Definiteness in Chiyao


  • Julius Taji University of Dar es Salaam


Bantu, Chiyao, Definiteness, Familiarity, Indefinability


In this paper, I explore different strategies of expressing definiteness, and discuss the mechanisms through which listeners intuitively recover referents denoted by definite NPs in Chiyao, a Bantu language of Southern Tanzania, Southern Malawi, and North-western Mozambique. The analysis is based on the data collected through audio-recording of traditional narratives which were later transcribed to identify utterances with definite NPs. The findings establish that in Chiyao, definiteness is mainly expressed through morphological strategies, morphosyntactic strategies, and discourse pragmatic means. Morphological indicators of definiteness include locative particles, object markers, and subject markers while morphosyntactic indicators include demonstratives and possessive pronouns. Discourse pragmatic method involves the use anaphoric binding through demonstratives and demonstrative particles. The findings further indicate that definiteness can be expressed with bare nouns, the case in point being nouns of inalienable possession such as body parts and some kinship terms. It is further established that, to identify and recover the referents signalled by these definiteness makers, speakers intuitively employ several methods. These include use of situation cues, use of general knowledge, reliance on anaphoric features, as well as cross-referencing or association. Generally, these finds point to the importance of conducting language specific studies in order to see how the grammatical category definiteness is expressed in such languages.


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How to Cite

Taji, J. (2020). Definiteness in Chiyao. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 9(2), 44–64. Retrieved from