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Liko Phonology and Grammar. A Bantu language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This thesis presents a detailed description of the phonology, the tone system and the grammar of Liko, a Bantu language spoken by about 70,000 people in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It provides numerous examples.

Gert de Wit
05 November 2015
Full text in Leiden University Repository

Liko has a nine-vowel system with ATR contrast in the mid and high vowels. Its pervasive vowel-harmony system is [+ATR] dominant, but there are dominant verbal and nominal [−ATR] enclitics which influence preceding [+ATR] non-high vowels. Liko is a tone language with both lexical and grammatical tone contrasts, depressor consonants and automatic as well as non-automatic downstep.

Liko is one of the "Northern Bantu Borderland" languages. The Bantu noun-class and agreement system is present to a large extent. Nevertheless, subject agreement is limited in verbal morphology, and object agreement is obligatory for first and second persons and class 1 and 2 objects only. The Liko verbal system is complex. To encode Tense/Aspect/Mood, the language uses segmental morphemes, tone melodies as well as time adverbials. Tone and vowel-harmony rules determine the surface realization of the verb form.

Topics in syntax include: verb valency and object agreement, word order, relative clauses, complex sentences and information structure, including an analysis of focus marking. Liko is a language with strict SVO word order. Relativization and left-dislocation reveal a syntactic means to differentiate between objects and adjuncts in this language.

The two appendices contain ten texts as well as verb paradigms.


  • Prof.dr. Maarten Mous
  • Dr. Constance Kutsch Lojenga
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