Sesotho concords

Notes:
*The orthography used in this and related articles is that of South Africa, not Lesotho. For a discussion of the differences between the two see the notes on Sesotho orthography.
*Hovering the mouse cursor over most H:title| [ɪ'talɪk] |"italic"|dotted=no Sesotho text should reveal an IPA pronunciation key (excluding tones). Note that often when a section discusses formatives, affixes, or vowels it may be necessary to view the IPA to see the proper conjunctive word division and vowel qualities.
Just as the Sesotho sentence centres around the Sesotho noun, the noun is made to "concòrd" ("agree") with the verbs, pronouns, and qualificatives describing it by a set of Sesotho "noun concords".

The noun concord system is the most striking feature of the Bantu language family. The exact number of concord types differs from language to language, and traces of this system (and the noun class system) are even found in some Niger-Congo languages outside the narrow Bantu family.

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Concord types

There are seven basic sets of concords.The actual number cited may vary from author to author.

Some authors prefer to separate the prefixes used to form the demonstrative pronouns from the relative concords (possibly due to the phonetic transformations). Other authors (particularly in entry-level learner texts) treat the "auxiliary concord" as distinct from the subjectival. Some other authors do not seem to recognise the enumeratives as a separate part of speech and as such do not include the enumerative concords.

Doke's classification (the one used in this and related articles) seems to be based on his comparing of the morphologies of several languages and developing a set of expected concords and structures. Thus, for example, the enumerative concord is treated separately since many other Bantu languages have many more enumeratives with a particular class of meanings (denoting the numbers 1 to 5, etc.) used with their own particular concord.] Each noun class has concords in each set, and the first and second persons have unique concords in some of the sets (the third person uses the class 1 and 2 concords). The exact number of concords differs from language to language, but all Bantu languages have at least the subjectival and objectival concords.

In form, the concords closely resemble the class prefixes, and it is not unreasonable to assume that originally the other parts of speech were made to agree with the noun by simply prefixing them with the noun's class prefix. Today, in Sesotho, the vowels and consonants of the prefixes have been modified slightly in largely predictable ways.

In addition to these seven concords, there are two further immutable concord-like prefixes used in certain situations with verbs.

Sesotho is a pro-drop language in that in most situations separate words (such as absolute pronouns) do not need to be used with verbs to indicate the subject and object (they may be inferred from the subjectival and objectival concords).

The positive indicative concords are low (or alternatively, null) toned, and those for the noun classes are high toned. In the past subjunctive all the concords are low toned.
: H:title| [ŋ̩kʼɑsɪxonɪ hʊ'uˌtʰusɑ kʼɪnɑ lɪwɑkʼɑ mʊsebet͡sʼi] |" [Nna] Nka se kgone ho o thusa ke na le wa ka mosebetsi"|dotted=no [Me] I won't be able to help you while I have my own tasks: H:title| [hɑɑ'ɑmʊxɑlɪmɑ] |" [Thabang] Ha a a mo kgalema"|dotted=no He [(Thabang)] did not reprimand him: H:title| [n̩tʼɑtʼe ditʼedu ʊkʼʊpʼɑ huˌbu'ɑ lɪwɛnɑ hɔnɑ ʒʷɑle] |"Ntate Ditedu o kopa ho bua le wena hona jwale"|dotted=no Mister Ditedu asks to speak to you right now


  • The objectival concords concord with the object of a verb.

    They are placed right next to the main verb stem. In a multi-verbal conjugation they are used only with the main verb. Usually they do not appear on a verb if the object is explicitely stated (unlike subjectival concords, which have to appear in every predicative), but they can be used with the object to emphasise it and the action, or if the object appears before the verb (which also emphasises it).

    In form they resemble the subjectival concords, differing only in the 1st. pers. sg. and class 1(a). Before verb stems beginning with a H:title|/b/|"b"|dotted=no the H:title| [mʊ] |"mo-"|dotted=no + H:title|/b/|"b-"|dotted=no combination contracts to H:title| [m̩m] |"mm-"|dotted=no due to the middle vowel being elided.

    If the following verb stem is of more than one syllable, they cause the following syllable (the stem's first syllable) to have a high tone and appear with a low tone. However, if the verb stem is only one syllable long then it is the concord itself which is pronounced with a high tone.Compare the following two tonal patterns:: H:title| [kʼɪ'ɑbɑbɔnɛlɑ] |"Ke a ba bonela"|dotted=no I am seeing them naked (lit. I am seeing for them) [ _ _ _ ¯ ¯ _ ] : H:title| [kʼɪ'ɑbɑʃɛbɛlɑ] |"Ke a ba shebela"|dotted=no I am looking on their behalf [ _ _ _ ¯ _ _ ]

    In the first example the two high tones are due to the underlying tone on the first syllable of the verb stem as well as HTD. In the second example the single high tone is due to the objectival concord.

    If the verb is monosyllabic then the high tone shows up on the objectival concord instead.: H:title| [kʼɪ'ɑ'ɪɲɑ] |"ke a e nya"|dotted=no I am defecating it [ _ _ ¯ _ ] , L stem (there are few instances of transitive monosyllabic L verb stems; the verb H:title| [ɲɑ] |"-nya"|dotted=no is often not used at all (transitively or otherwise) due to being regarded much more vulgar than the preferred Afrikaans import H:title| [kʼɑkʼɑ] |"-kaka"|dotted=no): H:title| [kʼɪ'ɑ'ɪʒɑ] |"ke a e ja"|dotted=no I am eating it [ _ _ ¯ _ ] , H stem]
    : H:title| [kʼɪne kʼɪse kʼɪsɑdibɑbɑt͡ɬʼɪ dikʼʊbɔ t͡sʼe'ʊ] |"Ke ne ke se ke sa di batle dikobo tseo"|dotted=no I no longer wanted those blankets : H:title| [kʼɪt͡ɬʼɑ lɪ'elet͡sʼɑ hʊʀɪ lɪ'et͡sʼeŋ̩ hɑ kʼɪsɛ kʼɪbʊʀɑʀʊl̩lʊt͡sʼɪ bʊtʰɑtʼɑ bonɑ] |"Ke tla le eletsa [lona] hore le etseng ha ke se ke bo rarollotse bothata bona"|dotted=no I shall advise y'all [y'all] on what to do when I have dealt with this issue: H:title| [hɑʀɪsom̩mʊt͡sʼɪ kʼɑkʼɑbɔ jɑdit͡ʃʰɛlɛtʼɛ] |"Ha re so mmotse [Mme Mma-Seremi] ka kabo ya ditjhelete"|dotted=no We haven't yet asked her [Mrs. Seremi] about the budget (verb H:title| [bʊt͡sʼɑ] |"-botsa"|dotted=no ask): H:title| [ʊɬɔkʼɑ hʊn̩t͡ɬʰɔm̩pʰɑ kʼɪlɪ mʊlɑ'uˌdi wɑhɑ'ʊ] |"O hloka ho ntlhompha [nna] ke le molaodi wa hao"|dotted=no You need to respect me [I] as your director (verb H:title| [ɬom̩pʰɑ] |"-hlompha"|dotted=no respect)
  • The reflexive prefix is used to form reflexive verbs. It is not a concord in that it does not agree with any noun prefix, but it exhibits concord-like behaviour.

    It is simply the close vowel H:title|/i/|"i"|dotted=no with the additional effect of nasalizing the verb to which it is attached. Thus its form is H:title| [i] |"i [N] -"|dotted=no.

    In form and function it behaves like the objectival concord (therefore it cannot be used with the objectival concord), including the behaviour of raising the tone of the first syllable of the verb stem. However, unlike the objectival concord, it can also be used to form non-infinitive nouns from verbs.
    : H:title| [ʊt͡sʰʷɑnet͡sʼ huˌ'ilo'itʼɑtʼɛlɑ jɔnɑ] |"O tshwanetse ho ilo itatela yona"|dotted=no He is supposed to fetch it for himself (verb H:title| [hʊlɑtʼɛlɑ] |"ho latela"|dotted=no to fetch on behalf of): H:title| [ɑʀɑbɛlɑ] |"-arabela"|dotted=no answer on behalf of ⇒ H:title| [huˌ'ikʼɑʀɑbɛlɑ] |"ho ikarabela"|dotted=no to answer for oneself ⇒ H:title| [buˌ'ikʼɑʀɑbɛlɔ] |"boikarabelo"|dotted=no responsibility

    When used with causative verbs it often has the meaning of "pretend to be": H:title| [ʃʷɑ] |"-shwa"|dotted=no die ⇒ H:title| [ʃʷɪsɑ] |"-shwesa"|dotted=no cause to die (never used directly) ⇒ H:title|huˌ'it͡ʃʰʷɪsɑ|"ho itjhwesa"|dotted=no to feign death (lit. to cause oneself to die): H:title| [ʀɔbɑlɑ] |"-robala"|dotted=no sleep ⇒ H:title| [ʀɔbɑt͡sʼɑ] |"-robatsa"|dotted=no cause to sleep ⇒ H:title|huˌ'itʰɔbɑt͡sʼɑ|"ho ithobatsa"|dotted=no to pretend to be asleep (lit. to cause oneself to sleep)


  • The indefinite concord is used in certain copulative constructions.

    It only exists as a subjectival concord and appears in form to be the subjectival (and "auxiliary") concord of class 9.
    It is only used as the subjectival concord for 3rd. persons and noun classes in the direct tense of the copulative employing the verbs H:title| [bɑ] |"-ba"|dotted=no, H:title| [lɪ] |"-le"|dotted=no, and H:title| [sɪ] |"-se"|dotted=no (including multi-verbal conjugations), when the copulative base is a noun or pronoun.
    : H:title| [kʼɑnɑkʼɔ e'ʊ mʊn̩nɑ enʷɑ ɪne ɪse ɪlɪ lɪkʼʷɑlɑ] |"Ka nako eo, monna enwa e ne e se e le lekwala"|dotted=no By that time, this man was already a coward (not *"...o ne a se a le lekwala"): H:title| [kʼɑnɑkʼɔ e'ʊ mʊn̩nɑ enʷɑ ʊne ɑse ɑlɪ bo'i] |"Ka nako eo, monna enwa o ne a se a le boi"|dotted=no By that time, this man was already afraid (not *"...e ne e se e le boi")
  • Notes

    References

    *Doke, C. M., and Mofokeng, S. M. 1974. "Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar". Cape Town: Longman Southern Africa, 3rd. impression. ISBN 0 582 61700 6.


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