Issues in Bantu Tonology

ISBN 978-3-89645-033-3

Issues in Bantu Tonology

Edited by: Jean A. Blanchon, Denis Creissels. With contributions by: Jean A. Blanchon, Pierre Boungou, Denis Creissels, Gérard Philippson, Gisèle Teil-Dautrey, Lolke J. van der Veen. Series edited by: Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †, Bernd Heine.

Series: GA Grammatical Analyses of African Languages Volume 10

8 pp. Roman, 198 pp.
numerous tables, summaries of the contributions
Text language(s): English
€ 39.80

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This volume contains a collection of research articles concerning various aspects of Bantu tonology. It begins with a study considering a tonal phenomenon of proto-Bantu and then turns to its central focus, the less intensively explored fringes of the Bantu area – the North-West and the South. The authors are therefore able to fill a gap in research on Bantu tonology in Gabun, the Republic of Congo, Swaziland and Botswana.


Gisèle Teil-Dautrey: Notes sur l’interaction consonnes-tons en proto-bantou

Teil-Dautrey examines Guthrie’s and Meeussen’s reconstructions of the proto-Bantu phonological system with a view to determining whether there is a correlation between the nature of the initial consonant of a reconstructed root and that of the tone on the following vowel. The author comes to the conclusion that voiceless consonants are more often followed by H-toned vowels and voiced consonants by L-toned vowels than the other way round. The special cases of *g and *b offer significant conclusions about their original nature.

Lolke J. van der Veen: La propagation des tons et le statut des indices pronominaux précédant le verbe en geviya (B.30)

This article shows that the tone rules of the Geviya (B.30) language, spoken in Gabun, provide helpful cues for defining the grammatical status of Geviya’s language elements which are traditionally considered to be verbal prefixes. The article arrives at this conclusion through a focus on the morphology of these language elements.

Jean A. Blanchon: ‘Tone Cases’ in Bantou Group B.40

In this paper several varieties of Bantu group B.40 (a group of languages spoken in Gabun and the Republic of Congo) are examined concerning their system of tonal rules. It is argued that once the effects of language-specific rules have been discounted a level can be reached at which all varieties have one and the same set of underlying forms. This set of forms corresponds to the forms of the proto-language. The results are then linked to a previous study of the languages of zone H by the same author.

Gérard Philippson / Pierre Boungou: Éléments de tonologie beembe (H.11)

The authors examine the tonology of Beembe (H.11), a Bantu language spoken in the Republic of Congo. Their main focus is the spreading of the final H of a verb, connective, or associative index onto an immediately following nominal. Two remarkable characteristics set Beembe apart from many Bantu languages. First, the rightmost syllable affected by the spreading rule is raised to Supra High; and second, the reach of the spreading process is varying with different nominals. A tentative solution is offered for this intriguing difference.

Denis Creissels: The role of tone in the conjugation of Setswana (S.31)

This article examines the different factors that determine the tonal melody of the simple verb forms of Setswana (S.31), spoken in Botswana – the presence vs. absence of a lexical H tone, the presence vs. absence of a grammatical H tone associated with the second syllable of the stem by a morphological rule in certain tenses, the presence of H tones underlyingly associated with the vowels of certain prefixed morphemes, the presence of empty syllables in the underlying representation of certain prefixed morphemes and the distinction between “weak” finals and “strong” finals.

Denis Creissels: Bimoraic syllables in a language without length contrast and without consonants in coda position: the case of Siswati (S.43)

The paper deals with tonal phenomena of Siswati (S.43) – a minor language spoken in Swaziland, Republic of South Africa – that cannot be accounted for in a simple and principled way within the current hypotheses about Nguni tone. Therefore, the author postulates the existence of syllables with a bimoraic structure, e.g. syllables which contain two consecutive tone bearing units. A historical interpretation supported by the existence of similar problems in the description of the tone system of Setswana is put forward.

Under these links you will find descriptions of further eastern, central and southern African Bantu languages, among them a couple of analyses and dictionaries of Setswana (S.31):

Accompanying material:



[...] this is a collection of high quality articles. The phenomena presented are very interesting and the papers are clear and well-written.

Keith Snider in Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 25/1, 2004, 102-106

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