Typical phrases for Shona subjecthood

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Whilst the previous chapter has focused on reviewing the extent to which the literature published to date has touched on the subject relation as well as related notions in Shona and other languages, this chapter analyses gathered data in a way that establishes the nature of the Shona subject relation. It intends to find out the selectional principles of the Shona subject relation, its sub-categorisations as well as the types of lexical items to which the relation is typically assigned in the language. The chapter consists of three major sections, the first of which presents an examination of the various selectional rules or principles that are involved in the assignment of the subject status onto the respective Shona sentence participants. The second one considers the different sub-categorisations of the relation resulting from the above selectional principles and lastly section 3.3 assesses the types of words to which the Shona subject role is typically assigned.
It must be noted that, as indicated in chapter one, all the examples presented in the data analysis have their predicate argument structures and the features of the arguments involved presented therewith to make sure they conform to the requirements of the projection principle. This rule is meant to complement the researcher‟s judgment on the collected sentences since Chomsky (1981) argues that the intuition or judgment of a native speaker on its own is enough to define the grammaticalness of every sentence in the language. The current researcher is a Shona native speaker which aids him in the assessment of the structures to be considered.

Selectional principles

Mohanan (1988) defines selectional principles or rules as the considerations leading to the assignment of syntactic or functional roles onto certain lexical items in different sentences. In other words, they specify why certain participants qualify to be labeled as the subjects or objects in their respective sentences. In the analysis of the data gathered for this study, the researcher found out that the selection of the subject relation conforms to the following selectional principles:

Entities’ topicality in word order

Shona word order plays a vital selectional role for subjects. Like in other Bantu languages such as Lunda in which Kawasha (2002) notes that the subject occurs before the verb whereas the object is an unmarked post-verbal NP, kernel Shona active sentences, are basically of the Subject Verb Object (SVO) order. They make the subject topical, followed by the verbal complex and lastly the object. A topic is the most pronounced participant or focus of a sentence. In Shona it is the occupant of a simple active sentence‟s initial position. For example, one can consider the following sentences whose topical subject phrases are italicised.
Muchaneta and Joana in 3a.(i) and 3a.(ii) are placed sentence-initially. It is noteworthy, as mentioned earlier, that all the examples used in this data analysis have the subject phrases italicised. From the general trend it is evident that most of the italicised subjects occur sentence-initially. In other words they occupy a preverbal position. This means that the most pronounced gap in a sentence has come to be associated with the relation in question in Shona. It, therefore, behaves in a way that supports Hudson‟s (1984) argument that the subject relation is the referent in a sentence or its pragmatic focus. This is also the reason Lehman (1992) labels the position as the canonical subject position. Shona, therefore, qualifies to be regarded as a topic-prominent language. According to Hale and Keyser (2002), in the Topic Theory, which is similar but not equivalent to the Theme Theory of the School of Prague, the subject is also the topic of a proposition in the default word order. According to this theory, some languages have no means of determining a topic other than by making a complement into a subject. So ascribing a passive voice to the verb group is a way to topicalise the said complement.

Morphological or grammatical reasons

It is also evident in the data that NPs‟ occupation of the topical position in active sentences makes them the automatic controllers of agreement in Shona sentences. This agreement is explained by Dembetembe (1976) who asserts that if a noun phrase has its class feature copied on to the auxiliary in the structural change of the gender copying rule, that noun phrase is in a subject position. Stockwell (1977) also describes agreement rule as a type of constraint on the form of words occurring together, adding that it requires the form of one entity to be altered in order to match that of the one controlling agreement. Wlodarczyk and Wlodarczyk (2006) also observe that in languages like English, subjects govern agreement on the verb or auxiliary verb that carries the main tense of the sentence, as exemplified by the difference in verb forms in 3b.(i) and 3b.(ii) below.
In 3b.(i) mukomana “boy” is class 1. Grammaticality prevails in the sentence because it has imposed its class 1 marker a- “has” on to the verbal complex. In 3b.(ii) agreement prevails again because the class 2 vakomana “boys” has again prefixed its class two agreement marker va-“have” onto the verbal complex. It is noteworthy that, as indicated earlier, in the whole data analysis section the agreement markers are italicised together with the NPs controlling agreement.
In the gathered Shona data, just like in most Bantu languages in which Kawasha (2002) observes that the subject prefix is obligatorily marked on the verb, it is evident that the forms of the verbal complexes are required to match the class, number and gender of the subject NP. For example, in 3b.(i) mukomana “boy” and the agreement marker a- “has” share the features number (singular), gender (male) and class (1). This is the reason Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) comment that the subject has the grammatical function in a sentence of relating its constituent (a noun phrase) by means of the verb to any other elements present in the sentence, that is, objects, complements and adverbials. They indicate that a subject in English typically matches two types of patterns: agreement and word order.
In this case it is notable that unlike in 3b., in 3c. the agreement marker ya- “has” is class 9, singular and inhuman. It shares features with shuro “hare” a class 9 noun which is now the occupant of the topical position.
The fact that it is the word occupying the topical gap that is italicised in most of the sentences used in the whole data analysis section demonstrates how central the topical word is in controlling Shona agreement. For example, in 3c.(i) and 3c.(ii) the italicized NPs are vadzimu vedu “our ancestors” and shuro “hare” both of which occur at the sentence initial gap and controlling agreement. It is for this reason that the topical subject relation is often the morphological or grammatical subject as well. Even in cases where transformational rules are applied to alter the focus of a sentence, the controller of agreement usually changes, as being demonstrated in the next chapter where in a passive transformation, for instance, the promoted object, now occupying the topical subject position, takes over as the controller of agreement. Hence, Wlodarczyk and Wlodarczyk‟s (2006) observation that the subject both agrees with the verb group of its clause and is positioned in certain particular ways. However, the two need not be seen as always occurring together as being shown in chapter four where the object of the same passive transformation can control agreement even when it is not occurring sentence initially.

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1.0 Preamble
1.1 Background
1.2 Research Problem
1.3 Aim of the Study
1.4 Justification
1.5 Literature review
1.6 Research methods
1.7 Theoretical framework
1.8 Scope of study
1.9 Conclusion
2.0 Preamble
2.1 Grammatical relations
2.2 Subject relation
2.3 Thematic roles
2.4 Theoretical framework
2.5 Conclusion
3.0 Preamble
3.1 Selectional principles
3.2 Sub-categories of the Shona subject
3.3 Typical phrases for Shona subjecthood
3.4 Conclusion
4.0 Preamble
4.1 Shona subject and the passive rule
4.2 Shona subject and the reflexive rule
4.3 Shona subject and the wh-question rule
4.4 Conclusion
5.0 Preamble
5.1 Basic findings
5.2 Recommendations

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