The -ile suffix and the distinction between tense and aspect in Nyakyusa

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University of Dar es Salaam
This study sought to determine the extent to which -ile suffix brings out the distincton between tense and aspect. It also studies morpho-phonological processes accompanying –ile suffixation in Nyakyusa. Nyakyusa is a Bantu language spoken in Mbeya region (Kyela, Rungwe, Mbeya Urban districts) and in the northern part of Malawi. The -ile suffix which was traditionally called a perfective suffix is now amenable to various interpretations. Because of the variations in the meaning, it can be used as a candidate for testing tense/aspect distinction. The study involved three theoretical approaches, namely; the Reichenbach’s linear theory, the Guillaume’s cognitive theory and the verb inflectional morphological approach as elaborated in chapter two.The source of data for this study was mainly from stories narrated by native speakers and from written texts (documented material). The study involved both primary and secondary data. The following data collection techniques were involved: introspection, interview technique, and questionnaires. The findings reveal that -ile suffix in the language, on the one hand it marks tense only when it co-occurs with a slot 4 marker –a-, and on the other hand, it marks aspect where it always occurs alone. Therefore the distinction is compromised since a single marker can work for both tense and aspect. However, two clues as far as tense/aspect distinction is concerned have been identified. The first clue involves the fact that –ile, the post root marker co-occurs with -a- the pre-root marker in marking for tense whereas it occurs alone when marking aspect (perfective). The second clue is when the negative marker –ka- is introduced -ile disappears when it marks aspect and remains when it marks tense (past tense). Also findings reveal that under certain conditions -ile suffix affects the phonology of the language since it triggers imbrication and associated phonological processes. It is concluded that this study provides broader insights for looking at tense and aspect. However it is recommended to study tense/aspect systems in Nyakyusa diachronically and how they relate with mood as inflectional category of the verb.
Available in print form, East Africana Collection, Dr. Wilbert Chagula Library, Class mark (THS EAF PL8549.R62)
Nyakyusa language, Tense, Mbeya region, Tanzania
Robinson, N. (2015) The -ile suffix and the distinction between tense and aspect in Nyakyusa, Master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam