The Syntactic Structure of the VP in Kihema

John Mwesigwa Mugisa


The Verb Phrase consists of a predicate and argument(s). Predicates attribute to individuals or things relations, actions and so on whereas arguments identify individuals, things, etc. The number of arguments, usually NPs, depends on the idiosyncratic property of the verb involved, that is, the verb’s inherent lexico-semantic properties or valencies. Valencies reflect a language-specific way of conceptualizing the class or processes denoted by a given verb. This article provides an account of the syntactic properties of arguments that appear within the VP in Kihema, a Bantu language spoken in the north-eastern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kihema data show that Kihema is, like English and many Bantu languages, a VO-language in that, on the surface, objects, prepositional phrases, sentential complements, etc. follow the verb. Furthermore, the data show that Kihema is a symmetrical object type language in that all post-verbal NPs are true direct (or, primary) objects. This means that in Kihema multiple post-verbal NPs may display ‘primary object’ syntactic properties. A primary object is one that shows syntactic properties of cliticization, passivizability, extractability (relativizability), etc. For example, cliticization, or object marking, takes place when primary objects are replaced by a corresponding clitic pronoun infix in the verbal complex, or “Object Clitic Pronoun” (OCP), while passivizability allows the object of an active sentence to become the subject of the corresponding passive sentence, and the subject optionally becomes the oblique PP introduced by the preposition na (the so-called by-phrase). In Kihema, the passive suffix w- is attached to the verb. Finally, relativization means that an empty operator is able to move from object position to SpecCP of the relative clause.

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