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The Desemanticization of the Negative Morpheme ko in Dondo

This paper examines the desemanticization of the negative morpheme ko in the Dondo language, spoken in the Republic of Congo. The work is based on two main approaches, Chomsky’s Minimalist Framework and Sangeet Khemlani’s Theory of Negation. The study reveals that, semantically, ko is selected by simple declarative clauses or sentences to denote negation. It is argued that, semantically, when the negative morpheme ko reduces its negative reading impact on a phrase, the phrase it negates undergoes movement. It moves from the final to the initial position of the sentence since it does not negate the entire sentence; it just governs a part of a sentence which can move, as a constituent, from one position to another. However, it derives from the discussion that ko can also be used in any sentence type (namely simple or complex declarative and imperative sentences) to express insistence. The contextual meaning of ko can be paraphrased or disambiguated either by the exclamatory words eh! /inh/hum or the morpheme kwa (only). Next, it comes out that intonation plays an important role in the understanding of the contextual meaning of ko. Generally, the high intonation shows that the insistence expressed by ko encodes obligation, angriness, whereas the low intonation expresses supplication, happiness, or politeness. Hence, the desemanticization does not emanate from grammatical class change; it is rather determined by intonation. It is also demonstrated that ko may be duplicated in some contexts where the former expresses the negation and the latter lays emphasis on the supplication.

Dondo, Desemanticization, Contextual, Semantics, Neg, Ko, Intonation

Kiba Ngapoula, Maixent Pascal Mpambou Moukembo. (2023). The Desemanticization of the Negative Morpheme ko in Dondo. International Journal of Language and Linguistics, 11(4), 119-125.

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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