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Description, Typology, Fieldwork

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A grammar of Cuwabo (Bantu P34, Mozambique)

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Scientific framework and objectives

Cuwabo is a Bantu language, spoken by more than 800,000 people (INE 2007) in the north-eastern part of Mozambique. It is numbered P34 in Guthrie’s classification, and thus belongs to the P30 Makhuwa group. Cuwabo can be subdivided into five main varieties: central Cuwabo, Karungu, Mayindo, Nyaringa, and Manyawa. This work is based on central Cuwabo spoken in the district of Quelimane. First-hand data were recorded from 10 speakers in the course of three fieldtrips realised between 2011 and 2013, achieving a total duration of 10 months. This thesis, supervised by Gérard Philippson and defended in June 2015, provides a grammatical description of the language, covering in detail its phonology and its morphosyntax. Phonology is divided into two chapters: the first is devoted to segmental phonology whereas the second describes the tonal system of the language. Note that Cuwabo is the only P30 language whose nominal and verbal stems have retained a lexical tone contrast. Morphologically, the noun phrase is marked by a rich agreement system ruled by the noun classes, as typical in Bantu. Cuwabo has a highly agglutinative verbal morphology, which conveys a rich Tense-Aspect-Mood system combining both prefixes and final suffixes. Note the existence of several enclitics depending on the constructions (locative enclitics, personal pronoun enclitics in relative clauses, comitative or instrumental enclitics). The last three chapters address syntactic issues: the first presents a description of the basic clause structure, involving verbal and non-verbal predication; the second looks into the relative constructions in close interaction with question formation; the last one investigates word order and information structure in Cuwabo. Preverbal and postverbal constituents are examined, as well as their interaction with the morphological marking on the verb, distinguishing conjoint and disjoint tenses. The appendix contains seven Cuwabo texts glossed and translated into English, which allow to illustrate in context many of the grammatical items presented in the descriptive chapters.

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