Workshop 1: Approaches to morphosyntactic micro-variation in Bantu

Convenors: Hannah Gibson and Eva-Marie Ström


Morphosyntactic variation amongst Bantu languages has become the subject of an increasing amount of research in recent years. A number of studies adopt a comparative-typological approach, examining variation in a given phenomenon – e.g. double object constructions (Bresnan and Moshi 1990, Rugemalira 1993), word order (Buell et al. 2011) or inversion constructions (Morimoto 2000, Khumalo 2010). Other studies have been parametric in nature, assessing similarity between languages across specific morphosyntactic domains (Marten et al. 2007, Bax and Diercks 2012, Zeller and Ngoboka 2014).

Descriptive and comparative linguistic research has shown that morphosyntactic variation has an important role to play in the development of theories of the universal properties of human language and our understanding of linguistic variation (Barbiers et al. 2002). Recent years have also shown an increased interested in dialectal syntax projects, although these have mainly focused on European languages (Kortmann 2004). However, the findings of some studies carried out on Bantu languages has suggested that the parameters employed need to be more fine-grained in order to capture micro-variation in detailed examination of specific phenomena (e.g. object marking, Marten and Kula 2012), or instances of micro-variation in closely related varieties (e.g. areal phenomena, Petzell and Hammarstrom 2013).

The proposed workshop brings together researchers working on Bantu with the aim of discussing methodological approaches to morphosyntactic variation in the language family. It addresses questions such as the following:

  • What questions are feasible and relevant for a comprehensive study of morphosyntactic phenomena in Bantu?
  • How can we ensure that questions asked for a given morphosyntactic domain are specific enough to capture fine-grained variation between closely related sub-groups of Bantu languages or dialectal variation?
  • How can the relationship between parameters best be modeled and/or accounted for (i.e. some questions might be independent whilst some apply in conjunction with others)?
  • How do studies of microvariation contribute to our understanding of processes of grammaticalisation and language contact?

Organisation: We will invite abstracts for workshop attendees to present papers for 30 minutes with 10minutes each of questions and answers. A ‘position paper’ presented by Lutz Marten will provide the background to the discussion and start the workshop.