A Tonal Grammar of Kwanyama

ISBN 978-3-89645-980-0

A Tonal Grammar of Kwanyama

A Bantu Language (R.21) of Namibia and South Angola

Author: Riikka Halme.

Series: NAS Namibian African Studies Volume 8.1

12 pp. Roman, 299 pp.
28 tables, appendix: Nominal Paradigms, Verbal Paradigms, Texts, Vocabulary Kwanyama-English
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
650 g
€ 69.80

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Kwanyama – Oshikwanyama according to the official Namibian standard – is a Wambo language, and correspondingly belongs to the Bantu languages. It is spoken by far more than half a million people in South Angola and Namibia.

Certainly this number includes the speakers of other closely-related Wambo varieties in Angola. These languages have been studied relatively little, and the study of their tonal systems has been particularly neglected. The present book is the first sketch of Kwanyama grammar with a systematic account on tone. The main aim is to provide an analysis of the tonal system of this language. Therefore the study discusses both the lexical tone, i.e. tone as an inherent property of a lexeme, and the grammatical tone wich marks grammatical properties.

The author lived in a Kwanyama speaking community in Angola for about half a year and had the opportunity there to improve her linguistic competence. As a researcher she keeps to the tradition of Generative Phonology in the sense that there are rules that take the tone patterns from the underlying representation to a binary surface representation, i.e. tonemes.

In order to help the reader to follow the argumentation of the tonal analysis, this book is organised in such a way that the segmental and tonal levels are discussed separately, followed by discussions on tone in nouns, verbs and minor word categories. After that, the study is related to the wider context of research on Guthrie's group R languages, especially the Wambo languages. Finally, the reader finds nominal and verbal paradigms as well as some texts, and a vocabulary Kwanyama-English comprising about 6,000 entries.


Review by Dirk Otten in Afrikanistik-Ägyptologie-Online 2006

The dissertation version of the grammar contains the same text and language material presented in volume 8 of our series Namibian African Studies, see the link at the bottom.

Under these links you will find descriptions of further Bantu languages in monographs and paper collections:

Accompanying material:



Grammatiken mit ausgewiesenem Bezug auf Tonsysteme und tonale Strukturen sind für die Bantusprachen leider recht selten. Mit dem vorliegenden Werk von Riikka Halme liegt nun eine Untersuchung vor, die sich speziell der tonalen Analyse des Kwanyama widmet, [...] eine sehr gründliche Untersuchung [...]

Die von ihr im Rahmen der generativen Phonologie (bspw. Kenstowicz 1994) herausgearbeiteten Regeln sind logisch-konsequent aufeinander bezogen und nachvollziehbar. Das abschließende Kapitel, in dem das zuvor herausgearbeitete Regelwerk noch einmal eine kurze Zusammenfassung erfährt, bietet dem Leser eine Hilfestellung für den schwierigen Untersuchungsgegenstand.

Dirk Otten in Afrikanistik-online, www.afrikanistik-online.de/archiv/2006/303, 1-5

Riikka Halme’s monograph, „A Tonal Grammar of Kwanyama“, is an important contribution to the study of the Oshiwambo (Guthrie R.20) group of Bantu languages spoken in Angola and Namibia. Since tonal information on the languages of this group has been scanty, Halme’s broad and rigorous coverage is particularly welcome. […]

Halme’s data and presentation are uniformly rigorous and thorough, and her analysis is careful. Data that are (appear to be) quite complex, both phonetically and in terms of their interactions, are clearly presented in a straightforward and easy-to-follow format.

Thera Crane / Larry M. Hyman in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 28/1,2007, 82-86

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