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Antipassive/associative polysemy in Cilubà (Bantu, L31a): A plurality of relations analysis

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Antipassive constructions are commonly associated with languages with a predominantly ergative alignment. In this article, we show that antipassive constructions can also occur in predominantly accusative languages such as Cilubà, a Bantu language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is expressed by the verbal suffix -angan-, deriving an intransitive clause from a transitive one by omitting the object noun phrase. This suffix functions canonically as a reciprocal marker and is also used to express sociativity/reciprocity and iterativity. An analysis of the suffix’ polysemy is provided on three levels: We argue that (i) plurality of relations is the underlying concept that semantically accounts for its different meanings, (ii) that its use in an antipassive clause is syntactically derived from its use as a canonical reciprocal marker by the demotion and omission of the second participant, and (iii) that the suffix is diachronically bimorphemic and originally consisted of two suffixes that still exist in Cilubà today, with the sum of its individual meanings not straightforwardly reflecting the synchronic polysemy of -angan-.
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Keywords: Bantu; antipassive; plurality of relations; polysemy; reciprocal

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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