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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Volume 35, Issue 1


Benefactive and substitutive applicatives in Bemba

Lutz Marten
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  • Faculty of Languages and Cultures, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK
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/ Nancy C. Kula
Published Online: 2014-05-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2014-0001


Benefactive applicative constructions can encode a range of different meanings, including notably recipient, substitutive and plain benefactive readings, which are often distinguished in cross-linguistic studies. In Bantu languages, this distinction has not received much attention, in part because most Bantu languages do not formally distinguish between different readings of benefactive applicatives. In Bemba (Bantu M42, Zambia), by contrast, substitutive applicatives, where the action of the verb is performed by the agent instead of, on behalf of, or in place of someone else, are formally marked by applicative morphology in addition to a post-verbal clitic -kó, based on a grammaticalised locative demonstrative clitic. The paper provides a detailed discussion of the construction and proposes that the interpretation of substitutive applicatives results from the interaction of abstract applicative and locative semantics and depends on underlying metaphors of spatial and abstract location. Bemba benefactive applicatives thus provide an illustration of the complex function and interpretation of Bantu applicatives and locative markers more widely. The construction is interesting from a historical-comparative and typological perspective because of the particular grammaticalisation process from a locative source involved in the historical development of the construction, and because substitution is marked in addition to applicative marking.

Keywords: Bemba; substitutive applicative; Bantu; spatial metaphor; locative grammaticalisation; argument structure; valency change

About the article

Published Online: 2014-05-10

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Volume 35, Issue 1, Pages 1–44, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2014-0001.

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