The morphology and phonology of the nominal domain in Tagbana

by Yranahan Traoré (Author)
©2020 Thesis 252 Pages


The book investigates the morphology and phonology of the nominal domain in Tagbana of the Senufo group of Côte d’Ivoire. The nominal domain is the locus of a phenomenon called ‘alliterative concord’, a special kind of concord expressed by consonantal alliteration. All dependent morphemes of a head noun share articulatory features, which are realized on the onset of the first syllable of each morpheme. In this way, the articulatory features signal the class of the dependent morphemes. This volume also discusses the segment inventory and the syllable structure and describes the complex noun operations in the nominal domain. Distributed Morphology and Optimal Theory form the theoretical background of the empirical facts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface and Acknowledgement
  • Content
  • Abstract
  • List of abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 Tagbana
  • 1.3 Social and political organization
  • 1.4 Habitat, cultural life, economy, and religion
  • 1.5 Fròʔò (Tagbana)
  • 1.6 Previous works
  • 1.7 Data collection
  • 1.8 Structure of the book
  • 2 The sounds of Fròʔò
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Phonemes of Fròʔò
  • 2.3 Distinctive features
  • 2.3.1 Features for consonants
  • 2.3.2 Features for vowels
  • 2.4 Feature geometry
  • 2.4.1 Feature geometry for consonants
  • 2.4.2 Feature geometry for vowels
  • 2.5 Allophonic alternations
  • 2.5.1 Voicing of stops
  • 2.5.2 Allophonic relation between [g]; and [ŋ]
  • 2.5.3 Free variation of [g];, [ɣ], [ʔ], or [Ø] in some Senufo languages
  • 2.5.4 Allophonic relation between the palatal glide [j]; and palatal nasal [ɲ]
  • 2.5.5 Vowel lengthening process before a liquid
  • 2.6 Tones of Fròʔò
  • 3 Syllable structure and syllabification
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Underlying syllable structure
  • 3.2.1 Simple onsets
  • 3.2.2 Complex onsets
  • 3.2.3 V syllable: Nucleus
  • 3.2.4 Vowel lengthening
  • 3.3 Nasal syllables
  • 3.4 Loanwords
  • 3.5 Resyllabification
  • 3.5.1 Vowel deletion leading to coda formation
  • 3.5.2 Vowel deletion leading to complex onset formation
  • 3.5.3 Liquid deletion
  • 3.5.4 Fusion processes in Fròʔò
  • 3.5.5 Summary of the fusion with sequences of two pronouns
  • 3.6 OT applied on the syllable structure
  • 3.6.1 Overview of OT
  • 3.6.2 OT and syllable structure in Fròʔò
  • Syllables with an onset
  • Onsetless word-initial syllables
  • Onsetless word-internal syllables
  • Codas and coda-less syllables
  • 3.6.3 Resyllabification by segment deletion
  • Vowel deletion resulting in codas
  • Word-final vowel deletion
  • Vowel deletion in morphological processes
  • Onset simplification by liquid deletion
  • Loanwords and repairs
  • 3.6.4 OT and fusion
  • 3.7 Conclusion
  • 4 Nominal classes and the concord system in Fròʔò
  • 4.1 Nominal classes
  • 4.1.1 Semantic assignment of gender
  • 4.1.2 Morphological assignment of gender
  • 4.1.3 Phonological assignment of gender
  • 4.2 Noun classes in Niger-Congo languages
  • 4.2.1 Noun class systems in Niger-Congo languages
  • 4.2.2 Noun class systems in Gur languages
  • 4.3 Noun class system in Fròʔò (Tagbana)
  • 4.3.1 Nominal class 1
  • 4.3.2 Nominal class 2
  • 4.3.3 Nominal class 3
  • 4.3.4 Nominal class 4
  • 4.3.5 Nominal class 5
  • 4.3.6 Nominal class 6
  • 4.3.7 Nominal class 7
  • Conclusion
  • 5 Agreeing/concording morphemes and alliterative concord
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Word order in the nominal phrase
  • 5.3 Functional morphemes
  • 5.4 Agreeing dependent functional morphemes
  • 5.4.1 Pronouns, possessives, and possessive constructions
  • 5.4.2 Interrogatives
  • 5.4.3 Indefinite article
  • 5.4.4 Demonstratives/relative pronouns
  • 5.4.5 Deictic particle/clause-ending particles
  • 5.4.6 Presentative
  • 5.5 Illustration of agreement in dependent morphemes
  • 5.5.1 Agreement in dependent functional morphemes of Class 1
  • 5.5.2 Agreement in dependent functional morphemes of class 3
  • 5.5.3 Agreement in dependent functional morphemes of class 5
  • 5.5.4 Agreement in dependent functional morphemes of classes 2, 4, 6, and 7
  • 5.6 Morphosyntax and VI19
  • 5.7 The role of phonology
  • 5.7.1 VI instructions as inputs in an optimality-theoretic analysis
  • 5.7.2 Vowel and nasal harmonies
  • 5.7.3 Total vowel harmony
  • 5.7.4 Nasal harmony (vowel-consonant harmony)
  • 5.7.5 Epenthetic [ʔ]
  • 5.8 Discussion and additional comment on nouns
  • 5.9 Conclusion
  • 6 Nominal derivation in Fròʔò
  • 6.1 Inflection and derivation
  • 6.2 Denominal derivation
  • 6.3 Deverbal nouns
  • 6.3.1 Verbal root plus a CM
  • 6.3.2 Special cases of deverbal nominalization
  • 6.4 Deadjectival nouns
  • 6.4.1 Adjectives in their citation form
  • 6.4.2 Agreement in predicative adjectives
  • 6.5 Conclusion
  • 7 Compounding and complex noun formation
  • 7.1 Noun + noun (N+N) compounds
  • 7.1.1 Endocentric and exocentric compounds
  • 7.1.2 N+N compounds with a single CM
  • 7.1.3 N+N compounds with two CM (resulting in a nominal phrase)
  • 7.1.4 N+N compounding and phonological effects
  • 7.1.5 N+N+N compounding
  • 7.2 Noun + verb (N+V) compounds: (Nroot + Vroot) + nominalizer
  • 7.3 Noun + adjective (N+A) compounds
  • 7.3.1 Attributive adjectives
  • Class 1 and 2 nouns + adjective
  • Classes 3 and 4 nouns + adjectives
  • Classes 5 and 6 nouns with adjectives
  • Class 7 nouns compounded with adjectives
  • 7.3.2 Adjective plè ‘small’
  • 7.4 Compounds with more than one adjectival root
  • 7.5 Conclusion
  • 8 Summary and conclusion
  • Appendix
  • List of Figures
  • List of  Tables
  • References
  • Series index


In this book, I investigate the morphology and phonology of the nominal domain in Fròʔò (Tagbana), a Senufo language of Côte d’Ivoire, which has not yet been studied in detail; see Clamens (1957) and Miehe (2012) for Tagbana. The nominal domain is the locus of a phenomenon called ‘alliterative concord’, a special kind of concord expressed by consonantal alliteration. All dependent morphemes of a head noun share articulatory features, which are realized on the onset of the first syllable. They are abstract features signalling the class of the dependent morphemes.

The first aspect elaborated on, after introducing the language in Chapter 1, is the inventory of segments in the language. The theoretical framework in the sound description is the feature geometry as proposed by Kenstowicz (1994). Feature geometry is a phonological theory which represents distinctive features as a structured hierarchy rather than a matrix or a set, and it encodes groups of features under nodes in a tree. See McCarthy (1988) and Clements (1985). A feature geometric representation of the features accounts for natural classes, and it makes predictions about possible assimilation processes in the language.

Another aspect illustrated in Chapter 3 is syllable structure. Fròʔò has three underlying syllable structures: C(C)V, C(C)V: or V, where there is no underlying coda; but, C(C)VC syllables arise through final vowel deletion and liquid metathesis. The onset can be complex, although it is limited to two positions which are restricted in their order by the sonority sequence principle. In this chapter, it is also shown how the constraints on syllable structure repair loanwords in Fròʔò. The last process that is described is the fusion of two monosyllabic morphemes into a single syllable, and an optimality-theoretic account of the syllable structure is proposed at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 4 introduces simplex nouns and nominal classes. A noun in Fròʔò consists minimally of a lexical root and a class marker, which can be covert. There are seven classes in Fròʔò, six of which are organized by gender (pairs of corresponding singular and plural). Class 7 contains uncountable (mass) nouns, which have no plural.

In Chapter 5, an overview of alliterative concord is given, addressing work by Corbett (1991) and Hockett (1958) on the nominal domain. Each nominal class is identified in the phonology by a set of features that are reproduced in the initial consonant of each agreeing morpheme. In this chapter, I propose a morphological analysis of the functional morphemes in the framework of Distributed ←17 | 18→Morphology, with special attention to those standing in an agreement relation with the head noun (some, like numerals, are invariable). In the last part of the chapter, I examine the phonological processes that are needed following the morphology, and an optimality-theoretic analysis of the phonological processes is offered.

Chapter 6 discusses the derivational role of class markers (CM). The morphological form of a default noun in Fròʔò is a lexical root and a category-defining CM. The special CMs used with nominal roots are the CM3-CM4, leading to diminutives, the CM5-CM6, leading to augmentatives, and the CM7 for mass nouns or properties. Nouns can be also derived from a verbal root by suffixing a CM on that root, in a deverbalization process. Like denominalization, deverbalization consists of adding a CM to the verbal root. The same CMs as before can play this role: CM3-CM4, CM5-CV6, and CM7. The third process of noun formation involves adjectival roots. When the adjective has no head noun to agree with, it occurs in its citation form. In this case, only CM5 can be added, playing the role of default nominalizer. This process shows that the citation form of adjectives is preferably nominal. In a predicative construction, adjectives agree in the feature [CLASS] with the head nominal they modify, which is either a noun or a pronoun. In both cases, an adjective needs a class marker to stand on its own.

Chapter 7 describes compounding operations in the nominal domain, forming what is called a ‘complex noun’ which contains more than one lexical root. The term ‘complex noun’ is used to demarcate these words from the ‘simplex’ nouns consisting of only one lexical root and one CM. At least three kinds of nominal compounds are found in Fròʔò: complex nouns consisting of two or more nominal roots (N + N), compounds consisting of a nominal and a verbal root (N + V), and complex nouns consisting of a nominal and an adjectival root (N + A).

1 Introduction

1.1 Introduction

World languages, following Heine and Nurse (2004), are divided into four major groups or phyla. The group Afro-Asiatic or Hamito-Semitic, the group Nilo-Saharan Phylum, the group Khoisan, and the group Niger-Congo languages. The Niger-Congo constitutes one of the largest language family in the world; the third largest language family following Thompson (2015) and the largest language family in Africa following Greenberg (1970) and Williamson and Blench (2000). Niger-Congo languages are the most important in terms of number of speakers and number of distinct languages and also in space; see Greenberg (1949–1954) and Thompson (2015). See also Williamson (1989a:21), Bendor and Rhonda (1989) for the delimitation of the Niger-Congo languages in a region of Africa. Most of the Sub-Saharan Africa languages are from this group of languages; see Stewart (1960–1970).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (April)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 252 pp., 3 fig. col., 23 fig. b/w, 88 tables.

Biographical notes

Yranahan Traoré (Author)

Yranahan Traoré started his university education at the University Félix Houphouët Boigny of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, where he did a master’s degree and a D.E.A. ‘Diplôme d ìEtudes Approfondies’ in Linguistics. In 2015, he started a doctoral research position in the Research Training Group “Nominal Modification” at the Goethe University, Frankfurt a.M. / Germany, where he did a PhD in Linguistics in 2018. His main interest in the field of Linguistics lies in the interaction between phonology and morphology both from an empirical and a theoretical point of view in understudied languages.


Title: The morphology and phonology of the nominal domain in Tagbana