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Grounding Nguni depressor effects

Chapter in book
Authors Laura J. Downing
Published in Segmental Structure and Tone / edited by Wolfgang Kehrein, Björn Köhnlein, Paul Boersma and Marc van Oostendorp
Pages 109-146
ISBN 978-3-11-034109-6
Publisher Walter de Gruyter
Place of publication Berlin; Boston
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 109-146
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1515/97831103412...
Keywords Nguni languages, depressor consonants, tonal register, tone-segment interaction, depressor blocking
Subject categories Bantu languages, African languages, Linguistics

Abstract

The Nguni group of Bantu languages (Guthrie number S.40, e.g., Ndebele, Phuthi, Swati, Xhosa and Zulu) are well known for their so-called ‘depressor consonants’: that is, sets of consonants, often voiced, which interfere with productive processes of High-tone realization by lowering the pitch of a following vowel in some way. The Nguni depressor effects, at first blush, appear to illustrate the typologically common pattern of phonologizing the phonetic lowering effect voiced obstruents have on the pitch of a following vowel (Hombert 1978; Hyman & Schuh 1974). To account for this pattern, theories in a variety of frameworks formalize an explicit link between laryngeal voicing and tonal features. Single-source approaches con- sider [voice] and Low tone reflexes of the same feature, with one realization when associated to a consonant and another when associated to a vowel: see e.g. Halle & Stevens (1971), Harris (1994), Halle (1995), Bradshaw (1999), and Pearce (2007). In contrast, multiple-source approaches consider [voice] and Low tone distinct features, and phonetically grounded implicational constraints (or the equivalent) account for their interaction: see e.g., Khumalo (1987), Peng (1992), Hyman & Mathangwane (1998), Cassimjee (1998), Mathangwane (1999), Hansson (2004), Hsieh & Kenstowicz (2008), Lee (2008), Tang (2008). In this paper I show that Nguni depressor effects are best accounted for in a multiple-source approach, as they raise fundamental problems for single- source approaches.

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