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Re: Swahili Gender Agreement

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Saturday, March 27, 2004, 6:53
From:    Chris Bates <christopher.bates@...>
> Okay, so I've doing some more swahili recently.. and more and more I've > been wondering how the gender system actually survives in its current > form. With the amount of agreement there is in a sentence, with > adjectives agreeing in class (and thus in number) with their nouns, the > verb agreeing with both the subject and object and also having > compulsory indication of tense/aspect and mood (well, in bantu verbs, > the -a at the end of the dictionary form is an indicative mood marker, > although some verbs borrowed from arabic don't change to indicate mood) > and all of these being separate morphemes glued together instead of > merging... It seems to me that the need to be concise would have led to > either some of the affixes fusing, or just being dropped, a long time > ago, especially since word order in swahili is generally fixed so the > agreement seems to serve little purpose.
Is Swahili a pro-drop language? If so, you won't always see those nominal arguments in the surface forms, and so the redundancy drops markedly.
> Its very interesting just... I > would have thought that the need to state things in the most concise way > possible (allowing for sufficient redundancy to make communication > reliable) would be one of the primary driving forces of language > evolution. The one thing that the gender system seems to have going for > it is the fact you can use it to derive new words sometimes, ie:
You're forgetting that language is not just about concision; it's also about making sure your interlocutor heard you correctly. Lots and lots of languages put up with massive redundancy because a language conveyed by sound will always have lots of noise that needs to be filtered out. More redundancy can thus be a means to ensure you're actually communicating rather than just mouthing off, so to speak. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637


Chris Bates <christopher.bates@...>