PhD research: Classifying Chikunda: Retentions and innovations in the morphosyntax of Zambezi Valley Bantu languages

October 2023 to September 2026
Bantu (language)
historical linguistics
comparative method
Research fields
History and Archaeology
Languages and Literatures

Aron Zahran’s PhD will explore the historical-linguistic components of the OriKunda ANR project (PI Rozenn Guérois), which aims at revising the history of the Chikunda people and language from the origins to the present day. More particularly, Aron will conduct a comparative analysis of morphological and syntactic features in the Zambezi Valley Bantu languages, i.e. Nsenga, Nyungwe, Sena, Barwe, Chewa-Nyanja, Tonga, certain Shona varieties such as Tawara and Korekore, in addition to Chikunda. To do so, principles of the Comparative method, an effective bottom-up approach for recreating past languages from cognate morphemes and constructions attested in its present-day descendants, will be applied. The objectives are to (i) identify cognate structures and reconstruct morphological items and (whenever possible) syntactic features of such languages; (ii) check the hypothesis of a Nsenga-Sena substrate of Chikunda as proposed by historians; (iii) identify other linguistic influences conditioned the formation of Chikunda morphosyntax; (iv) see where Chikunda fits in the existing lexicon-based phylogenetic classifications of Bantu languages.

The PhD research is based on (1) information mining from available grammars and dictionaries of the languages spoken in this area; and (2) additional collection of linguistic data from Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique on the languages where grammatical information is lacking or needs to be complemented.