1. The material on which the present findings are based was collected during the period January 1950 to June 1951 near Kasama (Central Bemba) and the period July 1951 to June 1952 from Central Bemba informants in Lusaka, N. Rhodesia.
2. If we disregard all subject and object prefixes, locative suffixes, and the existence of high- and low-toned radicals (all of which affect tense signs, but only at a phonological and tonological level), we find that formally speaking the Bemba verb has at least 48 positive and 31 negative single-word main-sentence tenses. (Object and subject relative sentence and sub-relative sentence tenses also exist, but are essentially mainsentence tenses with regular tonal modifications.) In order to study and evaluate a verb of such complexity, it is necessary first to find some method of tabulation. There are two possible points of departure: form, and meaning. If we use the latter, we arrive at a matrix involving at least the categories of order (positive or negative), time, aspect, mood, and emphasis. But then we find that certain ‘pigeon-holes’ in the total table are filled by tense forms that also occur elsewhere, given the right context and the right radical. (‘Radical’ we may define as that element in a Bemba verb carrying that meaning which is independent of tense signs and prefixes and infixes.) It is convenient for demonstration and other purposes to construct our tables showing these dual- and triple-function forms occupying their complete range of pigeon-holes, even though this may mean a sacrifice of formal clarity. (It should be remembered, however, that even such compromise tables—in a ‘mere’ order-time-aspectemphasis-mood matrix—can only expose basic meanings; the precise applications of some of the tenses are so subtle as to defy even five-dimensional tabulation.)