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Academic Paper

Title: A Cognitive and Corpus-Linguistic Re-Analysis of the Acquisition of the Zulu Noun Class-System
Paper URL:
Author: Mtholeni N. Ngcobo
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of South Africa
Author: Britta Zawada
Institution: University of South Africa
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Psycholinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Abstract: One of the basic tenets of Cognitive Linguistics is that form and meaning are closely related and cannot - and should not - be studied in isolation. The idea that an elaborate formal system such as the noun class system in the Bantu languages of southern Africa has developed into a morphologically arbitrary system without any conceptual or semantic underpinning or purpose, has been shown to be misplaced. It has been argued that the Bantu noun class system is based on conceptual notions such as concreteness, attribution, spatial orientation, as well as abstractness. An unrelated empirical child language acquisition study has shown that Zulu children acquire the prefixes denoting the noun classes in their language in a very specific order. In this article, the findings of the theoretical cognitive interpretation of the Zulu noun class system, the order in which Zulu children acquire the noun classes of Zulu, and an empirical corpus-based study of adult spoken Zulu, are related to each other in order to answer the question whether the Zulu noun class system is a morphologically arbitrary system, or whether it is underpinned by conceptual notions. The results of this study show clearly that the Zulu noun class system is, in fact, grounded in conceptual notions such as prototypicality, frequency and ease of acquisition.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Language Matters Studies in the Languages of Africa, 39(2), 316-331.

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