Emphatic Interpretations of Object Marking in Bantu Languages


  • Hannah Lippard Pomona College
  • Justine Sikuku Moi University
  • Crisófia Langa da Câmara Universidade Eduardo Mondlane
  • Rose Letsholo
  • Madelyn Colantes Pomona College
  • Kang (Franco) Liu University of Cambridge
  • Michael Diercks Pomona College


object marking, Lubukusu, Cinyungwe, mirativity, exhaustivity, verum, intensity, emphasis


This paper investigates emphatic interpretations of object marking in various Bantu languages. We focus on Lubukusu (spoken in Kenya) and Cinyungwe (spoken in Mozambique) in particular, but we also report initial evidence from other Bantu languages (mainly Tiriki, Wanga, and Ikalanga). In these languages, OM-doubling—the co-occurrence of an object marker with a lexical DP object—is infelicitous in neutral pragmatic contexts. However, we show that certain contexts make OM-doubling possible. In these contexts, OM-doubling constructions receive particular emphatic interpretations that are very different from interpretations of non-doubling object marking constructions. We identify at least four types of these interpretations: verum, mirativity, exhaustivity, and intensity. We show that emphatic interpretations of OM-doubling are widespread among Bantu languages, and we provide strategies for identifying and analyzing them. While this paper is primarily descriptive, we discuss a possible analysis of these interpretations as conventional implicatures, influenced by recent work on a similar range of emphatic interpretations arising from focus fronting in Indo-European languages.


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