Topic, Focus, And Word Order In The Kiswahili Clause
Mungania, Basilio G
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The Kiswahili language has been classified as an SVO language. This paper argues that the SVO word order is dependent on the occurrence of both the subject and object overtly. When the two do not surface overtly, the word order varies: it is V when neither surfaces and VO when only the object does. This paper illustrates this point with data from ten oral narratives. It shows that the Kiswahili word order cannot be established using syntactic information only; the pragmatic principles of topics and foci must be taken into account as well. Based on the latter, the paper shows that the basic (commonest) word order in the Kiswahili clause is V word order and the default (if no other is specified) word order is VO word order. Topics and foci surface in both marked and unmarked forms. Marked topics are represented by overt lexical NPs and overt pronouns while the unmarked ones are represented by the incorporated pronouns. For its part, marked focus surfaces as fronted constituents (ex situ), while the unmarked surfaces in situ. The paper also argues that the Minimalist Program (MP) is inadequate in terms of analysing topic and focus and proposes a reanalysis of the MP in order for it to be able to capture topic and focus phenomena more appropriately.
University of Nairobi
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