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Title:Optimal Domains Theory and Bantu Tonology: A Case Study from Isixhosa and Shingazidja
Authors:Farida Cassimjee, Charles W. Kisseberth
Comment: 115 pages
Abstract: The surface tonal patterns of Bantu languages are both complex and

diverse. At the same time, Bantu languages share very similar inputs.

Optimality Theory predicts that differences in languages with similar

inputs should derive from differences in constraint ranking. The

present paper attempts to develop a set of Faithfulness and

Phonological constraints which will provide the basis for reducing the

diverse surface tonal patterns of Bantu to differences in constraint


The analysis is conducted using a version of Optimality Theory that

we refer to as Optimal Domains Theory (=ODT). ODT replaces the

autosegmental notion of "multiply-linked feature" with the notion of a

"feature domain" and develops an approach to featural faithfulness

that recognizes that there are "degrees of faithfulness." ODT sees

much of the opacity found in Bantu tonal systems as revolving around

imperfect faithfulness, and the notion of featural domains is critical

to the analysis of phonological opacity.

The paper initially develops the proposed set of Faithfulness and

Phonological constraints on the basis of grammar fragments from a

variety of Bantu languages. It then turns to an examination of an

extensive fragment of the tonology of Isixhosa and of Shingazidja.

These two languages at first blush do not seem to be particularly

similar (except that both fall into the category of "tone shifting" as

opposed to "tone spreading" languages). We demonstrate, however, that

their superficial dissimilarity simply reflects a small number of

differences in the ranking of the constraints that we propose.

The proposed constraint system is certainly not exhaustive.

There are tonal phenomena in Bantu which are not addressed at all, or

only briefly. But at the same time, the proposed constraints do in fact

provide a basis for further research -- research not directed simply

at the architecture of Optimality Theory, but also directed at the

building blocks (the constraint set).
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1