A comparative study of standard Bemba and Unga dialect

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Chilambe, Bwipwa
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The University of Zambia
While Unga is known to be a dialect of Bemba, some of its linguistic features tend to diverge from Standard Bemba. The extent of this divergence had not been investigated on. There had been no study undertaken to corroborate the proposition of linguistic divergence at phonological, morphological, semantic and lexical levels. Through a comparative approach, this study was therefore designed to investigate and establish the divergence of Unga dialect at phonological, morphological, semantic and lexical levels with reference to Standard Bemba. With a view to realising the practicality of the study, the following objectives were designed: To examine the phonology of Unga in relation to Bemba;To identify the morphological features of Unga in relation to Bemba; To compare and contrast the semantics of Unga and Bemba lexemes; andTo describe the salient lexical features of Unga in relation to Bemba. The study was informed by the descriptive and comparative methods to language study. For sampling, data collection and analysis, the study employed the qualitative method which was supported by the descriptive design. The exercise of data collection on Unga dialect was carried out in Nsamba area of Lunga District while data on Standard Bemba was obtained from some individuals in Kawambwa and Mansa Districts. Being a native speaker of Bemba, the researcher also used introspection to collect data on Bemba. Data on Unga was collected from twelve informants subjectively until the point of saturation. Books, journals and articles were used to collect secondary data. Central Statistics Office in Mansa helped to provide the map of Unga which was further modified to realise the linguistic map of Unga as presented on page three. The findings of the study revealed that some linguistic features in Unga were at variance with those in Bemba at all the four levels of linguistic analysis that includelexical, morphology, semantics and phonology. The presence of a trill /r/ in the consonant inventory of Unga provides a variation between Unga and Bemba.The morphology of Unga differs greatly from that of Bemba in terms of root morphemes, suffixes and prefixes. Being a dialect of the swamps, Unga is characterised by water vocabulary with nasal sounds /m/ and /n/more prominent as linguistic features. Meanings attached to some words in Unga are in variance to the Bemba counter parts. Despite some words taking the same lexical forms in the two dialects, they however exhibit some variations in terms of meaning. Nevertheless, similarities were also noted as attested by the same vowel inventory, similarphonological and morphophonological rules and related noun class system in the two languages. Based on the above findings, it should be concluded that there are idiosyncratic features inherent in Unga that set it off from Standard Bemba. Generally, the variations that Unga exhibit at all the four levels of linguistics are attributed to divergence. The geographical continuum of Unga has prevented it from contacts with other varieties thereby setting it free from linguistic contamination. Key words: Divergence, variation, Unga, Standard Bemba, Town Bemba, Typical Bemba
Bemba language--Zambia , Bantu language--Bemba--Zambia , Bantu language--Bemba People--Zambia