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Prosodic restructuring in Somali nominals constructions

Chapter in book
Authors Laura J. Downing
Morgan Nilsson
Published in African linguistics across the disciplines: Selected papers from the 48th Annual Conference on African Linguistics / edited by Samson Lotven, Silvina Bongiovanni, Phillip Weirich, Robert Botne, Samuel Gyasi Obeng
Pages 125-142
ISBN 978-3-96110-212-9
Publisher Language Science Press
Place of publication Berlin
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 125-142
Language en
Keywords tonal accent, prosodic phrasing, nominal phrases, High tone reduction, Cushitic languages
Subject categories Linguistics, Phonetics, African languages


This paper investigates variability in the realization of High tones in some nominal constructions of Somali. Previous work on Somali tone suggests that most deter- miners and all nominal modifiers should realize a High tone when they combine with the noun they modify. However, our study finds that there is considerable variability in the realization of High tones on nominal determiners and modifiers, with the High tone often not realized. This phenomenon of variability in tone realization is quite reminiscent of Swedish, which shares with Somali the property that tone realization is culminative within some prosodic domain. Recent work on Swedish has argued that variable non-realization of High tone is best analyzed as prosodic restructuring: reducing the number of culminative tonal domains in a construction necessarily leads to a reduction in the number of surface High tones. We argue that prosodic domain restructuring also provides the most plausible analysis of High tone reduction in Somali nominals.

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