Examining the relevance of the derivation-inflection distinction in Bantu languages: a case of chasu

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University of Dar es Salaam
“One of the most persistent undefinables in morphology is the distinction between derivational and inflectional morphology” (Bybee, 1985:95). The status of the derivation–inflection dichotomy has been the centre of controversy in the domain of morphology and has generated an extensive debate among linguists. Some, such as Lyons (1977), Anderson (1982) and Schadeberg (2003), are of the opinion that the derivation–inflection distinction is neatly clear–cut and cross–linguistic. Others, such as Bauer (1983; 2004), Booij (1993; 1996; 2002), Haspelmath (1995; 1996) and Stump (1998; 2001), have questioned the distinction pointing out a number of inconsistencies and overlaps even within the Western European languages. Writers on Bantu languages, such as Mkanganwi (2002) and Kari (2002), have not come up with unanimous answers on the status of the derivation-inflection distinction in Bantu languages. This study examines the relevance of the derivation-inflection distinction with reference to Chasu, a Bantu language spoken in northern Tanzania. Using morphological data from the language, the study puts under rigorous scrutiny the six criteria – change of lexical category, change of lexical meaning, relevance to syntax, productivity, semantic regularity, and closure. The results have revealed significant amount of Chasu morphological data attesting the divide between derivation and inflection in the language. However, the findings have also revealed that several affixes which are traditionally considered as derivational have been found to exhibit inflection-like behaviour whereas other affixes traditionally regarded as inflectional seem to have derivation-like properties. Based on these counter-examples from Chasu morphological data, one can justifiably come to a conclusion that although most of the criteria set by the traditional theory divide derivation from inflection, the division is far from being neat, clear-cut nor is it cross-linguistic.
Available in print form, East Africana Collection, Dr. Wilbert Chagula Library, Class mark (THS EAF PL8047.A77S57)
Asu language, Bantu languages, Inflection, Morphology
Siraji, J. (2014) Examining the relevance of the derivation-inflection distinction in Bantu languages: a case of chasu, Master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam.