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Vowel harmony and some related processes in Fungwa Akinbo, Samuel Kayode


This dissertation investigates vowel harmony and some related processes in Fungwa, which is an endangered Kainji language spoken in Nigeria. In the language, there are two kinds of vowel harmony. In the first pattern of vowel harmony, the vowels of CV prefixes and clitics agree in backness with the vowel of the adjacent root syllable. However, V prefixes and proclitics do not exhibit this vowel harmony. I argue that the domain of harmony is subject to a word minimality condition and the requirement for an initial onset. The integration of CV prefixes and clitics into the harmonic domain with the root morpheme is forced by the minimality condition. To satisfy the onset requirement on the domain of harmony, V prefixes and proclitics are excluded from the harmonic domain. The second pattern of vowel harmony in Fungwa involves the backing or fronting of all non-high vowels in nominal roots. The fronting of non-high root vowels marks diminutive, while the backing of non-high root vowels marks augmentative. The proposal here is that the root-vowel mutations are the result of morphemes with only a back or front feature as their exponent. To encode that the mutation does not target high vowels, the argument in this dissertation is that the realisation of the featural morphemes is prominence-based. To intensify the diminutive or augmentative formation, the nominal forms can be partially reduplicated. Just as with the root-controlled harmony, the reduplication is conditioned by the requirement for an onset. A pattern of tonal alternation also interacts with vowel harmony and reduplication proving additional evidence for the domains motivated by harmony. Within the framework of Optimality Theory, a formal account of the vowel harmony, reduplication and tonal alternation is proposed.

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