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Things hold together: Foundations for a systemic treatment of verbal and nominal tone in Plateau Shimakonde

This is a study of Plateau Shimakonde, a sub-dialect of the Makonde language which is spoken on the Makonde Plateau in northern Mozambique.

Michael Benjamin Leach
30 September 2010
Published by LOT
Full text in Leiden University Repository

The study examines the phonological and morphological units which contribute to word structure in the verbal and nominal systems, and proposes that word formation in each of these systems is hierarchical. On this basis, simple or 'basic' structures which constitute core matrices in each system are distinguished from more complex or 'derived' structures which constitute expanded matrices. 

In the verbal system, it is proposed that the core tense-aspect matrix contains just four basic structures: two perfective tenses referring to past events, and two imperfective tenses referring to non-past events. Negative, conjoint and relative verb structures are then derived, or 'built', from these basic forms. In the nominal system, it is proposed that simple or 'basic' nouns consist of a neutral noun prefix added to a simple stem. Different kinds of complex nouns are then derived from these basic forms. 

The study lays the foundation for a systemic treatment of the way in which different underlying tone patterns in the language are formed and relate to each other as part of a coherent morphosemantic system. In an appendix, it is proposed that the underlying tone patterns which are assigned to derived structures are not arbitrary but are instead derived from the patterns assigned to basic structures in each system. 

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