By Ahmed Sosal A. Supervisor Dr. Maha Abdu El-daweDepartment of LinguisticsUniversity of Khartoum December 2011
“The sorts of phenomena that phonologists have found interesting are typically not attested elsewhere in the world; it seems there is always something new under the African sun.” (Childs 2003) 1. Introduction About 30 percent of the world’s languages are spoken in Africa; this is accordingto current estimate proposed by Gordon 2005. Because of such richness it is probably inthe area of phonology (here broadly construed to include phonetics) that Africanlanguages have had the greatest impact on linguistics. Data from African languages hasbeen especially important for linguistic theory, particularly that subdivision dealing withformal representations. For example, the mobility and independence of African tonesingle-handedly created Autosegmental Phonology (Goldsmith 1979), and Afroasiatic‘sdiscontinuous morphemes contributed significantly to a reformalization ofmorphophonology (McCarthy 1982). It not an easy task to think of unified characteristicsof the African languages for the following reasons, From a genetic-historical point of view, Africa contains several independent or very distantly related language groups, each of which shows characteristics different from the others. From a geographical point of view, Africa is a vast expanse consisting of many regions differing in the conditions they offer for movement and exchange among peoples.Some of the early studies on African languages phonology An early study documenting some non-Western phonetic features of African languages is Westermann 1930. Ida C. Ward (Ward 1933, 1936, 1952) provided descriptions considered to be the first in phonetic analyses of several important West African languages, particularly in her treatment of tone. Ladefoged 1968 is the first investigator to use modern instrumental techniques which contains, for example, an introduction to the widespread glottalic speech mechanism.The African continent is divided into six major zones, which have been defined by anumber of phonological properties that occur commonly within it but much less oftenoutside it. To which the term ‗‗phonological zone‘‘ is used (Clements & Rialland2008:55-56) Map 1: Six phonological zones in Africa (Clements & Rialland 2008:37)
This paper provides a brief examination of some phonological characteristics that aretypical of the African continent as a whole than of other broad regions of the world andother universal features/ characteristics. 2. The structure of phoneme inventories The structure of phoneme system in Africa can be described in principle of economy as ituse a few features to create a large number of phonemic contrasts.p t c k i ub d ɟ g e om n ɲ ŋ εf s ʃ h a z lw r yTable1 A „prototypical‟ African phoneme systemThrough this table we can understand the principle of economy. For example there are oral nasalstops in four places of articulation: labial, dental/ alveolar, post alveolar and velar. The voicelessfricatives and voiced approximants (liquid and glides) occur at the first three of these and thevoiced fricatives /v/ and / /. There are two kinds of phonological ―Africanisms‖ (phonological properties thatcommon in the African languages) (Meeussen 1975):(a) Sound system properties that seem to be essentially restricted to Africai. Clicks: [ ʘ, ǀ, ǂ, ǃ, ǁ], e.g. Ndebele ciina[ǀi:na] ‗end‘, qiina[ǂi:na] ‗be hard‘, xooxa[ǁo:ǁa]‗converse‘ (Galen Sibanda, personal communication)ii. Cabial flaps: e.g. Mono ‗send‘ (Olson & Hajek 2003:169)iii. ATR and vowel height harmony (or perhaps belong in (b) below)iv. Labiovelar stops: [kp, gb, ŋm]v. case inflections expressed exclusively by tone(b) Sound system properties that are distinctly more common in Africa than elsewherei. Implosivesii. Word-initial prenasalized stops: [mb, nd, ŋg] (+ syllabic nasals; both are found elsewhere)(Hyma 2011)iii. Initial nasal clusters (NC).iv. Lowe high vowel / ɪ, /
3. Feature of consonantsThe phoneme system in the African languages will be defined in term of Distinctive features: which is a sound propriety (e.g. +nasal) to distinguish phoneme(s) from another. Phonemic contrasts: they are features define natural class of sounds that function together in a phonological pattern. 3.1. Place of articulation features (a) Labial sounds involve the lip as main articulator (b) Coronal sounds involve the tongue tip, blade or front as main articulator. (c) Dorsal sounds involve the body or back of the tongue as main articulator.Each one of these have further subdivisions involves in the process of articulation. (a) Labial consonantsThe bilabial and labiodentals sounds do contrasts in a few languages in Africa such as Tsonga andEwe in which bilabial and labio-velar fricative contrasts /Ф β/ and /f v/. Some of the sub-categories of labial are the following:Labiovelar consonants are produced with overlapping, near-simultaneous closures at the lips andvelum. Such consonants occur in many sub-Saharan languages. Example of Labiovelars in Dan(Mande) (Vydrine 2008):Table2: Mande labiovelar consosnants Map2 Labiovelar consonants in Africa (Güldemann 2008:158)Labial flaps: Greenberg (1983) proposed the widespread occurrence of labial flaps across a broadzone in north-central Africa. Because of their rarity and often marginal status, these sounds havetended to be overlooked in the past, but have been correctly described since the early twentiethcentury. For example, in Higi, a Chadic language of northeast Nigeria, the labial flap /v/ occurs ina consonant system also containing five other voiced labials / b m v w /, though its use is
restricted to a few ideophones (vavava) ‘signal of distress’ (Mohrlang 1972). (Clements &Rialland 2008 :60) (b) Coronal ConsonantsThere are two main classes of coronal consonants i. Anterior sounds (dental, alveolar and dental-alveolar) ii. Posterior sounds (post-alveolar, alveolar-palatal, retroflex and palatal).Both of these two classes are distinguished by the coronal-dependent feature [+ - anterior].Other coronal distinctive features are the following i. Sibilants (e.g. [s] or [ts]) ii. Non-sibilants (e.g. [t] or [ө]).Both of these two the feature [+- strident] is used.These two features are combined together in some languages to create two or three wayscontrasts. For example in Zayse language there are three ways of contrasts Anterior non-sibilant /t d d/ Anterior (‗hissing‘) sibilant /ts dz s z/ Posterior (‗hushimg‘) sibilant /tʃ d ʃ / (c) Dorsal, laryngeal and pharyngeal consonants i. Dorsal consonants found in all African languages such as the velars /k g x/, and rarely uvulars /q G χ /. ii. Laryngeal sounds found in most African languages for example the glottal stop /?/, the voiceless aspirate /h/, or the voiced aspirate/h/. iii. Pharyngeal consonants /ħ / are restricted to the Afroasiatic languages of N and NE Africa. 3.2. Laryngeal features As we have seen in table.1 usually stop system in Africa contrasts between [-voice] and[+voice] sounds for instance /t/ vs. /d/. There are other more deeper contrasts such as - Implosive (e.g. /d/), - Laryngeal (e.g. /d/), - Preglottalised (e.g./ d/) or - Voiceless ejective (e.g. /t‘/.The first three contrast in any language so they represent alternative phonetic realizations of samephonological category. (a) Implosives are produced by enlarging the oropharyngeal cavity during the stop closure in order to reduce intraoral air pressure, offsetting any increase due to airflow through the
glottis during voicing; a common way of achieving this is to lower the larynx. Implosives are found across West, Central and East Africa. - Although implosives are usually voiced, voiceless and glottalised, bilabial as /þ/ contrast with corresponding voiced implosives in languages as Owere Igbo, Lendu and Seereer-Siin. - Though implosive sounds aregenerally stops, some Central Sudanic languages have very unusual contrast between plain and implosive labiodentals fricatives. - Implosives, like sonorant are often fully nasalized (as in Ebrie), are often excluded in nasal clusters (NC, CN) and are often excluded from the class of ‗depressor consonants‘. - Implosives are often in complementary distribution with sonorants (e.g. /Ι/ is realized /d/ before high vowels and glides in Ebrie) - The unmarked or usual value of voicing in implosives, as in sonorants, is [+voiced].(b) Ejective sounds are common in Chadic languages and in north east (especially Ethiopia). They are produced by forming an oral closure with the lips or tongue, raising the larynx while keeping the glottis tightly closed and then releasing the oral closure causing the air to explode rapidly outward. For example ejective consonants in Amharic language (by S. Rose, personal communication.) (Hyma 2011) Table3 Amharic ejective consonants Map3 Emphatic and ejective consonants (Clements & Rialland 2008:62)
3.3. Languages without nasal consonantA number of West Africa languages there are no [+nasal] consonants at the phonemic level.Phonetically, consonants as [m n] exists but they are derived from non-nasal consonants in thecontext of nasalized vowels. For example in Ebrie (Bole-Ricchard 1983) there are nasalizedvowels as /ε a / which is clear in the following minimal contrast [p á] ‗climb‘ vs. [p ] ‗give off‘. 3.4. Languages without P-sounds‗It has been noted since Houis (1974) that many African languages lack P-sounds (voicelesslabial stops) in their core phoneme inventories. In these languages, P-sounds either fail to occur,or occur only in loanwords or proper names, or are reserved for the expressive vocabulary(ideophones, interjections, etc.)‘. For example in Kikuyu language (Bantu) /p/ sound occur inthree ideophones - „pa‟ (sound made by a door, box, etc. when struck, - „pe‟ description of breaking or splintering and - „pii‟ description of bullet passing close.Even in such words ‗p‘ sound is used by those who acquainted by Swahili and English otherspeakers use ‗b‘ instead. (Clements and Rialland 2008:84) 4. Vowel featuresThere are three vowel systems common in Africa as shown below 5 vowels system 7 vowels system 9 vowels system front central back front central back front central back i u i u i u Ι υ e o e o e o ε ε a a aTable4 African languages vowel system 5-vowel system is well represented in Afroasiatic, Bantu and Khoisan languages. 7-vowel system found in Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo languages including Bantu. 9-vowel system widely found in Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo though rare in some Afroasiatic languages. There is another 3-vowel system /i u a/ also found in some Afroasiatic languages.Most African languages view the five vowel qualities [I u e o a] as a basic ‗unmarked‘ set anddefining sets of vowels with additional feature. One of these features is [ATR] which will beillustrated through vowel harmony system.
4.1.Vowel harmony ATR (advanced tongue root)Vowel harmony is the sharing of a feature, typically by non-contiguous vowels separated by atleast one consonant. The vowels may share the feature in the lexicon or one vowel can trigger achange in another. Some English irregular plurals, e.g., feet (foot) and mice (mouse), are the resultof such a process. Vowel harmony is found in all major phyla of Africa (including Khoisan) andit has been suggested that one type ―[ATR or advanced tongue root] harmony may very well bean areal feature of this continent‖. It is certainly widespread throughout Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan; it may even be part of Proto-Niger-Congo (Williamson 1989b: 23).Theoretical and descriptive questions (concerning vowel harmony) that have bothered peopleinclude, The phonetic nature of the process, e.g., What is the articulatory nature of vowel harmony? The phonological status of the harmonizing vowels, e.g., Which form is the marked one, which one is derived? Its domains of operation, e.g., How far away is vowel harmony operant? Its representation, e.g., How should the alternating form be represented?Example of vowel harmony in SwahiliRoot Gloss Applied form Glossa. -andik- ‗write‘ -andiki- ‗write for‘ -ruk- ‗jump, fly‘ -ruki- ‗jump at, fly at‘ -anz- ‗begin‘ -anzi ‗begin for‘b. -som- ‗study‘ -some- ‗study for‘ -end- ‗go‘ -ende- ‗go for/to/toward‘In these examples if the root vowel is e or o, the suffix is -ea, as in the b. examples.(Childs 2003:89-91).Degema vowel systems (2 sets of 5 vowels, [+ATR] and [-ATR])Table5 vowel system Degema (Kari 2008, “dotted vowels”)Degema CV verbs with all 10 vowels + ATR harmony on iterative suffix -vIrIy ‗many times,habitually‘ (Hyma 2011)Table6 Degema ATR vowel harmony
Lindau 1975 notes that in Akan , (a representative ATR-harmonizing language) it is notjust the tongue root position that is relevant. Indeed the tongue has different positions forthe [+ATR] vowels and the [−ATR] vowels, but what is important is not just the tongueroot displacement but the enlargement of the pharyngeal cavity, simultaneouslyaccomplished by the lowering of the larynx (Childs 2003:89-91).Other vowel featuresNasal vowels While nasal vowels are not uncommon in the world‘s languages, they are especiallycommon in the Sudanic belt. Statistics are given in table 7. In this sample, nasal vowels are 60percent more frequent in the Sudanic belt than they are outside Africa, and about three timesmore frequent in the Sudanic belt than they are elsewhere in Africa. The only other area in whichthey are frequent is among Khoisan languages of southern Africa. (Clement & Rialland 2008:64) African languages with nasal vowels: 26.7% Sudanic: 34.0% elsewhere in Africa: 12.0% Non-African languages with nasal vowels: 21.2% Table7 distribution of nasal soundsNasalized vowels are also common in West Africa, e.g. in Gokana (Ogoni [Kegboid], CrossRiver; Nigeria) Table8 Gokana nasalized vowels (Hyma 2011)Fricative vowels are high vowels realized by friction noise. They found in many languages suchas the Central Sudanic languages, Ngiti and Lendu. In Mambila (a north Bantoid language) thereis a minimal contrast between the high unrounded fricative vowel /i/ and the non-fricative highvowels /i u/. 5. Syllable and phonological quantityThe steps of organizing speech sounds into larger structure are - Organizing consonants and vowels into syllables, - Organizing these syllables into a hierarchy of larger prosodic categories (e.g. phonological words) - Then into phonological phrase, intonational phrase and utterance.Such an organization helps in determining the whole the utterance including all the other featuressuch as the tone and accents.
5.1. Syllable structureAfrican languages words can be divided into sequences if syllables. A deeper analysis of thissyllable unit shows that it contains - Peak ‗V‘ (which can be vowel, diphthong or syllabic consonant) - Onset/coda ‗C‘ (which can be a consonant or consonants cluster) it usually precede or follow the peak.Most languages prefer CV syllable and further typology can result in - Syllables without onset (V) - Syllables with codas (VC) or - Both (V, CVC and VC).Onstless - ] ‗paper‘ varies freely wit ].The interference between morpheme and syllable structure can be explained by instances foundin many Bantu languages where prefixes typically have the form (C)V-, roots CV(N)C-, derivational elements –VC- and An obligatory final vowel suffix –V.Such an idiosyncratic constrains are more obvious when we recognize by observing that coresyllable in most Bantu languages is open (vowel final) and the only allowed cluster is NC. Thusmorpheme structure is ‘conspire‘ to allow words in this languages to be considered as a sequenceof an open syllables.Syllabic nasal sound appears in casual English speech, e.g., impossible, and other syllabicnasals can be found phonetically, e.g., unaccented incredible, but syllabic nasals aremuch more common in Africa. In fact southern African (Bantu) names often begin with anasal, since the prefix marks membership in the human animate class. These Englishexamples could be interpreted as the result of losing a vowel, so, too, may many syllabicnasals be interpreted both synchronically and diachronically as the result of similarprocesses. For example, syllabic nasals in Fante language: (a) n´ ná wàr pèpa wè:- úá they PAST AUX rub their-eye ‗They were rubbing their eyes.‘ (b) ` sεsáú m -b bá - - she collect PL-stones hit PL-dog-DEF ‗She gathers stones to throw at the dogs.‘
5.2 Quantity and mora structure In the phonological systems normally we find long segment patterns like two short segmentswhich can be represented in the phonologically formula ‗1long = 2 short‘. This has beengeneralized so the result was quantity tire (timing tier or skeleton) here short segments are linkedto one unit and long ones to two. For example in Hausa language the word ‗soup-pot‘ canbe represented as follows:Syllable tier σ σQuantity tier C V C C V VSegmental tier t a l eHere in the quantity tier ‗V‘ functions as peak and ‗C‘ as margin. Syllable weight is light syllabletypically contain a single quantity unit in their rhyme and heavy syllable two. So consists oftwo heavy syllables. Hausa syllabification rules can be simplified by the term of ‗bidirectional oflong segments as shown in the previous example. Hausa has three syllable types: CV, CVV andCVC. 6. ClustersA general phonological property that has been pointed out by a number of students of Africanlanguages is the preponderance of open syllables and an avoidance of consonant clusters anddiphthongs (Meeussen 1975: 2; Gilman 1986: 41). But this is not to be generalized as there areAfrican languages with consonants cluster and many other actually acquiring them. There aresome analysis difficulties raised by clusters: They behave as single phonetically complex consonants (a ‗monosegmental analysis) as shown in example (d) below. In other patterns behave as phoneme sequence (a ‗bisegmentalanalysis) as shown in example (c) below.Consonant clusters are any sequence of consonants, without prejudice as to their eventualanalysis as one or two phonemes, generally lend themselves to one of the four following analsisof the hypothetical cluster nd. (a) σ σ (b) σ σ (c) σ σ (d) σ σ C V C V V C C V V C V V C V n d n d n d nd
The analysis of the previous examples will be as follows (a) The cluster is analyzed as sequence of two onsets separated by ‗empty‘ syllable peak ‗V‘, (b) Coda+ onset sequence, (c) Complex onset consisting of two phonemes and in (d) Simple onset consisting of one phoneme. 6.1. Liquid clustersIt is found in many African languages CL where L realized as l or r, this is because of theloss ofvowel: CVLV > CLV. In Fante (a variety of Akan vowel deletion is a synchronic process e.g. inwords as - ‗s/he swept‘ the tone placed at the liquid (sometimes it take other features of thedeleted vowel). Another example from Kisi language:Kisi: ‗cutlass, matchete‘ STEM NCMIn this example prenasalized stops originate in consonant clusters, a nasal followed by a voicedstop (the liquid ―l‖ changes to a stop in the example), which eventually unite in a single segmentto conform to the language‘s phonotactics. (Childs 2008:84) Some languages with single liquidphoneme /l/ have developed further so the postpositional liquid takes no any of the deleted vowelfeatures or tones. In some African languages r changes to l often with epenthetic vowels tobreak up consonant clusters. Afrikaans broer ‗brother‘ > blulu/bululu. 6.2. Nasal clustersNasal clusters NC (where N and C share the same place of articulation) are very common acrossSub-Saharan Africa (sometimes CN). This cluster have synchronic source in some languagesfrom the sequence NVC where the vowel is deleted what place its characteristics (features astone, stress, etc) on the neighboring nasal. E.g. in Swahili the noun prefix /mu-/ app -ke]‗wife‘.In other languages as Chadic language Bole NC cluster can be analyzed as coda+onset. Here NCcluster occur both word-initially (here they function as onset) and word-internally (here theybehave as any other CC sequence by making the preceding syllable heavy). 6.3. Obstruent clustersTypologically, this is one of the most unusual phonetic cluster types found in African languagesinvolving sequences of obstruents (stops, fricatives). Meinhof (1932) listed a number ofobstruents such as px, ps, p , ƒx, ƒs, ƒ and their voiced counterparts. One of the common sourceof obstruent cluster is vowel loss in sequence CVC > CC. the deleted vowel sometimes present ‗push‘.
6.4. ClicksThese sounds use the back and body of the tongue to produce their characteristic popping noise.Clicks are common in southern Africa and constitute some kind of an areal phenomenon (seeLass 1975). From an articulatory point of view, clicks employ the velaric speech mechanismcrucially involving the back of the tongue, which closes off one end of the air column. When theback of the tongue is raised to the roof of the mouth, the other closure is effected in front of thatclosure, and the cavity thus formed is expanded by lowering the middle part or body of thetongue, producing a rarefaction or partial vacuum. When this cavity is unsealed, i.e., when theclosure is released, the in-rushing air produces the characteristic popping sound of Clicks. Front closure ± Noisy Characterization [Θ] Bilabial noisy the inwardly kissing click, air kiss [|] Dental noisy Scolding ―tsk-tsk‖ alveolar lateral noisy Giddyap (said to a horse [ǁ ] to make it go) Palatal not noisy [ǂ] Alveolar not noisy Loud, popping [ǃ]Table9 Symbols for clicksIn Table 9 there are phonetic symbols for the five (unaccompanied) clicks beside the clicks‘ frontclosure‘, then the third column indicate whether they are ―noisy‖ or not (Traill 1994c), and arough equivalent from English in the final column.Clicks are common in the languages of southern Africa, but they show an uneven distribution,which indicates the historical contact between their users and speakers whose languagesoriginally did not have clicks (namely, the Bantu languages of South Africa). Unlike Khoisan, theNguni languages of Southern Bantu, e.g., Zulu, have clicks at only three places of articulation.These clicks are unusually not part of the genetic inheritance of any of the Southern Bantulanguages. They have all been borrowed from Khoisan languages.Probably, because of the clicks, many of the Khoisan languages have incredibly large soundinventories. !Xu˜ has ‗141‘ segments (Snyman 1970), (the world record!) By contrast, Mura, aChadic language of Cameroon and Nigeria, has only 11 (Maddieson 1984); English and Zuluboth have around forty, a high but not unusual number. What is fascinating about clicks is thatthey can be combined with secondary articulations to produce a vast array of sounds (Childs2003:77-81). Voiceless [|] Voiced [g|] Nasalized [ŋ|] Aspirated [| ] Glottalized [| ] Breathy-voiced [|] Table10 Clicks and their accompaniments (Ladefoged & Traill 1994) 7. Prosodic system and tone 7.1. ToneTone as a distinctive unit is characteristic of the majority of African languages (Clement&Rialland 2008:39). Thus most African languages (about 80 percent in the sample discussed byHeine & Leyew) are tone languages, in which tone serves a lexical and/or grammatical function.
A smaller number, including Somali and many Bantu languages, described as tonal accentlanguages, where a distinctive or demarcative accent is expressed by a toneme of high pitch. Aneven smaller number (including Wolof) are neither tone languages nor tonal accent languages.Predictable stress-accent occurs across most varieties of Arabic, and penultimate stress-accent isfound in a number of non-tonal eastern Bantu languages starting with coastal Swahili and leadingacross southern Tanzania into Malawi (Derek Nurse, p.c.).African tone languages, especially in the Sudanic and Central zones, differ from typical EastAsian tone languages in several fundamental ways as follows: First, difference concerns the nature of (rising, falling) tones. While these tones in East Asian languages are often unitary, that is, non-decomposable into smaller sequences, their contourpart tones in African languages can almost always be analyzed into sequences of level tones. For example, a rising tone in an African language with two level tonemes, H (high) and L (low), will typically exhibit phonological behavior showing that it consists of a L tone followed by a H tone. A second fundamental difference concerns the nature of tone register. By register we mean the subdivision of the overall pitch range within which a given tone or tone sequence is realized as a register. The fundamental difference between African and East Asian tone languages is that register functions typically in a syntagmatic manner in Africa and in a paradigmatic manner in Asia. The third characteristic feature of African tone languages, rare or marginal in Asian languages, is the common occurrence of ‗floating tones‟ which occur in the tone sequence but have no direct segmental realization. Floating tones originate in various ways, for example: through loss of a tone-bearing vowel, whose tone remains afloat through spreading of an H tone onto an adjacent syllable, dislodging its L tone through the mapping of a ‗‗tone melody‘‘ onto a word with fewer tone bearing units than tones, leaving a final L tone without support.Number of tone levelsFor typological convenience, the number of distinctive tone levels in African languages variesfrom zero to five. Non-tonal languages have no tone at all (called ‗‗zero tone levels‘‘). Languageswith as many as five tone levels, which appear to be the maximum (It seems that five representsthe maximum number of contrastive tone levels, not only in Africa but in Asia and the Americasas well (Maddieson 1977; Yip 2002)) if we exclude register effects such as down-stepped tonesand extra-L sentence-final tones. Five distinctive tone levels are attested in the Santa variety ofDan (a southern Mande language spoken in the Coˆte d‘Ivoire), as illustrated by the followingnouns (where 1 = highest tone, 5 = lowest tone). (Bearth & Zemp 1967):gba1 ‗caterpillar‘gba2 ‗shelter‘gba3 ‗fine‘gba4 ‗roof‘gba5 ‗antelope‘The following is another example of to five level tones, e.g. Benchnon (Omotic; Ethiopia) 5, 4, 3,2, 1; 23 = rising (Rapold 2006:120)
African languages with two, three and four tone heights (H = high, L = low, M = mid, L˚ = levellow) can be shown in the following languages (Hyma 2011),Geographically, non-tonal languages (those with ‗‗zero tone levels‘‘) are located primarily fromthe west, north, and east perimeter of the continent, to the Sahel in the south. In the west, we findnon-tonal languages in the Atlantic family (Wolof, Seereer, Diola, etc.), including Fulfulde,spoken as far east as Cameroon (Clement & Rialland 2008:88-90). Map4 Multi-height tone systems are located in the Sudanic zone and in Khoisan (Clement & Rialland: 73)Tone at the phrase levelTone frequently operates at the phrase level, e.g. H tone shifts to lengthened penultimate vowel inGiryama (Volk 2011:1)Tone and grammatical caseNominative (subject) vs. accusative (object) case marking by tone in Maasai (Tucker &Ole Mpaayei 1955:177-184)
7.2. Other prosodic features (a) Word-stress is sporadically attested in Africa, but is much less salient than tone: cf. English (stressless vowel reduction) convert (noun) vs. convert(verb) (b) In African languages, syllables are not all equal—a particular syllable can be targeted for ―prominence‖, e.g. lengthening of the vowel of the penultimate syllable in Shekgalagari (aa, etc. = long) ‗to account‘ ‗to cause to count‘ ‗to account for‘ ‗to cause to count for‘ (c) A striking fact about African languages is that they often care more about phrase-level prominence than word-level. Thus, only the phrase-penultimate vowel lengthens in Shekgalagari as shown below No lengthening in the corresponding questions and imperatives (Hyman & Monaka 2011)are obvious in the following examples (d) One might be tempted to speak of a ‗‗lax prosody’’ opposed to a ‗‗tense prosody,‘‘ the latter involving rising intonation, tense vocal cords, and/or a raised larynx. This feature provides another diagnostic of the Sudanic belt, with a particular concentration in the western sector. ( Clement &Rialland 2008:98) 8. Question intonationRialland (2007) and Clement & Rialland (2008:79) suggested a L tone “lax” questionmarking strategy in the Sudanic zone. Another question intonation is called (―breathy‖)for instance Dagbani question intonation: final L tone, lengthened vowel, breathinessinstead of final glottal stop [ʔ]. (Hyman 1993:247)
Map5 Distribution of „„lax‟‟ question prosody markers, which occur in 41 of a sample of 75 Africanlanguages for which relevant information was found (Clement & Rilland2008:98) 9. ConclusionIn conclusions there are some of what to expect in the phonology of Africanlanguages (Hyma 2011):(a) If sub-Saharan, expect tone and some form of vowel harmony.(b) Don‘t be surprised if the syllable structure is simple, e.g. V, CV(c) If in the Sudanic zone, expect labiovelar stops, perhaps also implosives(d) If in the North or African horn, expect ―emphatic‖ or ejective consonants, esp. inAfro-Asiatic languages.(e) If in the west and if Niger-Congo, there is the best chance to find nasalized vowels(f) Clicks are almost entirely limited to Southern Africa, originating in ―Khoisan‖,spreading to Bantu.The preliminary research confirmed that there is no characteristically Africanphonological property that is common to the continent as a whole, nor even to the vastsub-Saharan region. Just as importantly, a closer study of ‗‗variation space‘‘ acrossAfrican languages shows that it is not homogeneous, as some combinations of propertiestend to cluster together in genetically unrelated languages while other imaginablecombinations are rare or unattested, even in single groups; crosslinguistic variation of thissort is of central interest to the study of linguistic universals and typology. A furtherimportant reason for studying phonological patterns in Africa is the light they shed uponearlier population movements and linguistic change through contact.
References list - Clements G. N. ; Phonology; in African languages: an Introduction, ed. Bernd & Nurse (2000), Cambridge Univ. Press. - Clements G. N. and Rialland Annie; Africa as a phonological area, In A Linguistic Geography of Africa, ed.: Heine & Nurse (2008), Cambridge University - Workshop on African Languages and Cultures for the IC (June 9, 2011): Classification and Phonological Overview of African Languages, Larry M. Hyma, University of Maryland. - Childs George Tucker(2003), An Introduction to African Languages, John Benjamins Publishing Co., Amsterdam - Hyman, Larry M. (1993). Structure preservation and postlexical tonology in Dagbani. In Studies in Lexical Phonology, Ellen Kaisse & Sharon Hargus (eds), 235-254. San Diego: Academic Press.