Bantu languages. This paper presents a synchronic description of this word order and develops an account of its possible origins. It is proposed that the verb-auxiliary order originated from a verb-fronting construction which was used historically to convey predication focus. The account further corroborates the claim that the progressive aspect is an inherently focal category in Bantu and, from a wider perspective, shows the interplay between the encoding of information structure and tense-aspect information.


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Keyword(s): Bantu; grammaticalisation; information structure; language contact; word order
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