This paper provides a relatively detailed analysis of variation in three of the five principal dialects of Lingála: Mankanza/Literary Lingála, Spoken Lingála, and Kinshasa Lingála, with a focus on the major and salient similarities and differences between the dialects against the background of the spread of the language in the Congo River basin. The analysis addresses the core morphology and syntax (e.g., morphological and syntactic noun classes, vocabulary involving kinship terms, tenses/aspects, relative clause structures). It is argued that the grammatical differences in questions are due, as in other languages, to various factors that include inherent language variability, language contact, language planning, and language learning. The pre-conclusion section of the study attempts to argue for the desirability and necessity of the production of a polylectal grammar, or a comprehensive reference grammar, of this language. It is argued in this regard that the study and production of such grammars is descriptively and theoretically of considerable importance in various respects: explaining language variation, capturing language knowledge and linguistic behaviors in any society, especially in pervasively multilingual Africa, and, indirectly, having a window on multi-dialectal language acquisition.
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
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