The 4th International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages

Nijmegen, The Netherlands
May 13-16, 2014

Tone Neutralization and Tone Spreading in the Verb System of Samue (Niger- Congo, Gur)

Virpi Ouattara (1,2), Maija S. Peltola (1,3)

(1) Department of Phonetics, University of Turku, Finland
(2) SIL, Burkina Faso
(3) LAB-Lab, Department of Phonetics, University of Turku, Finland

This paper provides a presentation of tones in the verb system of Samue, a previously undocumented Gur language spoken in Burkina Faso. Our research shows that in Samue three lexical tones are contrastive: high (H), mid (M) and low (L). In the simplest morphological form of the verb, four tonal melodies are attested: H, M, L and MH. In the verb system, the lexical tone opposition is neutralized in the imperfective aspect and future tense, while the imperative mood and perfective aspect both bear the lexical tone. Our study further shows that tone spreading in Samue is regressive, although progressive spread is more common in tone languages. The process of regressive spreading of mid tone is a particularity of the Samue verbal tone system. Spreading occurs when some mid toned verbal particles are in direct contact with the preceding verb; the mid tone spreads to the verb. Spreading can be bounded concerning only one Tone Bearing Unit (TBU) leftwards, or unbounded concerning the whole verb. This depends on the verbal particle that triggers the spreading. Interestingly, our research also shows that in the case of different particles, the spreading concerns only high or only low toned verbs.

Index Terms: tone spreading, tone neutralization, Gur (Niger-Congo), verb phrase

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Ouattara, Virpi / Peltola, Maija S. (2014): "Tone neutralization and tone spreading in the verb system of Samue (niger- congo, gur)", In TAL-2014, 23-26.