Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Voice Contrast and Cumulative Faithfulness in Luwanga Nouns*

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Voice Contrast and Cumulative Faithfulness in Luwanga Nouns*

Article excerpt

Luwanga has a seemingly allophonic surface distribution of voiced and voiceless obstruents. This commonplace distribution typically requires the proposition that segments are specified as either [±voice] underlyingly, with their counterparts derived via phonological rule. Drawing evidence from consonant alternations in Class 9/10 nouns and their derivatives, obstruents contrast for [voice], at least in stem-initial position. Elsewhere, voice is noncontrastive. The outcome of this alternation, although transparent, cannot be captured in a standard constraint-based optimality theoretic framework and instead requires machinery employed to address surface opacity. This paper illustrates that the result of competing pressures to remain faithful to the underlying segmental structure, as well as to a consonant's specification for [voice], is the seemingly transparent but analytically opaque retention of marked structure. We illustrate that this type of cumulative faithfulness is best addressed via one of two evaluative mechanisms capable of capturing additive effects, namely Local Constraint Conjunction and Harmonic Grammar.

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1. Introduction

Luwanga [lwg] is a language of the Masaba-Luyia cluster (J30) spoken in Western Kenya by an unknown number of individuals, according to the latest Ethnologue (Lewis 2009). It is one of sixteen languages included in this group and has been classified recently by Maho (2008) as JE32A.1 Luwanga is an underdocumented language with realatively few pre-existing materials, among them a vocabulary list created by an anonymous author (1940) and a more general Luyia vocabulary list and grammar published by Appleby (1943, 1947). Green's (in press) work on Luwanga is a more recent addition to the growing list of publications on this language group that have emerged in the last several years. References to these publications are included in §7.

The current paper explores characteristics of Luwanga's nominal morphophonology, particularly the behavior of nouns in classes 9/10 and their diminutive and augmentative derivatives found in classes 12/13 and 20/4, respectively. Collected data show that Class 9/10 nouns surface with one of two different manifestations of their prefixes (iN-2 and tsiN-, respectively) depending on the nature of their stem-initial consonant. In certain instances, these prefixes surface faithfully (i.e. iN- and tsiN-), while in others, the nasal consonant is removed (i.e. i- and tsi-). While the removal of a prefix nasal consonant is not an unusual phenomenon in Bantu languages, what is unique in the case of Luwanga is that the removal of this prefix consonant in a particular set of Class 9/10 correlates with the absence of the augment (or pre-prefix) in corresponding diminutive and augmentative nouns. In other instances, the augment in Luwanga is obligatorily present.3 While the paradigmatic relationship between the prefix and augment in Luwanga is discussed in more descriptive detail in Green (in press), the difficulties that arise in formalizing this phenomenon and its related characteristics in a theoretical framework have not yet been entertained. It is to this task that we turn in the current paper.

Both generative and optimality theoretic frameworks of phonology have little problem providing coherent bases and analytical explanations for a vast number of linguistic attributes, transparent processes, and non-opaque interactions found widely in developing and fully-developed languages. By developing languages, we are referring to the developing phonologies constructed by children at various stages of L1 language acquisition, while fully-developed languages are considered to be endstate adult phonologies. Literature in the field, however, has revealed that other processes and interactions challenge and oftentimes confound a given framework. In these cases, new machinery must be created and/or appended to it in order that it can once again adequately predict attested phonological phenomena. …

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