Original Research

Re-examining the relationship between the subject agreement morpheme and (in)definiteness in Northern Sotho

Mampaka L. Mojapelo
Literator | Vol 34, No 1 | a377 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v34i1.377 | © 2013 Mampaka L. Mojapelo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 August 2012 | Published: 05 June 2013

About the author(s)

Mampaka L. Mojapelo, Department of African Languages, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The grammatical position of the subject noun phrase in Northern Sotho is to the left of the predicate. The subject agreement morpheme is a compulsory link between the subject noun phrase and the predicate. Scholars have examined the role of this morpheme from various perspectives. It is also extensively documented that the morpheme has dual functions. Its primary function is to mark agreement between the subject and the predicate. Its secondary function is pronominal, whereby it is co-referenced to some antecedent. This article reexamined the primary role of the subject agreement morpheme in Northern Sotho in relation to the interpretation of a subject noun phrase as definite or indefinite. This was accomplished by (1) revisiting existing works that are directly or indirectly linked to (in)definiteness and subject agreement, (2) analysing texts that may facilitate discussion on the issue, and (3) relating the findings from previous works to current analyses. The first hypothesis in this article was that when some class 9 subject noun phrases, denoting persons, agree with the verb stem by a class 1 agreement morpheme, the noun phrases are interpreted as definite. The second hypothesis was that although the subject position is considered predominantly topical and definite it may not categorically exclude indefinite noun phrases. Therefore some indefinite noun phrases may also agree with predicates by means of this morpheme.


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