Article

Structural ambiguity in Xitsonga

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 38, issue 1, 2018, pages: 37–49
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2018.1429864
Author(s): SJ KubayiSchool of Languages and Communication Studies, South Africa, OR ChaukeSchool of Languages and Communication Studies, South Africa

Abstract

This article discusses structural ambiguity in Xitsonga. As a point of departure, structural ambiguity is examined from the theoretical perspective of transformational grammar, which is premised on the understanding that in all human languages, every sentence can be read at two levels: the surface and the deep structure. Whereas the former phenotypically manifests itself as syntax, it is in the latter that meaning is genotypically addressed. It is shown that, like in other human languages, it is possible to discern and describe syntactic patterns that are prone to structural ambiguity in Xitsonga. These patterns are manifested in three forms, namely grouping, functional and referential ambiguity. These types of structural ambiguity are discussed in terms of their structural properties, their causes and possible resolution mechanisms. In conclusion, it is recommended that there is a need for more studies on the interface between the surface and the deep structures in South African indigenous languages.

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