Classifying Chikunda: Retentions and innovations in the morphology and syntax of Zambezi Valley Bantu languages

Start - End 
2023 - 2026 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Other institution(s) 
Llacan (CNRS)
Research Focus 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Additional tags 
Bantu comparative linguistics
Bantu historical linguistics
Bantu linguistics
Bantu language documentation and description
Bantu lexicography
Historical linguistics
morphosyntactic reconstruction
Historical syntax
Syntactic change
Syntactic reconstruction
Southern Africa



"Classifying Chikunda: Retentions and innovations in the morphology and syntax of Zambezi Valley Bantu languages" is Aron Zahran’s PhD project. His research explores the historical-linguistic components of the OriKunda ANR project (PI Rozenn Guérois), which aims at revising the history of the Chikunda people and their language from the origins to the present day.

More particularly, Aron will conduct a comparative analysis of morphological and syntactic features in the Zambezi Valley Bantu languages, i.e. Nsenga, Nyungwe, Sena, Barwe, Chewa-Nyanja, Tonga, certain Shona varieties such as Tawara and Korekore, in addition to Chikunda. To do so, principles of the Comparative method, an effective bottom-up approach for recreating past languages from cognate morphemes and constructions attested in its present-day descendants, will be applied. The objectives are to (i) identify cognate structures and reconstruct morphological items and (whenever possible) syntactic features of such languages; (ii) check the hypothesis of a Nsenga-Sena substrate of Chikunda as proposed by historians; (iii) determine which other linguistic influences conditioned the formation of Chikunda morphosyntax; (iv) see where Chikunda fits in the existing lexicon-based phylogenetic classifications of Bantu languages.

The PhD research is based on information mining from available grammars and dictionaries of the languages spoken in this area, as well as on fieldata on Chikunda collected in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Additional fieldwork is also to be conducted on those neighbouring languages where grammatical information is lacking or needs to be complemented.



Phd Student(s)


Mark Van de Velde