Activation states in Rukiga: An alternative approach to the analysis of definiteness in Bantu languages


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


African Languages


The notions of definiteness and indefiniteness have been extended to studies on Bantu languages to distinguish between identifiable (old) and unidentifiable (new) discourse referents. Yet, Bantu languages generally lack dedicated grammaticalized (in)definiteness articles that are available in European languages, for example. In this study, I propose the use of activation states as an alternative approach to establish the accessibility levels of discourse referents in Rukiga (Bantu, JE14). The study aims to suggest an alternative analysis as regards situations when a referent is identifiable, and when a referent is new to the hearer. Data for this study will be drawn from an electronic text corpus containing 730,039 words. The study not only creates a better understanding of the activation states for referents at given times in the discourse in Bantu languages, but it also creates the necessity to suggest new linguistic approaches that are appropriate for the study of African languages generally.