Even though many other Bantu languages have some deficient verbs, the system used in the Sotho–Tswana languages is unusually intricate and specialized, with a rather large number of verbs that may be used deficiently. Although the deficient verbs themselves may usually be used in various moods and tenses, the main verb is limited to only a limited number of moods and tenses, and it is the job of the deficient verb to reflect any changes in these parameters (if it supports them). If multiple deficient verbs are used then each verb affects the mood of the following.
By examining the mood and tense of the main verb, deficient verbs may be classified into six groups according to the type of complement they govern. It is clear that most groups are followed by participial or subjunctive moods, which are precisely the moods often used when forming sequences of verbs or subordinate clauses using non-deficient verbs.
|Group||Type of complement|
|V||Present and/or perfect participial|
Within the groups, the verbs tend to have similar forms, but often vastly differing conjugation possibilities and behaviours. Some of the verbs are only used in a handful of tenses and moods; some verbs indicate negation by negating the deficient verb itself, some by negating the main verb, and some may do either (or even both at the same time).
Within Groups IV to VI, there is no set number of members and different speakers and communities may differ in the verbs they regularly use. Basically, a verb may become deficient if it used in certain consecutive constructions with a slightly modified meaning that disappears when the verb is used alone. Since the modified meaning does not make any sense when the verb is used alone, the deficient use is marked by having the complement follow the verb directly and with no pause (thus creating a multi-verbal phrase).
- Ba ile ba kgutla; either "They went and they returned" when there is a slight pause between the two verbs and the final vowel of -ile (went) is low toned (due to the Finality Restriction; see Sesotho tonology); or "They did come back" when there is no pause between the two verbs and the final vowel of -ile (a Group II deficient verb indicating definite past tense) is high toned.
In the example sentences under the following sections, the entire verb sequence is bold while the complement verb to the deficient verbs is bold and underlined.
Read more about this topic: Sotho Deficient Verbs
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