This paper presents a case study of the realization of focus in Tumbuka, a Bantu language (N20) spoken in Malawi. The paper presents data from several typical focus constructions and shows that Tumbuka often uses syntactic position—cleft or immediately after the verb (IAV)—to signal that an element is in focus. In contrast to most European languages, prominence prosody is not a correlate of focus. Only certain particles correlate with focus-related rephrasing, and the prosodic phrasing does not unambiguously indicate the element in focus. The lack of focus prosody or consistent focus syntax makes Tumbuka of interest to debates about the typology of focus, as many current semantic theories assume that focus is necessarily overtly signaled in the grammar.
Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context
edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-453-9 library binding
xi + 337 pages
publication date: 2012
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA