Research Article

Derivation of interrogative words from ‘wh-stems’ in Sepedi

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 40, issue 2, 2020 , pages: 164–170
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2020.1804216
Author(s): Napjadi Letsoalo, South Africa, Johannes Ratsikana Rammala, South Africa


It is in human nature to acquire information through interrogative constructions. Sepedi has two forms of wh-words: those that can stand on their own as fully-fledged words, and those that are stems and require prefixes or concords to be complete words. Central to this study is the construction of interrogative structures in Sepedi derived from wh-stems. A qualitative interpretive approach was adopted to explore and understand the meanings and interpretations individuals ascribe to a social problem. Data was collected through observations, documents and interviews, then analysed using thematic and discourse analysis. The study first entailed the collection of a comprehensive set of data on Sepedi interrogatives, then classified them according to the various semantic and syntactic relations. The study found four basic wh-stems that give rise to 37 different wh-words. The format of wh-words is in most cases compound in nature and the wh-word is written as two words. Generally, wh-stems do not occupy the sentence initial position, but when they do, they are preceded by the particle ke. The use of the particle ke before the wh-stem in a sentence-initial position changes the verbal morphology.

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