Jour : 28 septembre 2023

Invités, Séminaires Llacan

Communication de Lis KERR – vendredi 20 octobre à 10h : OV in Bantu: The syntax of Tunen

Le vendredi 20 octobre à 10h, nous accueillons Lis KERR pour une présentation intitulée : OV in Bantu: The syntax of Tunen.


The Tunen language of Cameroon is well-known in Bantu linguistics for its unusual syntactic property of OV word order, in contrast to the VO found across Bantu and common in Niger-Congo more broadly. This OV order of Tunen has previously been considered as an information structure (IS)-conditioned variant of a basic VO pattern, with (extra-)focality conditioning the placement of the object (see e.g. Mous 1997, Güldemann 2007).

In this talk, I present my PhD research on the interaction between syntax and information structure in Tunen, showing from field data that Tunen’s OV syntax is rigid and not conditioned synchronically by IS, nor by factors such as TAM, definiteness, and main versus embedded clause status. Instead, OV should be considered the pragmatically-neutral, unmarked word order. Focus may be left unmarked, and contrastive term focus on the object is preferentially expressed with a biclausal reverse pseudocleft rather than with a monoclausal VO construction. I provide arguments in favour of treating OV in Tunen as a recent innovation and present a formal model which derives Tunen’s OV syntax through a single change from an underlying VO structure. I conclude with some reflections on how OV syntax in Tunen relates to OV patterns found elsewhere in languages of West/Central Africa, specifically in terms of S-Aux-O-V-X patterns.


  • Güldemann, Tom. 2007. Preverbal objects and information structure in Benue-Congo. In: Enoch O. Aboh, Hartmann, Katharina and Malte Zimmermann (eds.). Focus strategies in African languages, pages 83-112. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter.
  • Mous, Maarten. 1997. The position of the object in Tunen. In: Rose-Marie Déchaine, Vincent Manfredi (eds.), Object positions in Benue-Kwa, pages 123-137. Holland Academic Graphics.

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