Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Underapplication in Akan Loanword Adaptation

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Underapplication in Akan Loanword Adaptation

Article excerpt


This paper examines the phenomenon of underapplication of palatalization rule observed in loanword adaptation in Akan, a Niger-Congo (Kwa) language. The phenomenon has been widely studied almost exclusively in the domain of reduplication where palatalization fails in some reduplicants in the context of back consonant + front vowel. Similar failure is observed when adapting some English words into Akan. For instance, a source word 'crack' is adapted as kraki but not *kratei as would be expected in the native grammar. The sequence of k + i would be expected to result in palatalization of the k into te. This is accounted for within the Optimality Theory that while in reduplication palatalization fails due to a high-ranking of OCP(+cor) constraint, in loans adaptation it results from the adapters' bid to attain phonetic match between source words and adapted forms, hence a relatively high ranking of IDENT-IO(cor) constraint over well-formedness constraints.

Keywords: Underapplication, Akan, Optimality theory, Loanword, Reduplication, Phonology

1. Introduction

Underapplication, as a phonological phenomenon, has been observed and studied in the Akan phonology for some time now (cf. Christaller 1875[1933]; Weimers 1946; Schächter & Fromkin 1968; Wilbur 1973; Marantz 1982; McCarthy & Prince 1995; McCarthy & Prince 1999; Kager 1999; Raimy 2000; McCarthy et al 2012; etc.). In all these studies, the phenomenon has been observed in the domain of reduplication where in Akan, palatalization, which is usually expected to apply when a front vowel immediately follows a back (velar) consonant, fails in the reduplicant. However, it is not only in Akan reduplication that palatalization fails or underapplies. The current study discusses a similar failure or underapplication of this phonological process in Akan in the domain of loanword adaptation.

A sequence of velar consonant and glottal fricative h + front vowel invariably results in complete palatalization of the consonant in the surface representation in the general grammar of Akan. The examples of palatalization in (1) have been given diachronic explanations in the literature (cf. Stewart 1966; Dolphyne 2006). It is worthy to note that full palatalization in Akan affects only back consonants, unlike what pertains in other languages where coronal consonants could also undergo full palatalization (Chen 1973; Bhat 1978; Hall 2000; Bateman 2007; among others).

(1). UR SR Gloss

a. k + i tj2I catch

b. g+ i (fel collect

c. h + i Cl burn

d. k + i lei dislike

e. g + e

f. k + s Ice divide

g- h + s cb wear

Exceptions to this palatalization rule in the native grammar can be found in the examples in (2)1. These few marked lexical exceptions are as follows.

(2) Native words Gloss Ill-form

a. æhi~æpi disgust

b. him wave ^Gim

c. hini open (e.g. of door) cini

d. him chief * oeim

e. kete a classical Akan folk song*1pete

f. ksts straw mat *1psts

g. kita hold *tcita

h. kæhire-kæcire head pad

i. kinam2~teinam fried fish

j. ksksJ just like that * testes

k gigim fabulous

The forms to the extreme right are ill-formed basically because all the back consonants immediately preceding front vowels have undergone palatalization rule, which is expected in the native phonology. This happening has been explained to be phonological. The postulation in the literature attributes this failure of palatalization in these exceptional cases to OCP effects. The observation made by Christaller 1875 [1933]; Schächter & Fromkin 1968; Dolphyne 2006; Boadi 1988; McCarthy & Prince 1995 is that the underapplication of the palatalization rule as observed in (2) could be explained to arise from an OCP effect in the general phonology of Akan where according to McCarthy & Prince in particular, "...palatalization is blocked when the next syllable begins with a coronal obstruent" (McCarthy & Prince 1995:94). …

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