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Aspects of the morphophonology of Dagaare Angsongna, Alexander


Dagaare is a Mabia/Gur language spoken in northwestern Ghana and parts of Burkina Faso. The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to the understanding of morphophonological patterns such as vowel harmony, tone alternation, as well as aspectual and nominal inflection using theoretic models such as Optimality Theory and Minimalist Syntax. It also contributes to the overall description and documentation of Dagaare. In Dagaare, there are two main harmony systems – tongue root harmony involving all lexical categories and rounding harmony which generally involves only the imperfective form of the verb. Both harmony patterns are root-controlled with tongue root harmony being bidirectional while rounding harmony is only progressive, spreading rightward. I account for both harmony patterns based on the interaction of markedness and faithfulness constraints within Optimality Theory, arguing that harmony is driven by theoretic constraints such as [SPREAD]. Tone in Dagaare is analysed in simple nouns and verbs as well as in complex cases including compounds, and associative phrases. Default verb forms are shown to involve spreading while imperfective forms always have a suffix tone opposite to that of the root. Nouns are analysed as involving two mechanisms where one involves tone spreading from the suffix to the root and another involves the insertion of a polar tone on the suffix. With inflectional morphology, I examined verbal and nominal inflection involving aspectual and number marking. I presented a discussion of the default vs. imperfective contrast in verb forms as well as number marking on nouns and nominal modifiers. For the verbs, evidence is shown that the contrast that has been described as perfective vs. imperfective actually involves default vs. imperfective. The final vowel of the default verb is analysed as inherently meaningless while the imperfective suffix always has a dedicated progressive meaning. For nominal inflection, nouns are categorized into classes based on similarity of the singular suffix and that of the plural suffix. Nominal inflection is shown to result from phonological processes such as harmony, vowel length; morphosyntactic processes such as derivation and semantic factors like individuation while verbal inflection is a result of morphological, phonological and syntactic properties.

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