Phrasal Construction Tonology
The case of Kalabari
Although it is common for “replacive” tonal patterns to be assigned by word-level morphological constructions, it is far less common for such overriding schemas to be assigned by specific phrase-level syntactic constructions. Kalabari, an Ijo language of Nigeria, does exactly this: Whenever the noun is preceded by a modifier, it loses its tones and receives different “melodies” depending on the constructional word class of the preceding specifier/modifier, either /HL/, /HLH/, /LH/, or /L/. In this paper, we first document the assignment of these different syntactic melodies and then provide evidence for how they developed diachronically. We then present a brief survey of other linguistic phenomena which partially resemble the Kalabari system, but conclude that tone is the only phrasal phonological property that can be assigned by construction from word to word.
Keywords: tone, phrasal phonology, constructions
Published online: 08 December 2014
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