Original Research

A re-evaluation of tenses in isiZulu

Hermanus C. Groenewald
Literator | Vol 35, No 1 | a1062 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v35i1.1062 | © 2014 Hermanus C. Groenewald | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 July 2013 | Published: 13 August 2014

About the author(s)

Hermanus C. Groenewald, Department of African Languages, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


The methodology of this article involved an examination of theoretical and empirical data so as to ascertain what the defining grammatical and semantic nature of tenses in isiZulu are with the ultimate goal of presenting an alternative view of these tenses. The article examined selected studies on the theory of tense in general as well as work done specifically on tenses in isiZulu. The most prolific scholar in South Africa writing on tenses in isiZulu is L.C. Posthumus. His studies, particularly those of 1990 and 2008, were examined so as to highlight problems with regard to suppositions and terminology. The conclusion of this discussion was that the basis on which a distinction is made between the so-called absolute and so-called relative tenses in isiZulu is contentious. Examples of tensed clauses in all the tenses in isiZulu taken from the empirical data were then examined in order to gain a sense of the defining temporal information communicated by these clauses. Having discussed these examples alternative terms for some tenses were suggested. The empirical data that guided the discussion and provided examples of tensed clauses are drawn from selected narrative texts. The findings with regard to terminology and the temporal information of tenses in isiZulu were then summarised.


No related keywords in the metadata.


Total abstract views: 4196
Total article views: 11567


Crossref Citations

1. Comments on ‘A critique of “A re-evaluation of tense in isiZulu”’ by Lionel Posthumus
Manie Groenewald
Literator  vol: 37  issue: 1  year: 2016  
doi: 10.4102/lit.v37i1.1326