Non-situational functions of demonstrative noun phrases in Lingala (Bantu)

Michael Meeuwis and Koen Stroeken


This paper examines the non-situational (i.e., non-exophoric) pragmatic functions of the three adnominal demonstratives, óyo, wâná, and yangó in the Bantu language Lingala. An examination of natural language corpora reveals that, although native-speaker intuitions sanction the use of óyo as an anaphor in demonstrative NPs, this demonstrative is hardly ever used in that role. It also reveals that wâná, which has both situational and discourse-referential capacities, is used more frequently than the exclusively anaphoric demonstrative yangó. It is explained that wâná appears in a wide range of non-coreferential expression types, in coreferential expression types involving low-salience referents, and in coreferential expression types that both involve highly salient referents and include the speaker’s desire to signal a shift in the mental representation of the referent towards a pejorative reading. The use of yangó, on the other hand, is only licensed in cases of coreferentiality involving highly salient referents and implying continuation of the same mental representation of the referent. A specific section is devoted to charting the possible grammaticalization paths followed by the demonstratives. Conclusions are drawn for pragmatic theory formation in terms of the relation between form (yangó vs. wâná) and function (coreferentiality vs. non-coreferentiality).

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