The origins of the remote future formatives in Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Giha


  • Robert Botne


Kinyarwanda, Giha, Kirundi, classification, tense


Among the interlacustrine languages of eastern Africa Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Giha have been classified in Bastin [1978] as dialects of the same language, identified in the zone classification system as J61. While it is certainly debatable whether or not they should be considered to constitute a single language, this classificaiton clearly reflects the high degree of similarity and mutual intelligibility found among these three languages. Given the very close correspondences that we do find, in particular among the basic tense formatives and their meanings, it is of special interest that the remote future formatives in these languages differ as much as they do in phonological form: -za:- in Kinyarwanda, zo:- in Kirundi, and -ro- in Giha. Just as perplexing is the apparent lack in these languages of a future formative of the general form -li-, a form characteristic of nearly every other language in zone J. My objective in this paper is to describe and trace the probable development of these various forms of the remote future marker and, in so doing, demonstrate that they do originate in the same source as the more common form -/i-.