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Review of  A Glossary of Terms for Bantu Verbal Categories, With special Emphasis on Tense and Aspect

Reviewer: Margaret Dunham
Book Title: A Glossary of Terms for Bantu Verbal Categories, With special Emphasis on Tense and Aspect
Book Author: Christa Beaudoin-Lietz Derek Nurse Sarah Rose
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Language Documentation
Book Announcement: 17.647

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Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2006 10:31:14 +0100
From: Margaret Dunham <>
Subject: A Glossary of Terms for Bantu Verbal Categories

AUTHORS: Beaudoin-Lietz, Christa; Nurse, Derek; Rose, Sarah
TITLE: A Glossary of Terms for Bantu Verbal Categories
SUBTITLE: With Special Emphasis on Tense and Aspect
SERIES: LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics 55
YEAR: 2002

Margaret Dunham, Laboratoire de Langues et Civilisations à Tradition
Orale, CNRS, Villejuif, France

Noting the considerable diversity in the terms used to describe the
verbal systems of Bantu languages, and given that each school tends
to use its own vocabulary, the authors of this book set out to gather
together the major definitions for terms relating to the said verbal
systems, and when necessary, give their own. The bibliography is
extensive and lists all the main general works on tense-aspect-mood
systems as well as a large number of studies devoted to particular
languages, from Meinhof (1899) to Nurse and Philippson (2003).

The book is organized as a glossary, with over 200 entries. The
authors define words like tense or aspect, but also for example devote
three pages to explaining the different elements that can make up the
verb form. Many of the notions will already be familiar to most readers,
such as 'clitic', but some are notions that have rarely, as far as I know,
been applied to Bantu languages, such as the Guillaumian notions of
ascending and descending time systems.

The definitions are mostly brief and concise, though they can run to
several pages. All entries are cross-indexed.

Although the book is relatively short, 106 pages, it is remarkably
complete. A reference book of this type was indeed lacking, and it is
hoped that it will be used by increasing numbers of scholars of Bantu
languages, thereby reducing the confusion that makes consulting
works on varied languages extremely arduous.

There are a few minor typographical errors that I mention in the hopes
that the authors will one day re-edit the book, including more
extensive examples.

Page 25: in examples (i) and (ii) the verb root is glossed as 'see'
instead of 'buy'.

Pages 40-41: there are examples from a language called Tumbuka on
page 40 but Tumbuku on page 41. In the appendix, page 106, the
language is referred to as Tumbuka.

On page 88, the authors list several languages which they say are not
tonal today, ending with S10. They then proceed to give examples of
lexical and grammatical tones, in S10.

In the bibliography, there are several mistaken references to Nurse
and Philippson (2003) which was clearly supposed to come out
earlier, by a different publisher.


Meinhof, C. (1899-1900) Das Zeitwort in der Benga-Sprache.
Zeitschrift für Afrikanische und Oceanische Sprachen 3:265-284.

Nurse, D. and G. Philippson (ed.) (2003) The Bantu Languages.
London: Routledge.

Margaret Dunham carries out research in linguistics at the French
National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). She recently
published a monograph on Langi, a hitherto undocumented Bantu
language spoken in Tanzania. She is currently documenting a closely
related language, Nyilamba, in order to clarify certain areal typological
features, certainly due in part to long contact with surrounding
Cushitic languages.

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