Nordic Journal of African Studies - Abstract

Title: Nasals and Low Tone in Grassfields Noun Class Prefixes
Authors: Pius W. Akumbu and Larry M. Hyman
Published: © Nordic Journal of African Studies Vol. 26(1) 2017, pp. 1–13
Language: English
Keywords: nasals, tone, noun class, prefixes, Grassfields


As it is well known, noun class prefixes are low tone in Narrow Bantu and classes 1, 3, 4, 6(a), 9, and 10 have nasals (Meeussen 1967). However, just outside Narrow Bantu, noun class prefixes are usually high tone and the nasals are typically missing. A dichotomy is found in Grassfields Bantu where Eastern Grassfields resembles Narrow Bantu but the Ring and Momo sub-groups of Western Grassfields have high tone prefixes and lack nasals except sporadically. Drawing on data from Babanki and other Ring languages, we show that this relationship is not accidental. In a number of contexts where we expect a high tone prefix, a stem-initial NC cluster requires that it rather be low. We provide some speculations in this paper as to why nasals should be associated with low tone, an issue that has not been fully addressed in the literature on consonant types and tone.

Article in PDF format

©2015, Nordic Journal of African Studies