Speech Prosody 2002

Aix-en-Provence, France
April 11-13, 2002

Tonal Alternations and Prosodic Structure in Somali

David Le Gac

Université Paris 7, Paris, France

This paper investigates the prosody of focalisation in Somali, a cushitic tonal accent language. The Somali nouns undergo many tonal accent alternations according to the discursive contexts. A primary aim of the study is to explain these alternations by assuming that they are triggered by intonative tones. However, very little attention has been devoted to the intonation of Somali. As Somali has morphological focus particles, it has been traditionally accepted that this language has no intonative focus marking. This paper disproves this assumption, by providing a phonetic description of F0 configurations and showing that a process of downdrift, intonative high tones and a low tone of focalisation express the information structure.

Finally, a phonological model of the prosody of Somali will be proposed. To be precise, it will be argued that the low tone of focalisation is the central element of a recursive hierarchical structure, and that it triggers tonal accent alternations and governs intonative tones. Furthermore, it will be suggested that Somali has two independent tonal tiers, and that the coalescence of these tonal tiers produces the melodic paterns at the phonetic level.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Le Gac, David (2002): "Tonal alternations and prosodic structure in Somali", In SP-2002, 455-458.