Workshop 4: Bantu objects and object marking (BOOM!)

Convenors: Michael Diercks, Ken Safir and Jenneke van der Wal


Although object properties and object marking in Bantu languages are a longstanding
and elaborately studied research topic (see the start with Hawkinson and Hyman 1974,
Kisseberth and Abasheikh 1977, Morolong and Hyman 1977, Duranti 1979, Hyman
and Duranti 1982, the wellknown Bresnan and Moshi 1990 and much work after that),
recent research in this area has uncovered further data and interesting patterns. This is
mostly due to the increased amount of data available for individual languages, which
allows for comparative research within the Bantu languages (Riedel 2009, Marten and
Kula 2012, Zeller 2014, Zeller and Ngoboka 2014, Marlo 2014, to appear, Jerro 2015),
as well as a more systematic approach to single languages (Downing 2014, Bax and
Diercks 2012, Diercks and Sikuku 2015, Diercks et al. 2015, Baker et al. 2012, Zeller
2012, Murrell 2012).

  • Partly complementary to the workshop proposed by Hannah Gibson and Eva-Marie
    Ström (on approaches to morphosyntactic micro-variation), we propose a workshop
    on objects and object marking in a comparative Bantu perspective. Selected papers
    should address one or more of the following issues from a comparative perspective:
    Symmetry. It has become clearer and clearer that symmetric behaviour of
    multiple objects is never a property that holds for the whole language. Not all
    tests may show the same results for symmetry, and the symmetry property
    may disappear in passives (Adams 2010), in some types of derived verbs, or
    for certain persons (Baker et al. 2012). Which patterns, if any, do we see in
    these corners of asymmetry? How can we account for them? Work on linkers
    of the sort addressed by Baker and Collins (2006) and Schneider-Zioga (2015)
    is relevant in this context as well.
  • Object marking. The agreement-vs.-pronoun debate still doesn’t have a
    winner, and it becomes even more interesting when taking into account
    languages that seem to have both types (Ruwund, Nash 1992; Kuria, Ranero et
    al. 2013). Is there a unified approach to object marking that can account for
    the variation? Is this even desirable? How do we diagnose the two types of
    object marking?
  • Reflexives. Do reflexive markers behave similarly to object markers language
    internally, e.g., can they be doubled and do they introduce asymmetries
    between multiple objects -or do reflexive markers show more consistency with
    each other crosslinguistically than they do by comparison to object markers
    language internally? Do the same sorts of diagnostics applied to distinguishing
    types of object markers also apply for reflexive markers (where doubling is
    with a DP anaphor)? What sorts of factors would lead us to expect different or
    similar behavior between reflexive markers and object markers (e.g. Sikuku
  • Discourse effects. Not just animacy and definiteness play a role in differential
    object marking, but discourse factors as well. For example, Seidl and
    Dimitriadis (1997) show that Swahili object marking is sensitive to givenness,
    and Diercks and Sikuku (2015) discover that objects can be doubled by an
    object marker to convey a verum focus. Which discourse effects are related to
    object marking? How can we account for the relation between information
    structure and syntactic object marking? The same questions can be asked for
    applicative marking, which has also been related to discourse factors and
    objecthood (Marten 2003, Creissels 2004, de Kind and Bostoen 2012).

We will invite abstracts for workshop attendees to present papers for 30 minutes with
10 minutes each of questions and answers.



Adams, Nikki B. 2010. The Zulu ditransitive verb phrase. PhD, University of Chicago.

Baker, Mark and Chris Collins. 2006. Linkers and the internal structure of vP. Natural
Language & Linguistic Theory 24, 307-354.

Baker, Mark, Ken Safir and Justine Sikuku. 2012. Sources of (a)symmetry in Bantu
double object constructions. In Arnett, N. and R. Bennett (ed.), Proceedings of the
30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 54-64. Cascadilla Proceedings

Bax, Anna and Michael Diercks. 2012. Information structure constraints on object
marking in Manyika. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 30
(2), 185-202.

Bresnan, Joan and Lioba Moshi. 1990. Object asymmetries in comparative Bantu
syntax. Linguistic Inquiry 21 (2), 147-185.

Creissels, Denis. 2004. Non-canonical applicatives and focalization in Tswana. Talk
given at Paper presented at Syntax of the World’s Languages, Leipzig.

de Kind, Jasper and Koen Bostoen. 2012. The applicative in ciLubà grammar and
discourse: A semantic goal analysis. Southern African Linguistics and Applied
Language Studies 30 (1), 101-124.

Diercks, Michael and Justine Sikuku. 2015. Pragmatic effects of clitic doubling: two
kinds of object markers in Lubukusu. Ms,

Diercks, Michael, Rodrigo Ranero and Mary Paster. 2015. Evidence for a clitic
analysis of object markers in Kuria. In Kramer, R., E. C. Zsiga and O. T. Boyer (ed.),
Proceedings of ACAL 44, 52-70. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Downing, Laura J. 2014. Differential object marking in Chichewa. Talk given at The
diachronic typology of differential argument marking, University of Konstanz.

Duranti, Alessandro. 1979. Object clitic pronouns in Bantu and the topicality
hierarchy. Studies in African Linguistics 10, 31-45.

Hawkinson, Annie and Larry M. Hyman. 1975. Hierarchies of natural topic in Shona.
Studies in African Linguistics 5, 147-170.

Hyman, Larry M. and Alessandro Duranti. 1982. On the object relation in Bantu. In
Hopper, P. and S. Thompson (ed.), Syntax and Semantics: studies in transitivity, 217-
239. New York: Academic Press.

Jerro, Kyle. 2015. Revisiting object symmetry in Bantu. In Kramer, R., E. C. Zsiga
and O. T. Boyer (ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference on
African Linguistics, 130-145. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Kisseberth, Charles and Mohammad Imam Abasheikh. 1977. The object relationship
in Chimwi:ni, a Bantu language. In Cole, P. and J. M. Sadock (ed.), Syntax and
semantics: grammatical relations, 179-218. New York: Academic Press.

Marlo, Michael R. 2014. Exceptional patterns of object marking in Bantu. Studies in
African Linguistics 43 (2), 85-123.

Marlo, Michael R. To appear. On the number of object markers in Bantu languages.
Journal of African Languages and Linguistics,

Marten, Lutz. 2003. The dynamics of Bantu applied verbs: an analysis at the syntaxpragmatics interface. In Lébikaza, K. K. (ed.), Actes du 3e Congrès Mondial de
Linguistique Africaine Lomé 2000, 207-221. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Marten, Lutz and Nancy C. Kula. 2012. Object marking and morphosyntactic
variation in Bantu. South African Journal of African Languages 30 (2), 237-253.

Morolong, ‘Malillo and Larry M. Hyman. 1977. Animacy, objects and clitis in
Sesotho. Studies in African Linguistics 8, 199-218.

Murrell, Paul. 2012. The applicative construction and object symmetry as a parameter
of variation in Kiswahili and Maragoli. Southern African Linguistics and Applied
Language Studies 30 (2), 255-275.

Nash, Jay. 1992. Aspects of Ruwund grammar. University of Illinois at Urbana-

Ranero, Rodrigo, Michael Diercks and Mary Paster. 2013. One of these things is not
like the others: Deriving clitics from movement and Agree. Ms,

Riedel, Kristina. 2009. The syntax of object marking in Sambaa: a comparative
perspective. Utrecht: LOT.

Schneider-Zioga, Patricia. 2015. The linker in Kinande re-examined. In Kramer, R., E.
C. Zsiga and O. T. Boyer (ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference
on African Linguistics, 254-263. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Seidl, Amanda and Alexis Dimitriadis. 1997. The Discourse Function of Object
Marking in Swahili. CLS 33: The Main Session, 373-389.

Sikuku, Justine. 2012. Comparing reflexive and object marking in Lubukusu. Ms,

Zeller, Jochen. 2014. Three types of object marking in Bantu. Linguistische Berichte
239, 347-367.

Zeller, Jochen and Jean Paul Ngoboka. 2014. On parametric variation in Bantu, with
particular reference to Kinyarwanda. Transactions of the Philological Society, 1-26.