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Word order and information structure in Makhuwa-Enahara

This dissertation investigates the grammar of Makhuwa-Enahara, a Bantu language spoken in the north of Mozambique. The information structure is an influential factor in this language, determining the word order and the use of special conjugations known as conjoint and disjoint verb forms.

Jenneke van der Wal
16 June 2009
Full text in Leiden University Repository

The first part of this dissertation is a grammatical description of the language, covering the basic properties in the phonology, prosody and morphology of the nominal and verbal domain, as well as an overview of the conjugational system. The chapter also examines some syntactic issues, such as relativisation and non-verbal predication. 

The second part is concerned with the question how syntax and information structure interact in Makhuwa-Enahara. The elements in a sentence are positioned before or after the verb on the basis of their information structure. Elements in the preverbal domain are interpreted as more accessible, functioning as topics. The  disjoint verb and elements in the postverbal domain form the comment. The element immediately following the  conjointverb form is interpreted as exclusive, meaning that the proposition holds for that referent and not for (some) other referents.

These data can be accounted for if insights from syntax and information structure are combined. Two such approaches are discussed: a cartographic model and an interface model. Two interface rules are proposed to account for the interpretation of word order and the conjoint and disjoint verb forms in Makhuwa-Enahara. 

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