The Morphophonolgy of the Past Tense in Ciyaawo

  • Armindo Ngunga
Keywords: Bantu languages, morpheme, past tense, morphophonology.


While time is a philosophical category that humans use to partition the succession of units such as hours, days, weeks, years, centuries, etc., tense is the language resource that humans use to express time reference. According to their culture, humans interpret the time phenomenon in a diversity of ways which are reflected in linguistic expression of time. This diversity explains why, according to Comrie (1985) there are languages which have three basic tenses (past, present and future), other languages have one tense (past) and the other tenses are said to be not tense (non-past). Still other languages distinguish different types of past and future in such a way that, having the tense corresponding to the present time, or the time of speech, as the reference tense, and the other tenses as those expressing events which happen before the present (past) or happen after the present (future), may distinguish recent past from remote past, or near future from distant future. In agglutinative languages, all these tense distinctions are marked in different ways in the verb structure be it segmentally or suprasegmentally.

Based on Lexical Phonology and Morphology (Kiparsky 1982, 1985, Mohanan 1982, and others), the present paper aims at describing the morphophonology of the past tense in Ciyaawo, a Bantu (P21 in Guthrie 1967-71’s classification) language spoken mainly in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The paper is organized as follows. After the introduction, it presents the literature review on the topic including the theoretical frameworks adopted; then it describes the past tense markers and the ways they are affixed to the verbs of different root structures. Lastly, it presents the final remarks.