Swahili demonstratives evaluating the validity of competing semantic hypotheses


  • Robert A. Leonard


Swahili, demonstratives, proximity, referent


Swahili demonstratives h- and -Ie have traditionally been analysed to mean "proximity" and "non-proximity" respectively. However, this analysis fails in that it can only account for a small part of the distribution of these forms in actual texts. This paper suggests that meanings dealing with the speaker's relative concentration of attention on a referent are better able to account for the actual distribution of these forms. To validate this claim we will (1) show the relation of proximity to noteworthiness and thus explain the same range of data as the proximity hypothesis; (2) uncover other factors, e.g. new items, thematically important items, that override proximity and show their relation to noteworthiness to explain data not accounted for by the proximity hypothesis.