To the top

Page Manager: Webmaster
Last update: 9/11/2012 3:13 PM

Tell a friend about this page
Print version

Differential object marki… - University of Gothenburg, Sweden Till startsida
To content Read more about how we use cookies on

Differential object marking in Chichewa

Chapter in book
Authors Laura J. Downing
Published in The Diachronic Typology of Differential Argument Marking / Ilja A. Seržant & Alena Witzlack-Makarevich (eds.)
Pages 41-67
ISBN 978-3961100866
Publisher Language Science Press
Place of publication Berlin
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 41-67
Language en
Keywords differential object marking, Bantu languages, diachrony of object marking, topic-marking, object pronoun
Subject categories Bantu languages, African languages, Linguistics


In most Bantu languages, an object prefix can occur on the verb. In some Bantu languages, this object prefix has a purely anaphoric function, while in others it has an additional agreement function. Since Bresnan & Mchombo, Chichewa (Bantu N.31 Malawi) has been considered a textbook example of a language where the object marker is “always an incorporated pronoun and never a non-referential marker of grammatical agreement” (Bresnan & Mchombo 1987: 755). That is, in order for an overt nominal phrase (DP) to co-occur in the same sentence with an object prefix, the DP must be a dislocated Topic. Conversely, a dislocated object DP (a Topic) must be anaphorically bound to an object prefix. In this paper I present new Chichewa data showing that in modern colloquial Chichewa there is a human/non-human asymmetry in object marking. Human object DPs commonly co-occur with an object prefix, whether the object is a dislocated Topic or not, whereas non-human ones commonly do not co-occur with an object prefix, even when they are dislocated Topics. I conclude that Chichewa shows differential object marking (or object indexation), as humanness is a more important condition on the occurrence of object prefixes than word order. The implications of the Chichewa (and other Bantu) data for recent proposals like Creissels (2006), Dalrymple & Nikolaeva (2011) and Iemmolo (2013; 2014) about the diachronic development of DOM agreement systems from anaphoric Topic marking systems are discussed, and an alternative constraints-based account is proposed.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

The University of Gothenburg uses cookies to provide you with the best possible user experience. By continuing on this website, you approve of our use of cookies.  What are cookies?