Graduate School
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch

Dr Mbiavanga Fernando

Home country: Angola

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: March 2013

Department: African Languages

Supervisor: Prof Marianna Visser

Dissertation title: The causative and anticausative alternation in Kikongo (Kizombo)

Abstract: This study investigates the applicability and suitability of the syntactic decomposition approach to account for the causative and anticausative alternation in Kikongo (Kizombo) in terms of the structural nodes of Voice, vCAUS and Root as posited in this approach to (anti-)causativity (see Alexiadou 2010). In addition, the aspectual approach postulated by Vendler (1957) and further developed by Verkuyl (1972) and Smith (1997) is invoked for the reason that the two alternants in the causative and anticausative alternation in Kikongo (Kizombo) are associated with aspectual verb class differences. Research on the causative and anticausative alternation has long been the focus of extensive work in typological and theoretical linguistics. Two central issues revolve around the debate: first the properties of meaning that determine the alternation and the derivational relationship between the alternants, and second, the relation between the causative alternation and other transitivity alternations, e.g. passives and middles. This dissertation demonstrates that there is a wide range of acceptability judgments associated with anticausative uses of Kizombo in externally and internally caused change of state and change of location/position verbs. The verb root is the element of meaning that allows the Kizombo verbs to alternate irrespective of their verb classes, including agentive verb roots. All the causative variants of externally caused verbs are morphologically unmarked, but all the anticausative variants are morphologically marked. However, all the internally caused change of state verbs are morphologically unmarked. Both the causative and anticausative variants of change of location/position verbs are morphologically unmarked. The anticausative and passive sentences can license an external causer through an implicit argument. While the passive verb sentences can be modified by by-agent, purpose clause and agent-oriented phrases, the anticausative sentences can be modified by instrument, natural force, agent-oriented and by-self phrases. The acceptability of modifiers with anticausatives and passives presupposes a presence of a causer in both constructions. The causative form of change of location/position verbs is syntactically intransitive (i.e. in the locative-subject alternation), but its anticausative variant acquires a transitive-like form. Thus, the concept of causative is related to cause and effect of the argument participating in the process. The study considers competing approaches concerning the derivational direction of the causative and anticausative alternation. Given the data in Kizombo, it is argued that the syntactic decomposition approach is the most appropriate to account for the example sentences in the causative and anticausative constructions. The transitive approach could probably deal with the externally caused change of state verbs, as discussed in chapter 6, but would face a challenge relating to the change of location/position verbs because none of the variants is morphologically marked.

Click here to download the full dissertation:

Click here to access Dr Mbiavanga Fernando's research outputs ​