(02/11/21) Lis on fieldwork in Cameroon
Finally, after a long debate with Leiden University’s security, Lis was allowed to fly to Cameroon and return to the Tunen-speaking community in Ndikinimeki, where she was received with open arms!
(19/10/21) New publication ‘On the use of idioms for testing focus’
In the BaSIS methodology, we use idioms to test whether a suspected focus strategy indeed encodes focus. When it does, the idiomatic reading disappears: ‘John beat around the bush’ means ‘John avoided talking about something unpleasant’, but ‘It was the bush that John beat around’ only has the literal meaning. How this works, and why idioms referring to useless tasks (for example, ‘to write on water’ or ‘to sieve melons’) do not work, is explained in a newly published article:
Van der Wal, Jenneke. 2021. On the use of idioms for testing focus. Semantic Fieldwork Methods 3(2).
(14/09/21) Reading group ‘New developments in (Bantu) syntax‘
This autumn we read the latest publications by Wiltschko, Pietraszko, Van de Velde, Fominyam & Georgi, Fuchs & Van der Wal, and Schneider-Zioga & Irimia. The reading group will be held online – see the overview and login here.
(03/09/2021) Zhen back to Leiden from fieldwork in Congo
Zhen has conducted his second fieldwork on the Teke-Kukuya language from May to August in Congo-Brazzaville. He spent one month and a half in Lékana and two months in Brazzaville, working intensively with five native Kukuya speakers. With the consultant teachers they have investigated many intriguing phenomena in this language, such as the IBV position as an identificational focus site, interesting tone pattern variation with regard to different word order, and unusual agreement morphology in relative constructions. He has also collected several funny stories told in Kukuya.
(25/08/21) Jekura Kavari (Otjiherero) leaves project
After postponing the planned collaborative fieldwork on Otjiherero twice because of Covid-19, and taking into account his many obligations at the department, Jekura felt that unfortunately he cannot promise the time and commitment necessary to be involved in the BaSIS project. We thank him for his involvement in BaSIS and hope for another chance to collaborate!
(07/06/21) BaSIS at WOCAL10
BaSIS was also well represented at the 10th World Congress of African Linguistics! We even organised a workshop ‘Bantu Universals and Variation’, where many participants shared new insights on the typological patterns in Bantu languages, including on the distribution of different types of existential constructions (Devos & Bernander), Bantu argument structure as an active voice system (Madrid), variation in reflexives and reciprocals (Sikuku), and our wonderful invited speaker duo, Daisuke Shinagawa and Lutz Marten, reported on the correlations between focus marking and negation based on the database of the project Bantu Morphosyntactic Variation at SOAS. Particularly fruitful for the question which approach to take for Bantu typology was the discussion instigated by Mark Van de Velde, questioning the use of parameters.
Members of the BaSIS team contributed the following papers:
– Zhen Li: The Information Structure of Preverbal Domain in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77)
– Allen Asiimwe, Patrick Kanampiu, Elisabeth Kerr, Zhen Li, Amani Lusekelo, and Jenneke van der Wal: Bantu word order between discourse and syntactic relations
– Amani Lusekelo and Jenneke van der Wal: The augment and exhaustivity in Kinyakyusa (video)
– Patrick Kanampiu: Which factors determine object expression in Kîîtharaka?
– Elizabeth Kerr: Discontinuous DPs in Tunen (video)
– Allen Asiimwe, Melle Groen, Patrick Kanampiu, Nina van der Vlugt, en Jenneke van der Wal: How to focus topical referents (video)
(03/06/21) BaSIS at Bantu 8
The 8th Bantu conference, organised by the University of Essex, was held fully online, and members of the BaSIS team gave the following presentations:
– Allen Asiimwe, Maria Kouneli, Jenneke van der Wal: Determiner spreading in Rukiga (video)
– Elizabeth Kerr: Bare nouns and specificity disambiguation in Tunen
– Jenneke van der Wal: If Bantu bare nouns are ambiguous, what determines their interpretation? (video)
(15/04/21) Ernest in Leiden
With special permission from the Dutch government, Ernest was allowed to come to the Netherlands for a research stay at Leiden University! Following all the COVID-19 protocols, we will now start our collaborative work on Kirundi information structure, already discovering that the same -o that is used as a contrastive topic marker in Rukiga seems to have the same function in Kirundi. Welcome to Leiden, Ernest!
(08/04/21) ACAL talk on word order
At ACAL51-52, we gave a joint presentation on word order in 8 BaSIS languages, presenting our findings on the discourse-configurationality of each of the languages. The video of the talk can be found here: https://osf.io/hyvjb/ (it may be necessary to download the video in order to see it). And here are the handout and the appendix.
(02/04/21) Publication paper Allen and Jenneke
The findings of joint research on the Rukiga particle -o have now been published in the Nordic Journal of African Studies. Here is the abstract:
This paper discusses the particle –o in Rukiga (Bantu JE14, Uganda), aiming to establish its origin and function. At first sight, the particle appears to be an independent pronoun agreeing in noun class, reported in previous studies as an emphatic pronoun. Based on an extensive analysis of the particle, we argue that, through grammaticalisation, it has developed from a medial demonstrative via the independent pronoun to become a contrastive topic marker. This analysis is supported by various topic and focus tests carried out, which indicate that it combines with topics and is incompatible with focalised referents. We discovered that the particle is also used in exclamative/mirative contexts, expressing (a degree of) unexpectedness and surprise. Our findings indicate that independent morphological topic markers are present in East African languages just as they are in the more analytical West-African languages, and that exclamatives and miratives, which are extremely understudied in Bantu languages, may be associated with the morphological particle –o.
(31/11/20) Publication papers Lis and Zhen
Lis and Zhen have each contributed a chapter to the book that was presented to prof. Maarten Mous (co-supervisor of both) in honour of his 65th birthday. The book is freely accessible online via this link.
Zhen’s paper is ‘A note on the functional passives in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77, Congo)’, and Lis’ paper is entitled ‘The grammaticalisation of a specific indefinite determiner: Prenominal -mɔ̀tɛ́ in Tunen.’ Full details on the Publications page as well.
(25/11/20) Data collection Kinyakyusa
Amani, Simon, and Jenneke have learned a lot about Kinyakyusa information structure this November! In a little over two weeks in Kiwira, Tanzania, Peter Mwaipyana, Bahati Mwakasege, and Yona Mwaipaja have helped us to understand the exhaustive nature of the ‘CV augment’ (as in the example below) and the restrictions on inversion constructions, among other things. We gathered some 1400 forms in the database, which will help greatly in future analyses of the language.
(03/11/20) Simon Msovela joins as research assistant
As a lecturer at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education, Simon Msovela was found willing to assist Amani and Jenneke in the fieldwork on Kinyakyusa. He will come along to Kiwira for data collection, and has already started to learn all about Dative and information structure. Simon sees it also as an investment in his future as an academic, as he is planning to apply for the UDSM PhD programme coming year, on his first language Kihehe. Welcome, Simon!
(30/10/20) talks at Beijing conference
On 31 October there will be an online conference on African Language and Culture Studies which is held by Beijing Foreign Studies University. BaSIS’ Allen Asiimwe and Zhen Li will present their research on ‘Naming and gendered ideologies’ and ‘Topic and focus in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77)’, and the programme can be found here. Note that the conference uses the Voov meeting platform – please contact Zhen Li (email@example.com) for further information on how to join!
The BaSIS team at Leiden is organising a workshop within the tenth World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL 10), held in Leiden, 8-11 June 2021. The title is ‘Bantu Universals and Variation’:
“[W]ork on African languages has reached the critical mass necessary to make insightful comparative work between African languages possible. I think this is especially true of the Bantu languages, for perhaps no other language family possesses so many distinct languages that have so much in common syntactically.” (Henderson 2011:23)
As the field of Bantu typology is gaining momentum, we are organising a workshop with the aim to obtain a picture of the synchronic variation within the Bantu language family. We aim to go beyond lexical data to consider morphosyntax, phonology, and semantics, and welcome presentations from any framework.
(31/05/20) First BaSIS publication
Studies in African Linguistics has published Allen and Jenneke’s paper on the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Rukiga. It is available (open access) here. The first of many BaSIS publications to come, we hope!
Abstract: The Bantu language Rukiga (JE14, Uganda) shows tonal reduction on the verb in a subset of tenses, similar to the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Haya. Whereas in other languages the conjoint/disjoint alternation is usually marked by segmental morphology in at least one tense, Rukiga is unique in showing only tonal reduction. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that tonal reduction in Rukiga is not merely a phonological rule, but it encodes the conjoint/disjoint alternation. Furthermore, we show that tonal reduction in Rukiga is determined by constituent-finality, and there is no direct relation to focus.
(26/05/20) talk at Syntax Lab Cambridge
Jenneke presented joint work with Patrick on Kîîtharaka pseudoclefts at the virtual Syntax Lab of the University of Cambridge. Here are the ppt slides and the handout of the talk – comments are welcome!
(02/03/20) Research assistant Jane Gacheri Njagi
The project has a new Research Assistant, in Marimanti, Kenya: Jane Gacheri Njagi. Jane’s task is to enter the recorded and transcribed Kîîtharaka stories into the database Dative, and to gloss them, so that those working on the language can also have easy access to longer stretches of tekst. Welcome, Jane!
(13/02/20) Reading group ‘Syntactic features of information structure and case’
The BaSIS team at Leiden are organising a reading group around the question ‘Which features (of IS and Case) are in the syntax, and what arguments have been used to decide whether they are?’. We get together on Wednesdays at 15:30 at Van Wijkplaats 4, 003A.
- 19 February: Strong Uniformity Thesis
Miyagawa 2010, 2017 – chapter 1 from both
further reading: Boeckx 2011
- 11 March: Strong Modularity Thesis
further reading: Horvath 2010
- 25 March: The Syntax-Pragmatics interface
Trotzke 2015 ch4
further reading: Trotzke 2015, ch.3, Trotzke 2017
- 1 April: IS features and inclusivity
each reads one: Snyder 2000, Kratzer & Selkirk 2018, Aboh 2010 (plus, if we have enough people, part of Slioussar 2007)
- 15 April: Case
Diercks 2012, Baker 2018
- 29 April: IS features in neuro/psycholinguistics
(date and reading tbd)
(30/01/20) “Field school in Kenya gives students experience of collaborative linguistic fieldwork”
The LIKE has finished and was very successful! Read the Leiden University report here.
(06/01/20) Start LIKE
At Tharaka University College we just started the Linguistics in Kenya Experience, a three-week field school, funded by the Africa Studies Association in Leiden. Lecturers and students from TUC, Chuka University and Leiden University collaborate here, and learn together about primary data collection and linguistic features of Kenyan languages. See the LIKE tab for more information!
(21/12/19) Data collection Kîîtharaka
Peter got on board another collaborator on the project: Patrick Kanampiu (welcome!). Together with Jenneke and the fantastic Onesmus Muambi Kamwara, Philip Murithi Nyamu and Dennis Muriuki Katheru, we discovered no less than three predicate doubling constructions (with the same interpretations as we also found for Rukiga, Makhuwa, and Copi), some funny idioms, and thanks to Onesmus’ stories we now know why the cock crows.
i kû-rííngá tû́-rííng-iré ng'-óombé - tû-tí-ra-cí-thaik-a foc 15-hit 1pl.sm-hit-pfv 10-cows 1pl.sm-neg-ypst-10om-tie-fv 'We HIT the cows, we didn't tie them.'
kû-ííná n' á-íín-iré bai! 15-sing foc 1sm-sing-pfv friend i. 'Boy did she sing!' ii. 'Well she sang at least...' iii. 'She did sing (even if you think she didn't)'
w-aá-bútî-îre kû-bútî́ra 2sg.sm-pst-swim-pfv 15-swim 'You really swam!'
“Long ago, the guinea fowl and the chicken lived together. At some point, they thought it would be good to have fire, so they could roast their maize, like the humans. They sent out the cockerel. He came to the humans, who were grinding maize, and was happily eating some of the kernels that fell down. Then they were harvesting grain, and again the cockerel was eating and feeling happy. Suddenly he remembered what he was sent to do, and he shouted to the guinea fowls ‘There is no fiiiiire! There is not fiiiiire!’. And then when back to eating, remembering every once in a while to call that he still hadn’t found the fire. And that is why the cock crows!”
(9/11/19) BaSIS Brainstorm Workshop
The BaSIS project organised an informal brainstorm workshop on 8th-9th November with talks by BaSIS team members and invited advisors. First results were presented and many aspects of information structure, agreement, Case, and Bantu languages were discussed in a fruitful way. Many thanks to András Bárány, Lutz Marten, Stavros Skopeteas, Patricia Schneider-Zioga, and others who visited the workshop for sharing their insights with the team!
(25/10/19) Rukiga talk on marker -o at TTFA Leiden
Allen presents her work on the particle -o in Rukiga at a meeting of This Time For Africa. Here are the details:
TOPIC: The pronoun -o as a contrastive topic marker in Rukiga?
DATE: Friday, 25 October 2019
VENUE: LIPSIUS 235
(24/10/19) Rukiga augment talk at ComSyn Leiden
Allen and Jenneke present their work on the Rukiga augment at the Com(parative) Syn(tax) group; see https://romancelab.weblog.leidenuniv.nl/ for more information.
The slides can be found here: ComSyn augment Rukiga 2019 handout.
Title: Rukiga augments are like Greek
Date: Thursday 24 October
Venue: Lipsius 2.28
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks afterwards at Café de Keyser)
(06/10/19) Escape from Linguistics
Many enthusiastic visitors of the Nacht van Ontdekkingen (Night of discoveries) have helped our imaginary professor A. Kirfa solve African language puzzles, while learning about tones in Kukuya, the number system of Yoruba, and word order in Kinyarwanda. Together with the Taalmuseum (Language museum), Laura, Lis, and Jenneke organised a real escape room experience in Leiden. We were very pleased with how many people showed their interest in African languages and learned about them in a playful way!
Afterwards, we were invited to also participate at the start of the ‘Weekend van de Wetenschap’ (Science weekend), where children between 5-12 years old did their best to find the answer to prof. Kirfa’s riddle ‘What falls without making a sound?’.
(13/09/2019) Leiden team together
Zhen, Lis, and Jenneke are all back in Leiden from their respective fieldwork sites, and Allen has just started her two-month visit to Leiden University. The team is looking forward to a good semester of collaboration!
(06/09/2019) Escape from Linguistics
At the ‘Nacht van Ontdekkingen’ (Night of Discoveries) in Leiden you are challenged to solve African language puzzles in our ‘escape room’. Laura, Lis, and Jenneke are looking forward to seeing many non-linguists and showing them the wonders of African languages! The activity will be in Dutch; see for more information the Escape from Linguistics site.
(15/08/2019) Data collection Copi
Nelsa and Jenneke ventured out to Chidenguele (Gaza province, Mozambique) to collect data on Copi (S61). With the help of Gomes, Constância, and Arlindo we discovered that Copi allows multiple wh questions, which is unexpected for a Bantu language:
Vhalério á-xávh-eté cá:ní mâ:ni? 1.Valerio 1sm-buy-appl-pfv what who ‘Valerio bought who what?’
Another interesting and so far confusing feature is the interaction between the present conjoint form, the original disjoint (but now also habitual) form, and the present progressive. Where other languages have just the opposition between conjoint and disjoint, it seems that the progressive is entering into the mix here.
ni-bhik-a *(mpunga) conjoint 1sg.sm-cook-fv 3.rice ‘I cook/am cooking rice.’ n-a-bhik-a (mpunga) disjoint 1sg.sm-dj-cook-fv 3.rice 'I cook (rice).' n-o-bhik-a (mpunga) progressive 1sg.sm-prog-cook-fv 3.rice 'I am cooking (rice).'
(08/08/2019) Data collection Changana
Aurélio and Jenneke spent two weeks in the small town of Magude (Mozambique), asking José, Mateus, and Jovito all about their language Changana (S53). José shared some great stories about the lessons he learnt when he was young. We also found a particularly interesting construction with the auxiliary -za, which indicates that the action is the least expected:
ni-z-é ní:-ja ni kaláw!á:tla 1sg.sm-lim-pfv.cj 1sg.sm-eat-fv and 5.melon ‘I ended up eating even melon.’
(photo: Mateus explaining when to use the -ze construction)
(19/06/2019) Start collaboration UEM Maputo
In the week of preparation for fieldwork on Changana and Copi fieldwork, Jenneke gave a talk on information structure in Bantu languages for the linguists and students and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo.
(14/05/2019) Elisabeth and Zhen on fieldwork
Since 10 March, Lis has been in Cameroon to discover information structure in Tunen, and since 10 May, Zhen is in Congo Brazzaville to study Teke (Kukuya). Both languages show interesting information structural mechanisms, for example the particle á in Tunen, which Lis is testing for properties of exhaustivity using the BaSIS methodology.
(photo: Elisabeth and one of the Tunen language consultants)
(Spring 2019) BaSIS reading group on information structure in Bantu languages
For anyone who is interested, the BaSIS project organises a fortnightly reading group on information structure in Bantu languages, at the LUCL. See here for the schedule and further information.
(01/02/2019) An intense month of Rukiga information structure
In Kabale, Allen and Jenneke were fortunate to find the wonderful Ronald, Joel, and Pamellah, native speakers of Rukiga, to discover how information structure is expressed in their language. In a bit more than 2 weeks time the team worked their way through a list of diagnostics, recorded stories about wise owls and recipes for traditional porridge, and already entered more than 1,000 sentences in the Dative database.
Linguistic highlights were the discovery of an agreeing contrastive topic particle (as in 1), the residue of a conjoint/disjoint alternation, and the augment on adjectives and other modifiers triggering exclusive focus on the modifier (as in 2). Analyses for these phenomena are currently being written up!
(1) e-nté z-ó, a-ryá-zi-rí-is-a aug-10.cows 10-ct 1sm-fut-10om-eat-caus-fv ‘As for cows, he will graze them.’ - implying that other animals or other jobs he won't do.
(2) páápa (#o-)mu-kúru y-aa-h' ó-ru-bázo 1.pope (aug-)1-old 1sm-n.pst-give aug-11-speech ‘The old Pope gave a speech.’ - if the augment o- were present, it means that there are young Popes as well
(with thanks to Wilbert van Vliet for the photos)
(09/01/2019) Allen and Jenneke start their work
This January Allen and Jenneke will investigate information structure in Rukiga! The first week Allen learned a lot about information structure, and Jenneke learned about Rukiga and gave a talk for the department at Makerere University, Kampala (see picture). The next three weeks will be spent in Kabale to gather data from other native speakers of the language.
(12/11/18) Leonie Barabas-Weil starts internship
As part of her MA in Linguistics at Utrecht University, Leonie will spend 3 months at the BaSIS project, investigating inversion constructions and agreement in Lubukusu (JE31c, Kenya). Welcome, Leonie!
(15/10/18) Zhen Li starts as PhD candidate
We welcome Zhen Li as a new team member to the project! Zhen will focus on information structure in the Teke languages (B70, Congo, Gabon). Zhen completed his BA studies at Peking University and his MA thesis in African linguistics at SOAS (London), studying comparative verb morphology in Bantu languages of Cameroon and Gabon. Zhen’s experience and wide linguistic knowledge will no doubt help the project, and we are happy to have him at Leiden University!
(3/9/18) Elisabeth Kerr starts as PhD candidate
The project has a new member with Elisabeth Kerr starting her PhD research! Lis will focus on information structure in Tunen (A44, Cameroon), a language that is particularly interesting because of its unusual basic word order (SOV). Lis has completed her BA at the University of Cambridge and her MA at SOAS (London), with theses on information structure in Ekegusii (JE42, Kenya) and the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Zulu (South Africa). We are very happy to welcome her at Leiden University!
(9/7/18) Sintu 7 workshop on information structure
Allen and Jenneke organised a workshop on information structure within the Sintu 7 conference, held in Cape Town. The presentations were livestreamed and can still be accessed on the ALASA/Sintu7 facebook event page.
|Using tekst constituent charts to investigate information structure in Bantu languages||Steve Nicolle|
|Focus and theticity across Bantu||Yukiko Morimoto|
|Topic-based flexible nominal licensing in Bantu||Jenneke van der Wal|
|The augment as an exclusive focus marker in Runyankore-Rukiga||Allen Asiimwe|
|Activation states and word order in relation to definiteness||Eva-Marie Bloom-Ström|
|Adverbial clauses and word order in Mozambican Ngoni||Heidrun Kröger|
(18/4/2018) Amani at Dar es Salaam research week
Amani Lusekelo presented the BaSIS project in the research week at the University of Dar es Salaam, 18-20 April 2018. Many linguists and non-linguists showed interest in the poster showing the main points of the project.
PhD position open
We’re happy to announce that the BaSIS project has a 4-year fully funded position for a PhD student, starting on 1 September 2018. This PhD subproject is intended to describe and analyse the morphosyntax of information structure in Tunen, spoken in Cameroon. For full details on the position and how to apply, see the advertisement by Leiden University; for more information on the content of the project, see the project description; and for other questions please contact Jenneke van der Wal.