Historical evolution of -ile suffix across bantu languages

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University of Dar es Salaam


This study investigated the historical evolution of -ile suffix across four selected Bantu languages forming the Nyasa-Tanganyika corridor. Historically, the -ile suffix, as a traditional aspect marker across Bantu languages, is constantly evolving such that it is amenable to different roles, on the one hand, and the suffix induces phonological changes under varying conditions, on the other hand. This poses a challenge in specifying its phonological and morphological properties unless close attention is paid to an individual language. In this regard, the study sought to attain three objectives which are, first, to describe phonological changes associated with - ile across the selected languages. Second, to examine the morphological properties of -ile in relation to tense and aspect marking and lastly, to identify other inflectional morphemes that work in conjunction with -ile suffix across the selected languages forming the Nyasa-Tanganyika corridor. This study is guided by three interdependent theories, namely the Theory of Utterance Selection (TUS), the Reichenbach‟s linear theory and Cognitive theory. The study was conducted in Kyela and Mbeya Rural Council (Mbeya region), Mbozi and Ileje (for Songwe region). Data were collected through the wordlist/sentence list, available written texts, narrative stories and interviews. The findings support the view that -ile suffix is phonologically and morphologically evolving. The evolution of the suffix is shown by some commonalities and variations regarding the morphophonological patterns involving -ile suffix across the languages under study. Variations indicate differences in the pace of innovations within and across languages under study where some patterns involving -ile processes are more advanced than others. However, the judgement about which language is the most innovative or conservative to change one has to rely on individual dimensions. All in all, the findings indicate that -ile suffix does not only mark tense and aspect but also it extends its functions, as it is involved in other situations such as greetings, compliment making and thanksgiving. Further study is recommended on the extent to which the phonological and morphological changes illuminate change in language genetic relationship among languages forming the Nyasa-Tanganyika corridor.



Historical evolution, -ile suffix, Tense, Aspect, Nyasa-Tanganyika corridor