How to become a “Kwa” noun
An important problem of comparative Niger-Congo morphology is understanding the processes that relate word structures in languages of the isolating “Kwa” type to those of the agglutinating “Bantu” type. A salient sub-problem of this larger morphological puzzle is charting the connection between the noun class systems of the Kwa-type languages which, at one extreme, can lack such classes entirely, against those of the Bantu type which, at the other extreme, are famously elaborated. This issue is examined by looking at a range of ways that Niger-Congo noun class systems have been observed to diverge from the canonical Bantu type. The main conclusion of this study is that Niger-Congo noun class systems are quite robust, in the sense that loss of one part of the system need not be correlated with loss of the other parts. This suggests that the level of noun class attrition found in Kwa languages was not a historically “natural” event and also has implications for models of agreement and inflectional morphology.