The syntax of relative clause constructions in Runyankore-Rukiga: A typological perspective

  • Allen Asiimwe Department of African Languages Makerere University
Keywords: Nominal relatives, clausal relatives, augment, agreement, Runyankore-Rukiga


This paper discusses the morphosyntactic properties of relative clause constructions in the Runyankore-Rukiga language cluster (Bantu, JE13/14, Uganda). Relative clauses in this paper are categorized into nominal and clausal relatives on the basis of their exhibited morphosyntactic properties. The nominal relative clause category comprises elements which have been previously regarded as adjectives (Morris and Kirwan 1972; Taylor 1985) which include some color terms among other lexical items. The second category, namely clausal relatives, is subcategorized into subject and object clausal relatives. The subject clausal relative is realized within the subject nominal prefix by differential tone marking while the object clausal relative is an obligatory agreement-bearing complementizer which stands alone in agreement with the object antecedent. This paper describes the properties and use of the object relative marker as it has previously been regarded as a demonstrative or a pronoun. The paper offers an alternative position to the status of the object relative clause marker, proposing that it is not a pronoun equivalent to the English Wh-relative pronoun, and that it is not a demonstrative per se, but rather an agreement-bearing complementizer that heads a CP. The paper further asserts that the augment is not a relative clause marker as it is stated in Morris and Kirwan (1972) and Taylor (1985) but expresses a restrictive relative clause when present. As part of syntax, the paper discusses agreement properties in relative clause constructions and reports that a clausal relative takes the agreement of the head of the relative clause, but this is not always the case since anti-agreement cases are reported. Data for the analysis comes from authentic written materials and elicited constructions.