A Descriptive Study of Matengo, a Bantu Language of Tanzania -with focus on verbal structure-
1. Purpose
The aim of this thesis is a complete description of the Matengo language. Matengo is a Bantu language, spoken in the Mbinga District, on the south-west border of Tanzania (on the east coast of the Lake Malawi), where little linguistic research has been done compared with other areas in Tanzania. The number of Matengo speakers is about 150,000.
No descriptive study of this language has ever been done before. Some folk tales and a word list were published in the early 1900s by German missionaries. However, these contain many confusions arising from lack of phonological analysis.
In order to provide a thorough description of this language, I include historical background and information about the socio-linguistic situation. Some folk tales and a word list of about 2300 items are included in an appendix.
The data in this work was collected by myself through fieldwork, Aug. 1996~Feb. 1997, Jul.~Dec. 1997, Jan.~Feb. 1999, about one year all together in Litembo, which is considered the historical center of the Matengo homeland in Mbinga District. The main informant is a male Matengo, who was born in 1932 in Litembo.
It is hoped that this description will serve as a basis for future comparative and theoretical studies of Bantu.
2. Contents
Chapter 1 lays out the general aims of the thesis, the methodology and practical details of the fieldwork. It is essential for adequate description of this language to discuss the socio-linguistic background, particularly the great influence of Swahili in both grammar and lexicon. Chapter 2 explores the socio-linguistic situation of Matengo and analyzes the language policy in Tanzania, which led to such a situation. Tanzania has succeeded in spreading Swahili, but at the expense of a decline of its ethnic languages.
The main part of this work, 'Reference Grammar of the Matengo Language', has 4 chapters, chapter 3~6. Chapter 3 treats phonology, chapter 4 treats morphology of the noun and the modifier, chapter 5 treats morphology of the verb and chapter 6 treats syntax. Because this language is an agglutinating language, weight is given to morphology. Focus is placed especially on the verbal structure, which is central to the grammar of Matengo as also in other Bantu languages. Another important area of focus is tone. As in other Bantu languages, it is impossible to understand Matengo grammar without understanding its tone system.
The following is a summary of the main points of each chapter.
<Chapter 3> Phonology
Vowels and consonants of Matengo are given below.
Vowels: Short Vowels /i,e,ε,a,ɔ,o,u/
Long Vowels /iː,eː,εː,aː,ɔː,oː,uː/
Consonants: stop /p,b,t,k,g/, fricative /s,h/, affricate /ʤ/
nasal /m,n,ɲ,ŋ/, approximant /l/, semi-vowel /w,j/
Vowel harmony occurs according to tongue height. Syllables are always open, and permit the following shapes: V, N, (N)C(S)V. N is always homorganic with the following consonant. Besides the syllable, the unit "mora" must be recognized in a description of this language. Syllables with long vowel have two moras, other syllables have one mora.
There is an opposition of high (H) and low (L) tone in this language. But it is clear that H tone is marked. That is, H must be specified lexically or grammatically, and units not specified as H, appear as L as default. The tone bearing unit is not the syllable but the mora.
<Chapter 4> Morphology of the Noun and its modifier
The nouns are divided into 19 noun classes. The noun class is the base of the agreement system of this language. Each noun class has its own noun prefix, and it shows which class the noun belongs to.
The structure of the noun is [noun prefix - noun stem]. The noun stems can be divided into 5 tonal groups according to their underlying tone.
Tone of noun prefix
noun prefix of class 5: L
noun prefix of other classes: H
Tone of noun stem
Tone group I: all L
Tone group II: H on the pre-initial of the stem (i.e. the last mora of the prefix)
Tone group III: H on stem initial
Tone group IV: H on the second mora of the stem
Tone group V: H on stem final
◆ when two Hs would occur in sequence, the former H is deleted
◆ H on utterance final mora shifts to the left.
◆ If there is no H in the isolated form of a word, the second mora of the word becomes H. But in case of two syllables stem, H appears on the word initial.
As nouns, pronouns can stand as subjects or objects by themselves. They take pronominal prefixes which agree with the noun class of the referring noun. Pronominal prefixes are unmarked for tone. That is, unless grammatical rules dictate otherwise, they appear as L.
Modifiers for the noun are adjective, quantifier, possessive, demonstrative. Adjectives, which are divided into same 5 tonal groups as noun stems, take noun prefixes which agree with the noun class of the modifying noun. Other modifiers (quantifier, possessive, demonstrative) take pronominal prefixes. Both prefixes agree with the noun class of the modifying noun.
<Chapter 5> Morphology of the Verbs.
Verbs are structured as below.
[He will run after you ("confirmed" future)]
These morphemes are divided into 3 groups according to their function.
① agreement morpheme---subject marker (SM), object marker (OM)
② the meaning determined morpheme---root, expansion (Ext.), derivational suffix (Suf.)
③ conjugational morpheme---tense marker (TM), Pre-final, final
①The subject marker appears in word initial position and shows agreement with the noun class of the subject noun. The object marker shows agreement with the object noun and comes just before the root. These agreement morphemes act not only as agreement markers, but also as pronouns when the subject noun or object noun are not mentioned on the surface. ②Morphemes which determine the meaning of the verb are root, expansion and derivation. Root and expansion together determine the basic meaning of the verb, and they can not be separated on the basis of meaning. The derivational suffix adds some meaning to the basic meaning. ③Conjugational morphemes show the tense, aspect and mood of the verb. Tense markers which are used in indicative mood and the conjugational forms for them are given below.
past-tense marker -a-: perfect-past, simple-past
future-tense marker -í-: simple-future, confirmed-future
"move"-future marker -áka-: "move"-future, confirmed-"move"-future
no tense marker: "today"-past, perfect present, simple-present
Verb roots do not have the tonal opposition. All of them have H as underlying tone. In addition to the root of the verbs, the tense marker and the final have their own tone. Other components do not have it, and their tones are determined by rules. Tones are distributed over the constituent moras, and such rules as the following apply to them before they appear on the surface.
① if there is no H on the final, H of the root spreads to the right mora
② the right of the tense marker has the opposite tone of that of the tense marker.
③ if three Hs occur, the middle H is deleted.
④ H on the last mora shifts the mora to the left. But if the shift causes two Hs in sequence, the H does not shift but is deleted.
⑤ if there is no H in the word, the second mora appears as H.
<Chapter 6> Structure of the Sentence
The basic word order of Matengo is [Subject+Verb+Object]. Modifiers always come after nouns. A few conjugational forms can only be used in subordinate clauses, but in most cases, the same conjugational forms as in simple sentences are used in complex sentences. There is no difference in clause structure in main and subordinate clauses.
The final chapter considers further directions for research.