A grammar of Makwe

A grammar of Makwe. By Maud Devos. (Lincom studies in African linguistics 71.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 533. ISBN 9783895861079. $118.30 (Hb).

Reviewed by Iván Ortega-Santos, University of Memphis

This book includes a detailed synchronic description of Makwe, an understudied Bantu language spoken along the coast of the Palma district in the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Ch. 1 features an introduction on this language, e.g. the area where the language is spoken, the population, and an overview of previous literature. Ch. 2 deals with the phonology: the phonemic inventory, syllabic structure, tone, and various phenomena including palatalization. Ch. 3 focuses on a wide variety of issues concerning nominals: e.g. noun classes, prefixes, genders and agreement, the tonal profiles of nouns, derivational processes, reduplication, adjectives, and compounds. Ch. 4 discusses minor word categories, particularly numerals, possessives, interrogatives, and demonstratives.

Ch. 5, which concentrates on verbs with an emphasis on morphology, discusses issues such as concord and derivational extensions (e.g. causatives and applicatives). Chs. 6 and 7 are devoted to the tenses. Ch. 6 includes a description of verbal tone and the semantics of each tense, whereas Ch. 7 discusses the properties of independent and dependent tenses. This is primarily a morphologically motivated distinction: independent tenses have a negative counterpart with a pre-initial negative marker. Furthermore, there is a strong tendency for independent tenses to be used as the only tense in a sentence or as the main tense of a complex sentence. In turn, dependent tenses show either no grammaticalized negative counterpart or a negative counterpart involving a post-initial negative marker. Furthermore, Ch. 7 relates the semantics of the tenses, especially of the independent tenses, to the lexical meaning of the verbs.

Ch. 8 is concerned with non-verbal predication (e.g. predication with invariant copulas instead of an inflected verb form), relatives and infinitives. The book ends with a collection of texts intended to provide actual language samples and an overview of the culture, as the samples are divided into greetings, food and recipes, proverbs, and riddles, among others. Given that Makwe is a hitherto under-documented language, this grammar is a welcome addition to the literature on Bantu languages.