Reading groups

Autumn 2021 – New developments in (Bantu) syntax

Location:      Online (Skype join link:

Date/time:     15:00-16:00 CEST Tuesdays

                      21 Sept, 5 Oct, 19 Oct, 2 Nov, 16 Nov, 30 Nov

Surfdrive link:

Goals of the reading group:

The reading group selects the most recently published papers or book chapters on the new developments of theoretical syntax, with special attention to Bantu languages. This reading group focusses on the following questions:

  1. What are the new developments/trends in the study of Bantu syntax?
  2. What can these new developments bring into our research? To what extent can the new developments account for our new empirical data?

We will read 1 paper for each session and discuss general thoughts about the paper and answer these questions.


21 SeptemberSubject marking in AwingFominyam & Georgi (2021)
5 OctoberThe locus of parametric variation in Bantu gender and nominal derivationFuchs & van der Wal (2021)
19 OctoberThe coming apart of case and focus in BantuPietraszko (2021)
2 NovemberPartitives, Case and licensing in KinandeSchneider-Zioga & Irimia (2021)
16 NovemberBantu relative agreement cyclevan de Velde (2021)
30 NovemberThe interactional spine hypothesisWiltschko (2021)


Fominyam, H., & Georgi, D (2021). Subject marking in Awing. Studies in African Linguistics 50(1). 82-115.

Fuchs, Z., & van der Wal, J. (2021). The locus of parametric variation in Bantu gender and nominal derivation. Linguistic Variation.

Pietraszko, A. (2021). The coming apart of case and focus in Bantu. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 39, 579–599

Schneider-Zioga, P., & Irimia, M.A. (in press). Partitives, Case and licensing in Kinande. In Elena Anagnostopoulou, Dionysios Mertyris & Christina Sevdali (eds.), On the place of case in grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van de Velde, Mark (2021). The Bantu Relative Agreement Cycle. Linguistics 59:4, 981-1015.

Wiltschko, M. (2021). “The interactional spine hypothesis”, in Wiltschko, M. The Grammar of Interactional Language. Cambridge University Press.

Additional relevant readings:

Bárány, A., & van der Wal, J. (2021). We don’t agree (only) upwards. Linguistic Inquiry, 1-30.

Branan, K. (2020). Locality and anti-locality: The logic of conflicting requirements. Linguistic Inquiry, 1-52.

Carstens, V., & Zeller, J. (2020). ‘Only’in Nguni: A phrase-final particle meets antisymmetry theory. Linguistic Inquiry, 51(2), 199-235.

Carstens, V., & Diercks, M. (2013). Agreeing how? Implications for theories of agreement and locality. Linguistic inquiry, 44(2), 179-237.

Carstens, Vicki and Loyiso Mletshe. 2015. Implications of Xhosa expletive constructions. Linguistic Inquiry 46 (2). 187-242.

Diercks, M. Indirect agree in Lubukusu complementizer agreement. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 31, 357–407 (2013)

Fominyam, H., Šimík, R. (2017). The morphosyntax of exhaustive focus: a view from Awing (Grassfield Bantu). Nat Lang Linguist Theory 35, 1027–1077

Gluckman, J. (2021), Null Expletives and Embedded Clauses in Logoori. Syntax, 24: 334-375

Halpert, C. (2021). Licensing external arguments: Some Zulu case puzzles revisited, ACAL handout.

Henderson, B. (2013). Agreement and person in anti-agreement. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 31, 453–481

Holmberg, A., Sheehan, M., & Van der Wal, J. (2019). Movement from the double object construction is not fully symmetrical. Linguistic Inquiry, 50(4), 677-722.

Diercks, M., van Koppen, M., & Putnam, M. (2020). Agree probes down: Anaphoric feature valuation and phase reference. Agree to Agree: Agreement in the minimalist programme, 6, 347.

Pietraszko, A. (2019). Obligatory CP nominalization in Ndebele. Syntax, 22: 66-111.

Taraldsen, K.T., Taraldsen Medová, L. & Langa, D. (2018). Class prefixes as specifiers in Southern Bantu. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 36, 1339–1394

Autumn 2020 – Northwestern Bantu

Location:     Online (Skype join link:

Date/time:    13:30-14:30 CET Wednesdays
23 Sept, 7 Oct, 21 Oct, 4 Nov, 18 Nov, 2 Dec, 16 Dec

Goals of the reading group:
The reading group is focussed on the following two questions:

  1. How do Northwestern Bantu languages vary from (other) narrow Bantu languages and from Bantoid/other Niger-Congo languages?
  2. What variation is there within the Northwestern Bantu languages?

We will read 1 paper for each session and discuss general thoughts about the paper and answer these two questions. On the basis of the languages the participants know, we will build up a typology of Northwestern Bantu to gain further insight into the patterns and variation.

Please contact Zhen, Lis, or Jenneke to be added to access the papers via Surfdrive!


23 SeptemberDelimiting Northwestern Bantu: Bantu vs Bantoid, Niger-CongoBlench (2015) Marten (2020)
7 OctoberPhylogenetic approachesGrollemund et al. (2018) Holden & Gray (2006)
21 OctoberCase studies in variation: AugmentGrégoire & Janssens (1999)
4 NovemberCase studies in variation: UmlautBostoen & Muluwa (2014)
18 NovemberCase studies in variation: Relative constructionGood (2017)
2 DecemberCase studies in variation: PhonologyHyman (2008) Idiatov & Van de Velde (2016)
16 DecemberWord order of Proto Niger-CongoGensler (1994)

Spring 2020 – Syntactic features of information structure and Case

Question: Which features (of IS and Case) are in the Syntax, and what arguments have been used to decide whether they are?


  1. 19 February: Strong Uniformity Thesis
    Miyagawa 2010, 2017 – chapter 1 from both
    further reading: Boeckx 2011
  • 11 March: Strong Modularity Thesis
    Fanselow 2006
    further reading: Horvath 2010
  • 25 March: The Syntax-Pragmatics interface
    Trotzke 2015 ch.4.
    further reading: Trotzke 2015, ch.3, Trotzke 2017
  • 1 April: IS features and inclusivity
    each reads one: Snyder 2000 (Jenneke), Kratzer Selkirk 2018 (Lis), Aboh 2010 (Astrid), part of Slioussar 2007 (Zhen)
  • 15 April: Case
    Diercks 2012, Baker 2018
  • 29 April: IS features in neuro/psycholinguistics
    Bornkessel-Slesewsky and Schumacher (2015)

Spring 2019 – Information structure and Bantu languages

20 Feb            
Güldemann, Tom, Sabine Zerbian & Malte Zimmermann. 2015. Variation in Information Structure with Special Reference to Africa. Annual Review of Linguistics 1.155-78.

6 March         
Van der Wal, Jenneke. 2017. What is the conjoint/disjoint alternation? Parameters of variation. In J. van der Wal & L.M. Hyman (eds.), The conjoint/disjoint alternation in Bantu, 14-60. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

20 March       
Downing, Laura. 2011. The Prosody of “Dislocation” in Selected Bantu Languages, Lingua 121:772-786.

3 April            
Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 2006. Theticity. In  G. Bernini & M. Schwarz (eds), Pragmatic organization of discourse in the languages of Europe, 255-308. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

17 April          
Bostoen, Koen, and Léon Mundeke. 2011. Passiveness and Inversion in Mbuun (Bantu B87, Drc). Studies in Language 35 (1). 72-111.

1 May             
Yoneda, Nobuko. 2011. Word Order in Matengo (N13): Topicality and Informational Roles. Lingua 121 (5). 754-71.

15 May           
Güldemann, Tom. 2016. Maximal backgrounding = focus without (necessary) focus encoding. Studies in Language 40(3). 551 – 590

Autumn 2018 – Definiteness, specificity and (their interaction with) information structure


27 SeptemberDefiniteness and indefinitenessAbbott (2004)
11 October(In)definites without articles: Diagnosis, analysis, interpretationDayal (2018)
18 OctoberThe use of the pre-prefix in Nguni languages with special reference to the referentiality of the nounBloom-Ström & Miestamo (to appear)
8 NovemberThe salience theory of definitenessvon Heusinger (2013)
22 NovemberBangla classifiers: mediating between kinds and objectsDayal (2012)
6 DecemberSalience, uniqueness, and the definite determiner -tè in BuluBarlew (2014)


Abbott, Barbara. 2004. Definiteness and indefiniteness. In Horn, Laurence R.  & Gregory Ward (eds), The handbook of pragmatics, 122–149. Oxford: Blackwell.

Barlew, Jefferson. 2014. Salience, uniqueness, and the definite determiner -tè in bulu. Proceedings of SALT 24: 619-639.

Bloom Ström, Eva-Marie and Matti Miestamo. In prep. The use of the pre-prefix in Nguni languages with special reference to the referentiality of the noun. In E.-M. Bloom Ström, H. Gibson, R. Guérois and L. Marten (eds): Approaches to morphosyntactic variation in Bantu. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chafe, Wallace. 1976. Givenness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics, and point of view. In Charles N. Li (ed), Subject and topic, 25–55. New York: Academic Press.

Dayal, Veneeta. 2018. (In)definiteness without articles: Diagnosis, analysis, interpretation. In: Ghanshyam Sharma and Rajesh Bhatt (eds), Trends in Hindi linguistics, 1-26.

Dayal, Veneeta. 2012. Bangla classifiers: mediating between kinds and objects. Italian Journal of Linguistics 24(2).

von Heusinger, Klaus. (2013). The salience theory of definiteness. In: Capone, Alessandro, Lo Piparro, Franco & Marco Carapezza (eds) Perspectives on Linguistic Pragmatics, 349-374.

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