Notes grammaticales et lexique du Kiholu

Notes grammaticales et lexique du Kiholu. By Jan S. Daeleman. (LINCOM studies in African linguistics 58.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2003. Pp. 81. ISBN 389586756X. $65.80.

Reviewed by Benji Wald, Los Angeles, CA

As the title states, this book is an organized set of notes on Kiholu (Holu), a Bantu language straddling Angola and the DRC, most closely related to Kwezo and Pende. After a brief introduction identifying the location, sources of data, and affinities of Kiholu, Daeleman covers the language’s phonology (Ch. 1, 7–11), morphophonology (Ch. 2, 12–13), morphology (Ch. 3, 14–43), syntax (Ch. 4, 44–45), and lexicon (Ch. 5, 46–78).

As might be evident from the amount of space devoted to each area of linguistic analysis, the description is in the mold of early twentieth-century linguistic sketches, particularly of Bantu, with maximal attention paid to expected Bantu morphological characteristics. D’s chapter on syntax is unusually marginal, without the slightest indication of analysis, and is simply a two-page list of fifty-six decontextualized sentences with French translations. Contrary to the more usual practice for such linguistic sketches, no folktale or other example of naturally occurring Kiholu discourse stands in as a substitute for syntactic analysis. It is not clear that any of the examples are from coherent discourse rather than simply being elicited translations of sentences given in French, though a few examples seem to be from original Holu discourse, such as example 20, which translates as ‘Further on you come to a fork in the road and go to the right; if you go to the left you’ll get lost’. The experienced Bantuist could draw some minimal syntactic conclusions from the limited data presented, but certainly would have preferred some generalizations from the author. By contrast, tone is meticulously marked on every syllable, according to general Africanist tone-marking conventions, and the phonological transcription, though based on a brief presentation, indicates a careful and informed analysis, which can be considered authoritative as far as it goes.

In sum, the book is most useful to Bantuists who can understand the tacit synchronic and historical implications of the descriptions given, particularly for phonology and morphology. They can also recognize that the author is drawing on a much larger knowledge base. Such Bantuists can only regret the severe limitations on the present publication and hope that more detailed data, if not analyses, will be forthcoming. The book is much less useful to a more general linguistic readership for the same reason that Bantuists would like to see more—there is a lack of explicit theoretical concern that would, at the least, guide the author to the presentation of a richer array of data, with regard to which the lack of syntactic description in the present book is most salient.