The Ndengeleko Language of Tanzania

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: This dissertation describes the Ndengeleko language of Tanzania, in particular the phonology and morphology in the noun and verb phrase. This Bantu language, spoken by approximately 72,000 people, has not been the subject of any previous linguistic study. The analysis is based on extensive interviews and recordings, carried out in the Rufiji region of Tanzania with various speakers of the language. A sociolinguistic survey is also included, based on interviews and a questionnaire used in schools. This survey shows that the Ndengeleko language is endangered and is being transmitted to the next generation only to a very limited extent. Ndengeleko has seven vowels, which can be long or short, and a relatively limited consonant inventory. In general, the inventory resembles that of the reconstructed proto-language. The language has been affected by the historical sound change spirantisation, and has thereafter has lost consonants in the relevant contexts. Morpho-phonological processes are important in Ndengeleko and result in nasal consonant sequences as well as geminate nasals. It is argued that the nasal consonant combinations are sequences rather than unit segments. Moreover, processes related to vowel concatenation play an important role in this language. As a fairly typical Bantu language, Ndengeleko has 18 noun classes, with singular, plural or non-count reference. Apart from more regular pairings of singular and plural classes, there is a tendency to accept classes 4 and 6 as the plural of almost any singular class, rendering the number of possible combinations numerous. The division into noun classes underlies the system of agreement. Agreement is not always formal, however, but is influenced by semantic aspects such as animacy. Ndengeleko exhibits elaborate agglutinating morphology in the verb phrase, both derivational and inflectional. The system of tense-aspect-mood is largely aspectual in its nature, and morphemes are combined to form the different categories of this system. Moreover, there is a distinction between conjoint and disjoint forms of the same tense-aspect-mood category, which is related to focus.

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