The autosegmental approach to tone in Lusoga


One of the major contributions of John Goldsmith’s autosegmental approach to tone was its application to Bantu. Both in his own work and in the work he coedited in Clements & Goldsmith (1984), a new way was opened up to account for the often opaque relationship between underlying vs. surface H(igh) and L(ow) tonal representations. Goldsmith’s work on Tonga and Sukuma, for instance, involved accents which he specified with asterisks and a tonal melody (HL vs. LH, respectively) that required specific mapping. In other work, e.g. on Kirundi, a different metrical analysis of alternating H tones showed the advantage of a /H/ vs. Ø is more insightful than one recognizing /H/ vs. /L/. His intuition was that H and L tones in Bantu do not behave in an equipollent way as they do in many West African and other tone systems, instead have an accentual character requiring a more syntagmatic and privative, accentual interpretation. In this paper I address Goldsmith’s accent-to-tone approach, which I apply to Lusoga, a Bantu language closely related to Luganda, whose tone system has not been previously well studied. While both languages have a phrase-final boundary H% tone that maps onto toneless tone-bearing units (TBUs), in Lusoga, the major differences between input and output tones derive from the shifting of historical H tones onto neighboring TBUs, sometimes in rather complex ways. While this does not happen in Luganda, this shifting has resulted in significant mergers which are taken one step further in neighboring Lulamogi (which is often considered a dialect of Lusoga, but should instead be classified with Lugwere). The goal of this paper is thus threefold: I will (i) document the tonal system of Lusoga; (ii) demonstrate that it is both synchronically and diachronically intermediate between Luganda and Lulamogi; and (iii) argue that John Goldsmith’s autosegmental phonology still provides the best tools to the express the basic insights as to what is going on in these close, but different Bantu tone systems.

Larry M. Hyman
Publication date: 
January 1, 2018
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Hyman, L. M. (2018). The autosegmental approach to tone in Lusoga. In D. Brentari & J. Lee (Eds), Shaping Phonology, pp.47-69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.