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6. Conclusion

 

            The surface forms of noun class markers (NCs) are systematically related to the morpho-syntactic environment. This suggests that NCs are - contrary to common assumptions - manifestations of the same underlying morpheme, regardless of the particular configuration they occur in. Following Carstens 1993), the categorial status of NCs is identified as D, NC-marked nominals are thus DPs in which the NC selects for an NP.

            This NP may be empty, i.e. pro, a discourse anaphoric referential element. Being anaphoric, NC-pro structures are specific and thus VP-external, where they occupy argument positions. Thus, overt lexical arguments may only occur in two configurations:

a) without "verbal agreement", i.e. without a coindexed NC-pro structure within the verbal complex; in this case the argument is non-specific and must remain VP-internal.

b) with "verbal agreement"; in this case, the argument is specific and must be VP-external. Since the canonical VP-external argument position is occupied by the NC-pro structure, the "agreeing" argument must be in adjunct position, which explains the freedom of word order permutations with other typical adjuncts.

The present analysis of Bantu noun class markers thus replaces a collection of heterogeneous claims about the nature of class marking with a simple and unified analysis, and in doing so, it provides the means to relate morpho-phonological, syntactic, and semantic facts that would otherwise remain separate.

 

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