The Vocalic Phonology of Mushunguli

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The Ohio State University

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Mushunguli, spoken along the lower Jubba river in Somalia, is an undescribed, endangered Bantu language related to Tanzanian Zigua. This study aims to describe and analyze the phonological processes affecting vowel sequences in Mushunguli, in an effort to contribute to understanding the grammar of the language. Mushunguli’s status as an endangered and undescribed language makes documenting these processes critically important for the furthering of linguistic knowledge. Working with a native speaker in regular elicitation sessions, data was gathered that established the grammatical patterns of the language. Multiple phonological processes were uncovered, and rules were formulated using the Incremental Constriction Model (Parkinson: 1996). These rules include fusion, glide formation, post-consonantal y-deletion, palatalization, o-conditioned glide deletion, homorganic glide deletion, and nasal syllabification. Analysis and data of both lexical and post-lexical rules is given, where applicable. The most theoretically interesting rules discovered were fusion and palatalization. In fusion, the non-high vowel /a/ fuses with a following vowel, becoming a single, long, non-high vowel with the second vowel’s place of articulation (front, back, or placeless). For example, the underlying form /ka-iva/ ‘he heard’ is realized in speech as [keeva]. This rule necessitated the use of Parkinson’s Incremental Constriction Model to represent height, and requires that the vowel a be unspecified for place of articulation, breaking with the traditional rule formalization. In palatalization, glide formation first changes the grammatical prefix /di/ to dy, and this output is further changed to the palatal stop [j]. This process is unusual in that it is sensitive to the syntactic context of the utterance—the rule only applies when the first phrasal node dominating the prefix is NP. For example, in /yonda di-edi/ → [yonda jeedi] ‘good baboon,’ the prefix on the adjective contracts, but in /yonda di-ambiza/ → [yonda daambiiza] ‘a baboon helped,’ the same prefix on the verb does not. Syntactically-conditioned phonological rules exist, but are usually related to prosody, not segmental phonology.



phonology, Bantu, language description, prosody, Mushunguli