Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Scott Myers

Tone and f0 in Luganda

Mon, April 9, 2018 | CLA 1.302B

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Luganda, a Bantu language spoken in Uganda, is a tone language with three tones: high, low, and falling. It is also characterized by productive processes of unbounded high tone spread, resulting in high tone plateaus extending over long stretches of syllables. Thanks to an extraordinary line of linguists who have studied Luganda, it is the most thoroughly documented tone system in the Bantu family.

In this talk, I will present the results of the first experimental acoustic investigations of tone in this language, which hitherto has been studied on the basis of auditory transcriptions. In the first experiment, the timing of f0 events is compared across tone categories and syllable types. The results suggest that the contrasting tone categories are not as has been previously described, and that this discrepancy is possibly due to sound changes in progress. In the second experiment, the timing and scaling of f0 is compared between short high-tone spans (limited to a single syllable) and long high-tone spans (taking in a sequence of syllables), and between intonational high tones and lexical high tones. The long high tone spans differ from the short ones in timing but not in f0 level, while the intonational high tones differ from the lexical high tones in level but not timing.

The results bear on the representation of f0 timing contrasts, incomplete neutralization, undershoot, and the locality of phonetic implementation. The project also demonstrates the utility of experimental methods in the investigation of tone.

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