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Linguistic Inquiry

Spring 2020, Vol. 51, No. 2, Pages 199-235
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00337)
© 2019 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
‘Only’ in Nguni: A Phrase-Final Particle Meets Antisymmetry Theory
Article PDF (1.07 MB)
This article investigates the syntax of the phrase-final focus particles kuphela and qha ‘only’ in Zulu and Xhosa (Nguni; Bantu). We show that kuphela’s and qha’s associations with a focused constituent respect the complex topography of information structure in Nguni and, like English only, a surface c-command requirement. However, unlike English only, the Zulu and Xhosa particles typically follow the focus associate they c-command, a fact that poses a serious challenge for Kayne’s (1994) antisymmetry theory. We demonstrate that the Nguni facts are incompatible with recent Linear Correspondence Axiom–inspired approaches to phrase-final particles in other languages and, after weighing the merits of several approaches, we conclude that kuphela is an adjunct and that syntax is only weakly antisymmetric: adjuncts are not subject to the LCA.