What does that Lugwere demonstrative refer to? A semantic analysis of proximity and exteriority


  • Dorothy Ahn Harvard University
  • Jenneke van der Wal Leiden University


anaphoricity, demonstratives, semantics, Bantu, Lugwere


The Bantu language Lugwere (Uganda, JE17) has what at first sight appears to be a typical three-way distinction in its demonstratives, with a proximal, medial, and distal series of demonstratives. Upon closer inspection, however, the second series in Lugwere can also be used for distal and anaphoric referents, whereas the third series has a more restricted use. We propose a better fitting semantic analysis in terms of the features [±proximal] and [±exterior], the latter referring to the status of a referent being inside or outside a certain perimeter, which is set by either the spatial environment of the conversation or the constantly updated discourse ground. This captures the semantic distinctions in the three series of demonstratives in Lugwere and provides an insight into the building blocks of demonstrative meaning.