Presentational focus and thematic structure in comparative Bantu

Katherine Demuth, Sheila Mmusi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Locative inversion has often been treated as an unaccusativity phenomenon in languages as typologically different as English and Chichewa (e.g. Bresnan 1990). Yet Bantu languages show some diversity in the thematic structure of verbs that can occur with locative inversion and related expletive/impersonal constructions. This paper provides a detailed examination of locative inversion and expletive constructions in Setswana,showing that this class of presentational focus constructions exhibits morphological,syntactic, agreement, and discourse characteristics that differ from those of Chichewa and other Bantu languages. It shows that these differences, the result of morphological loss during historical change, can best be understood synchronically within a theory of partial information structures (Bresnan 1982).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of African Languages and Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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