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This page pertains to UD version 2.

UD for Tswana

Tokenization and Word Segmentation






The main verb in a Tswana main clause is the root. If an identifying, describing or associative copulative verb is included in a sentence the complement of these verbs is the root.


A nominal subject nsubj is a nominal which is the syntactic subject and the proto-agent of a clause. That is, it is in the position that passes typical grammatical tests for subjecthood, and this argument is the more agentive, the doer, or the proto-agent of the clause. This nominal in Tswana may be headed by a noun or pronoun or it may also be a possessive particle phrase or a qualificative particle phrase.

In Tswana, the subject concord (aka subject agreement morpheme) is an agreement marker which marks the relation between a subject and a verb. This concord acquires a pronominal function when the overt subject is omitted. The relation nsubj is assigned in Tswana to show the relation between the verb and a preceding subject concord when there is no overt subject. For example, in Sentence 13 O lebile eng? “You[SubjConc] see[Perf] what?” a nsubj relation is assigned for the relation between lebile “see” and the preceding subject concord o “you”.

The nsubj relation is also used for the nominal subject of a passive verb or verb group, even though the subject is then not typically the proto-agent argument due to valency changing operations. The subtype nsubj:pass is used in this instance. For example, in Sentence 12 the subtype nsubj:pass is assigned between kwadilwe “write[Perf]” and e “it[SubjConc]”.


Auxiliary verbs aux

An auxiliary verb enriches the meaning of the complementary main verb, copulative verb or another auxiliary verb phrase and can add semantic information regarding the mood, tense, aspect and/or polarity of a verb. It adds information on the progression or completion of an action. It expresses a certain type of duration of the action or it expresses the logical time at which the action is executed. For example, the auxiliary verb ne indicates an action that is incomplete and continuing at a certain moment in the past.

The aux relation is used in Tswana to indicate the relation between a verb and the preceding auxiliary verb but also for the relation between main verbs such as batla “want”, leka “try”, kgona “manage” when they are followed by an infinitive verb as for example in sentences 3, 4, and 11.

Copulatives cop

A cop (copula) is the relation of a function word used to link a subject to a nonverbal predicate. Tswana distinguishes three types of copulatives: identifying copulative, describing copulative and associative copulative verbs. The morphological structure of these verbs may include tense, aspect, mood and polarity information.

When the verb in Tswana is an identifying or describing copulative verb, the root of the clause is the complement of the copulative verb. These two types of copulative verbs are POS tagged as [AUX], and the cop relation is used between the root and the preceding copulative verb.

In the case of an associative copulative verb, the root of the clause is the copulative verb. The associative copulative verbs in Tswana are POS tagged as [VERB], and the obj relation is used between the root and the complement that follows it. This analysis differs from traditional Tswana linguistic descriptions.

Clausal complements ccomp

The clausal complement in Tswana indicates that there exists a relation between a main clause and a subordinate clause in the infinitive, subjunctive, and participial moods.

Tswana Example Translation
Ke tla mmitsa fa a tlilê. “I will call him when I have arrived.”
Re tla ya gae le fa pula e na. “We will go home while it is raining.”
Re tla ya gae ka ba jelê. “We will go home since they have eaten.”


Obliques obl:

The obl relation is used for a non-core oblique argument or adjunct. The following subtypes are relevant:

Case case

Tswana has a rich verbal morphology, including prefixes indicating noun classes and agreement. Tswana does not show any case marking morphology that is comparable to case systems in other languages. The case relation in Tswana is used for the relation between a nominal and a preceding particle (including a possessive particle, the instrumental particle, a locative particle, or the agentative particle).

Coordination cc

This relation exists between a conjunct and the preceding coordinating conjunction. Examples of conjunctions that can be included between non-predicative words and word groups are le “and” and kgôtsa “or”. Examples of conjunctions that can be included between predicative words and word groups are mme “and”, e bile “and”, le gôna “also”, kgôtsa “or” and mme “but”.


This relation is used for interjections and other discourse particles and elements (which are not clearly linked to the structure of the sentence, except in an expressive way). In Tswana, this relation is also used for the interrogative particle A included at the beginning of a sentence. This particle is used to change an indicative sentence to an interrogative sentence. See for example Sentence 4 A o batla go tsamaya? “Do you want to go?” where A is the interrogative particle.


The fixed relation is used in Tswana for multi-word expressions consisting of two or more words that are considered to behave like a function word. For example le fa e le “neither … nor, none of them” is an idiomatic phrase functioning as a conjunction in Tswana.


The compound relation is used in Tswana for the disjunctively written TAME morphemes in the morphological structure of a verb. These morphemes include the present tense morpheme a, the progressive morpheme sa “still”, the potential morpheme ka “can, may” and the future tense morpheme tla “will, shall”. These morphemes are written disjunctively, but linked to the following verb or auxiliary by the compound relation. This relation is also used for go SC15 followed by a verb expressing a gerund.


A marker is used in Tswana for conjunctions that mark a clause as subordinate to another clause. The marker is an introductory member of a clause that includes an action in the subjunctive or participial mood. For the subjunctive, the conjunction gore “that, so that” is used.

For the participial, a conjunction such as fa “as, while, when, if”, le fa “even if, although, while” and ka “since” are used, for example:

Tswana Example Translation
Ke tla mmitsa fa a tlilê. “I will call him when I have arrived.”
Re tla ya gae le fa pula e na. “We will go home while it is raining.”
Re tla ya gae ka ba jelê. “We will go home since they have eaten.”

mark is also used in Tswana in infinitive verbs, for example go tlogela “to stop” where the marker is go “to”.

mark is also used in a relative clause where the qualificative particle is the marker. The qualificative particle always agrees with a specific noun class in Tswana, for example in e kgolo “” the marker is the qualificative particle e that indicates noun class 9 agreement.


In instances where an overt subject is realised in a sentence, the subject concord is an agreement marker which marks the relation between the overt subject and the verb. In these cases we opted for the expl relation for the subject concord. This relation is used in UD for phenomena such as clitic doubling (e.g. in Romance languages) or the doubling of a lexical nominal and a pronominal clitic (e.g. in Greek and Bulgarian). Even though subject concords are not the same as clitics, they behave in a similar fashion in that they are a type of “pronominal” copy without its own semantic role.

Vocative vocative

An addressee’s name is linked to the sentence. In Tswana the vocative consists of a personal name or a noun that refers to the second person singular (you) and the second person plural, (you and company or you and those with you). Examples:

Tswana Example Translation
Pule, tlaa kwano! “Pule, come here!”
Bomma, ba rome! “Ladies, send them!”


There is one Tswana UD treebanks: