A Linguistic Description of Mbugwe with Focus on Tone and Verbal Morphology

  • Date:
  • Location: Ihresalen, Engelska parken Thunbergsv. 3H, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Wilhelmsen, Vera
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för lingvistik och filologi
  • Contact person: Wilhelmsen, Vera
  • Disputation


Mbugwe is an endangered Bantu language spoken in north central Tanzania. This PhD dissertation is a description of the Mbugwe language with a focus on tone and verbal morphology, based on the author’s fieldwork. This is the first detailed description of the language. Thus far, only a short grammatical sketch of Mbugwe has been available.

Mbugwe is a tonal language with a rich verbal system. Therefore, the focus of this dissertation is on tone and verbal morphology. The dissertation also contains a brief description of the phonology of Mbugwe as well as a description of the nominal system. Mbugwe has 7 vowels; length is distinctive. There are 21 consonant phonemes, not counting the NC sequences, which are analysed as clusters in this study. Mbugwe has 17 noun classes and the adnominals that agree with the noun are described and exemplified.

The tones of the language are presented in detail. Mbugwe has two tones, high and low, and the low tone is considered the default tone. The tone-bearing unit is the mora. High tones spread one mora to the right, and the last high tone before a low tone is upstepped. There is both lexical tone and grammatical tone in Mbugwe, and grammatical tones that occur on the verb stem in certain verb forms are described.

In the chapter on verb morphology, the structures of the simple and periphrastic verbs are presented, as well as a description of the infinitive and copula verbs. The various tenses, aspects and moods of Mbugwe are then presented. There are 25 affirmative forms and 15 negative forms. For the perfective verbs, there are three past tenses and a future tense. In the imperfective, there is only one past tense, as well as a present and one future tense. Other aspects are the progressive, the habitual and the persistive. Moods that are grammaticalized in Mbugwe are the subjunctive, the imperative and the counterfactual. Verb forms that are not readily categorized as tense, aspect or mood are the consecutive, the situative and the participial. They depend on other verbs for their time reference.