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The neuter in Manda, with a focus on its reinterpretation as passive

Journal article
Authors Rasmus Bernander
Published in Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Volume 36
Issue 3
Pages 175-196
ISSN 1607-3614
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 175-196
Language en
Keywords Linguistics
Subject categories Bantu languages


This study accounts for the neuter extension -Ik in Manda (N11), a Bantu language spoken along Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) in southern Tanzania. The article offers a description of both the formal and functional features of this morpheme in Manda, while paying special attention to its rare extended function as a proper passive marker licensing an explicit prototypical agent. Based on comparative data from Manda's neighbouring languages, it is argued that this special functional feature of the neuter in Manda reflects a broader characteristic of this Bantu-speaking area, where a reflex of the passive marker reconstructed for Proto-Bantu has been lost or is restricted in use. This fact has, in turn, paved the way for innovations with regard to the expression of passive voice, of which the use of the neuter suffix is one of several possible strategies. Considering comparative data, this study also attempts to reconstruct the pathway of change leading to the neuter acquiring a passive function. The hypothesis put forward suggests that the passive function of the neuter stems from incremental steps of expansion, which eventually enabled it to co-occur with prototypical agents.

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