UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Belief-of-existence determiners : evidence from the syntax and semantics of Nata augments Gambarage, Joash Johannes


This thesis makes two inter-related claims about the augment (a.k.a pre-prefix or initial vowel) based on evidence from Nata (Eastern Bantu, E45). Syntactically, the Nata augment is the realization of the functional category D(eterminer). The view that the augment is D is consistent with the claim that argument expressions are DPs, while predicate nominals obligatorily lack the D shell (cf. Longobardi 1994; Matthewson 1998; Déchaine and Tremblay 2011 and others). Semantically, I argue that the D distinction in Nata is solely based on speaker’s belief of existence. Beyond Nata, I claim that the core notion of existence is pertinent to other Bantu languages as well. The thesis challenges the widely held view that the D position is necessarily related to specificity or definiteness. I demonstrate that, once definiteness and specificity are controlled for in a precise fashion, the true contribution of Nata Ds as belief-of-existence Ds can be discerned. Cross-linguistically, the Bantu belief-of-existence D intersects with Salish assertion-of-existence Ds. In Salish, existence is asserted based on the speaker’s personal knowledge (Matthewson 1998). In Nata, this requirement is lacking. The Nata belief of existence D thus behaves as “the weakest D”, as it does not require a speaker to have personal knowledge of the individual. The theoretical implications of this analysis are twofold. First, existence Ds come in (at least) two guises, belief-of-existence versus assertion-of-existence. Second, existence Ds—in both Bantu and Salish—differ from “common ground” Ds of the type found in English, with the latter (but not the former) coding definiteness/specificity.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International