LINGUIST List 32.1869

Fri May 28 2021

Diss: Niger-Congo; Semantics; Syntax: Ngoungouo Yiagnigni Abass: ''The syntax-semantics of relative clauses in Shupamem''

Editor for this issue: Sarah Robinson <>

Date: 27-May-2021
From: Ngoungouo Abass <>
Subject: The syntax-semantics of relative clauses in Shupamem
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Institution: University of Yaounde I
Program: African Languages and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2021

Author: Ngoungouo Yiagnigni Abass

Dissertation Title: The syntax-semantics of relative clauses in Shupamem

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Language Family(ies): Niger-Congo

Dissertation Director:
Florence Tabe Oben

Dissertation Abstract:

The thesis examines the syntactic and semantic properties of relative clauses in Shupamem, a Grassfield Bantu language spoken in the Noun Division of the West Region of Cameroon. It is analyzed based on the generative procedure, in particular, the Minimalist framework of Chomsky (1995 and subsequent works). Cartography (Rizzi 1997) comes in to complement the application of the Minimalist literature. Because the semantic features are indispensable in the sentence legibility at LF, these must be matched and valued with the truth conditional value of the verbs in the relative clause to satisfy Full Interpretation at the interfaces. Therefore, in addition to alluding to the Minimalist Program to account for relative clauses in Shupamem, focus is also on the semantic properties of the relative constructions. The objective is to identify and analyze characteristic properties of the syntax and semantics of these constructions in Shupamem. The semantic framework adopted in this study is the Lexical Semantics Approach (Cruse 1986), complemented by the Conceptual Semantics Approach (Jackendoff 1983). From a typology of relative clause constructions, the study shows how Shupamem converges with and diverges from other languages. The relative particles in Shupamem are discontinuous morphemes having polysemous and multifunctional interpretation. The investigation of the co-occurrence relations between relative clauses and other clause constructions comprising questions, focus, topics, negations etc. revealed some alternations of positions between the relativizers and otherwise morphemes of the aforementioned clauses. The study also revealed that while some types of relative clauses (embedded, finite, restrictive, non-restrictive) are licensed in Shupamem, some others (headless and non-finite) are not. Moreover, the relativization strategy attested in this language is pronoun retention and the derivation strategy that best describes relative clauses is the Head Raising Analysis, whereby the antecedent is generated inside the relative clause before being extracted to the main clause. The extraction site of the antecedent is filled by a resumptive pronoun. Finally, the semantic features of the relativized head noun must match with the truth-value of the verb of the relative clause for the construction to be legible at LF.

Page Updated: 28-May-2021