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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana

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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana

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The article analyses violations of the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP) above the word level in Tswana, a Southern Bantu language, by investigating the realization of adjacent lexical high tones across word boundaries. The results show that across word boundaries downstep (i.e. a lowering of the second in a series of adjacent high tones) only takes place within a phonological phrase. A phonological phrase break blocks downstep, even when the necessary tonal configuration is met. A phrase-based account is adopted in order to account for the occurrence of downstep. Our study confirms a pattern previously reported for the closely related language Southern Sotho and provides controlled, empirical data from Tswana, based on read speech of twelve speakers which has been analysed auditorily by two annotators as well as acoustically.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in
Tswana
Sabine Zerbian
University of Stuttgart
sabine.zerbian@ifla.uni-stuttgart.de
Frank Kügler
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
kuegler@em.uni-frankfurt.de
The article analyses violations of the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP) above the word
level in Tswana, a Southern Bantu language, by investigating the realization of adjacent
lexical high tones across word boundaries. The results show that across word boundaries
downstep (i.e. a lowering of the second in a series of adjacent high tones) only takes place
within a phonological phrase. A phonological phrase break blocks downstep, even when
the necessary tonal configuration is met. A phrase-based account is adopted in order to
account for the occurrence of downstep. Our study confirms a pattern previously reported
for the closely related language Southern Sotho and provides controlled, empirical data
from Tswana, based on read speech of twelve speakers which has been analysed auditorily
by two annotators as well as acoustically.
1Introduction
Although some Bantu languages have lost tone (most notably Swahili), the vast majority
of Bantu languages are two-tone languages with a surface high (H) and low (L) level tone.
Tone in Bantu languages has a lexical and a grammatical function (see Kisseberth & Odden
2003, Downing 2011, Marlo & Odden 2019 for overviews). Phonologically, in many Bantu
languages only lexical high tones are assumed to be underlyingly represented, and low tones
are inserted late in the derivation as default tones (Hyman 2001;Yip2002; Marlo & Odden
2019: 151–153). High tones can be observed to be the active tones, taking part in tone shift,
spread, deletion, and/or fusion. Some examples will be provided below. Bantu languages are
particularly known for their tonal mobility (see Yip 2002: 66) and tone sandhi. Tone sandhi,
i.e. tonal changes due to neighbouring tones, can be observed at the word and phrase level.
The focus of the article is on the phonetic lowering of a lexical high tone due to the presence
of a preceding high tone. This process is commonly referred to as downstep. Two adjacent
high tones constitute a typical environment which violates the Obligatory Contour Principle
(OCP; Leben 1973) prohibiting identical adjacent elements. Although they violate the OCP
they constitute the context for downstep. This study addresses the conditions for downstep in
Tswana analysing it as a phrasal phenomenon.
Our study has the aim of presenting an empirical study for establishing the structural con-
ditions for downstep in (a variety of) Tswana, taking both number of adjacent high tones and
Journal of the International Phonetic Association, page 1 of 22 © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on
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doi:10.1017/S0025100321000141
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2Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
syntactic structure into consideration as suggested in previous literature. Next to a qualitative
analysis based on auditory impression, the current study also provides a quantitative acoustic
analysis of the data of twelve speakers. Although a number of studies exist on OCP violations
in Bantu languages (see references below), there are only a few acoustic studies available on
downstep (see GjersOe2015 and contributions in Downing & Rialland 2017; Liberman et al.
1993 is an experimental study on downstep in Igbo, a Kwa language of West Africa).
The article is structured as follows: Section 2introduces the OCP in Bantu languages
and discusses two existing approaches concerning the structural conditions for downstep in
the languages of the Sotho-Tswana family. Section 3presents the elicited-production study
that was carried out in order to test which structural condition causes downstep in Tswana. It
includes a qualitative analysis of auditory downstep transcription and a quantitative analysis
of an acoustic measure of downstep. Section 4addresses the theoretical account of the data
and explores further predictions. Section 5concludes.
2The Obligatory Contour Principle
2.1 The OCP in Bantu languages
The Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP; Leben 1973) expresses the dispreference of iden-
tical adjacent elements. It was originally proposed for the representation of tones in an
autosegmental framework in which tones are organized on separate tiers. For instance,
sequences of high-toned syllables must be represented phonologically as in (1a), where a
single high tone is multiply associated with a number of adjacent syllables, and not as in
(1b), where identical elements, i.e. high tones in case of (1), are adjacent.
(1) Representation of high tones according to the OC
P
a. σ σ σ b. *σ σ σ
H H H H
The OCP was initially formulated as a morpheme-structure constraint which rules out
sequences of identical tones in underlying representations like in (1b). The argument for
a preference of a representation like in (1a) comes from Meeussen’s rule, which targets a
dissimilation process that changes one of two adjacent high tones to low (Odden 1980). In
case of (1b), Meeussen’s rule predicts a realization of an HLH tone sequence. If, however,
a sequence of three high tones is realized, a representation as in (1a) is more likely: If the
sequence is associated with only one high tone, Meeussen’s rule does not apply as no fur-
ther (second) high tone is present. The existence of Meeussen’s rule in other contexts thus
provides a good argument to assume a representation as in (1a). The OCP has since been
extended in a variety of ways to also refer to phonological derivations, e.g. by blocking the
application of a phonological rule (McCarthy 1986) if the outcome results in adjacency of
identical elements or by triggering a phonological rule in order to avoid a surface OCP viola-
tion (Yip 1988). The OCP has also been extended from a constraint on morpheme structure
to a constraint applying to higher prosodic constituents.
In Bantu tone languages, OCP violations are avoided in a variety of ways, e.g. through
deletion of tones, tone movement, blocking of tone spreading, and fusion of two tones into
one (see Myers 1997 for an overview). For instance, in the Bantu language Shona, several of
these mechanisms are used to avoid OCP violations or ‘repair’ them (data from Myers 1997).
In some Bantu languages, violations of the OCP lead to downstep, e.g. in Kishambaa, a
Bantu language spoken in Tanzania (Odden 1982,1986). Kishambaa shows a surface contrast
between two adjacent high-toned syllables and a sequence of a high tone and a downstepped
high tone. The first case has been analysed as the realization of a single high tone associated
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 3
with two TBUs (along the representation in (1a)) and the second case as a sequence of two
lexical high tones. In the latter case, a downstep occurs between the two lexical high tones,
i.e. that the pitch level of the second high tone is lower than that of the first (Odden 1982,
1986).
This contrast is illustrated in (2a) and (2b). Underlining refers to a lexical high tone.
Downstep is indicated by the superscript exclamation mark.1
(2) Downstep in Kishambaa (Odden 1986: 363; Myers 1997: 883 citing Odden 1982)
a. /ní- kúi/ ní-!kúi ‘It is a dog.’
COP-dog H1H2
b. /ní-ki-chí-kóma/ ní-kí-!chí-kómá ‘I was killing it .’
1SG-PROG-OC-kill H1H2+3
Downstep occurs between two adjacent high tones associated with different morphemes, as
in (2a) (although it can also occur in the same morpheme; Odden 1982: 187, 189). The data
in (2b) show that no downstep occurs between the surface high tones that are multiply linked
to the same underlying tone. Multiple linking in (2b) arises from two tonal processes: First,
High Tone Spread from the subject prefix - onto the following aspect marker -ki-; second,
high tone fusion of the high tone of the object marker -chí- and that of the verb stem -kóma.
Note that the OCP does not act as a rule blocker for High Tone Spread or tone fusion in this
context to avoid the adjacency of H1and H2. High Tone Spread of H1takes place although
another high-toned syllable follows, namely H2on the object prefix -chí-. Kishambaa is thus
an example of a language that violates the OCP by tolerating adjacent high tones in the sur-
face representation, but resolves their potential non-distinctness by downstepping the second
high tone.
To sum up, it is well-documented that the OCP is an important constraint on tonal repre-
sentations. Many languages obey the OCP at the level of the word or its subconstituents,
which leads to tone deletion, blocking of tone spread, and/or fusion. However, in other
languages, violations of the OCP lead to a downstepped phonetic implementation.
2.2 The OCP in Sotho-Tswana
Since the current study explores OCP violations across word boundaries in Tswana, the fol-
lowing section provides relevant background to Tswana and a review of OCP effects in the
language family Tswana belongs to. Tswana belongs to the Sotho-Tswana group of Southern
Bantu languages (S30 in Guthrie’s (1967–1971) classification), together with Southern Sotho
(Sesotho), Northern Sotho (Sepedi) and Lozi (Silozi). There are several descriptions available
in the linguistic literature on aspects of the tonal system of these languages (see Ziervogel,
1In all examples, surface high tones are indicated by an acute accent, underlying high tones by underlin-
ing, and downstep by a superscript exclamation mark. Glossing follows the Leipzig Glossing Rules
(http://www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/resources/glossing-rules.php). Numbers in the glosses refer to noun
classes. The following abbreviations are used:
AGR agreement NEG negation PROG progressive
ASP aspect NP noun prefix PST past tense
COP copula OC object concord REL relative
DEM demonstrative PL plural SC subject concor
d
LOC locative POSS possessive concord SG singular
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4Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Lombard & Mokgokong 1969, Lombard 1976, Monareng 1992 for Northern Sotho; Khoali
1991 for Southern Sotho; Mmusi 1992, Chebanne, Creissels & Nkhwa 1997, Creissels 1999,
2000 for Tswana). Tone has a lexical and a grammatical function in Tswana. Like Shona
and Kishambaa and most other Bantu languages, Tswana contrasts two level tones, high (H)
and low (L) on the surface. As in many other Bantu languages, only high tones are present
underlyingly (see Mmusi 1992: 39; Hyman & Monaka 2011 for varieties of Tswana).
Previous research on Tswana has claimed that this language has an active OCP restriction
according to which sequences of singly-linked adjacent high tones are allowed but sequences
of multiply-linked adjacent high tones are not allowed (Mmusi 1992). Mmusi (1992) cites
examples from the domain of the root and word that illustrate the various processes that
apply in order to avoid OCP violations. In (3a), the singly-linked lexical high tone of the
subject prefix and that of the verb root are both realized.
(3) OCP in Tswana (Mmusi 1992: 70, 112)
a. /ó-réka/
ó-réká nama (SC1-buy meat) ‘S/he is buying meat.’
H
b
. /ó-a-réka/
ó-a-réká (SC1-ASP-buy) *ó-á-réká ‘S/he is buying.’
H
1
H
2
H
1
H
2
Mmusi (1992) suggests an analysis according to which these separate lexical high tones are
fused into one, which is shown in (3a). In (3a), also the rule of High Tone Spread applies.
High Tone Spread takes place from a lexical high-toned syllable to an adjacent toneless syl-
lable if this syllable is not phrase-final and if this does not result in adjacent multiply-linked
high tones. Example (3b) shows that the OCP acts as a rule blocker for High Tone Spread if
it were to create a sequence of multiply-linked high tones.
For the closely related language Southern Sotho, Khoali (1991) also describes tonal pro-
cesses that counteract violations of the OCP, among them fusion (4a) which merges adjacent
lexical high tones within the verb into a multiply-linked high tone (co-occurring with High
Tone Spread of the lexical high-toned syllable to the adjacent syllable in (4a)).
(4) OCP in Southern Sotho varieties (Khoali 1991: 296)
a. /ó bóna/
ó-bóná ... (SC1-see) ‘S/he sees ...’ [Lesotho]
H
b
. /ó-se-kgúrúmetse/ ó-se-kgúrumétsé (SC1-NEG-cover) ‘S/he does not cover.’
H
1
H
2
H
3
c. /ó-bóna/
ó-boná ... (SC1-see) ‘S/he sees ...’ [Free State]
H
1
H
2
High Tone Spread and then left-branch delinking occurs with a grammatical high tone (H3)
co-occurring with the negated verb form in the verb stem, as in (4b). Khoali (1991)also
investigates dialectal variation and observes that some dialects apply left-branch delinking in
the verb, as in Southern Sotho spoken in the Free State, (4c), compared to fusion in Southern
Sotho spoken in Lesotho, (4a).
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 5
2.3 Downstep in Sotho-Tswana
For OCP violations above the word level, downstep has been reported as one resolution strat-
egy, i.e. the phonetically lowered realization of the second in a sequence of two adjacent
high tones. There exist two distinct accounts in the literature on the Sotho-Tswana languages
which differ in the structural conditions that trigger downstep. They will be introduced in this
section.
2.3.1 The tonotactic approach
The ‘tonotactic approach’ (Creissels 1998; term suggested to us by a reviewer) postulates
an exclusively tonally determined context for the occurrence of downstep in Tswana. More
precisely, a downstep occurs across word boundaries when a word-final high tone is followed
by at least two successive high-toned syllables. ‘This downstep occurs irrespective of the
precise syntactic nature of the boundary between the two words and of their morphological
structure’ (Creissels 1998: 146). Examples are provided in (5) below, where, according to
Creissels (1998: 145), downstep between the subject and the verb takes place in (5a) and is
blocked in the same syntactic environment in (5b) because the tonotactic condition of three
adjacent high tones, of which two follow the word boundary, is not met. The final high tone of
the first word can be either lexical, or derived by High Tone Spread; Creissels gives examples
from the latter (as in (5a, b)).
(5) Tswana (Creissels 1998: 145)
a. Ba-sádí
!
bá-bú-íle tháta.
NP2-woman SC2-speak-PST much
‘The women have spoken a lot.’
. Pódí é-sulé. (*Pódí
!
é-sulé.)
NP9.goat SC9-die.PST
‘The goat has died.’
2.3.2 The phrasal approach
In contrast, Khoali (1991) postulates a ‘phrasal approach’ (our term) to downstep in Southern
Sotho (see also Kunene 1972 for a descriptive pilot study on downstep in Southern Sotho).
Within the framework of Prosodic Domains (Nespor & Vogel 1986), Khoali (1991) states that
in a sequence of two adjacent high tones across word boundaries, a word-initial high tone is
downstepped if both words occur within the same phonological phrase. Khoali (1991) adopts
the indirect reference approach (e.g. Nespor & Vogel 1986; Selkirk 1986,2011; Truckenbrodt
1995) which proposes that phonology is not directly conditioned by syntactic information.
Rather, the interface is mediated by phrasal prosodic constituents, like phonological phrase
(abbreviated as ϕ), which are defined with reference to syntactic constituents but need not
match them. Khoali (1991) provides a phrasing algorithm that derives the phonological
phrasing from the syntax.2
2‘The P-domain includes all constituents on the non-recursive side of a lexical head as well as all
constituents C-commanded by such a head up to the right edge of the last constituent. The head c-
commanded by any constituent on its recursive side is at the right edge of the P-domain and the first
left constituent of the constituent that C-commands a head on the recursive side is the beginning of the
next P-domain. Phonetic modifications in certain syntactic contexts lead one to the belief that Doke’s
“qualificatives” [i.e. modifiers, SZ]C-command the head noun.’ Khoali (1991: 17)
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6Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
According to Khoali’s phrasing algorithm, the subject and a following verb constitute one
phonological phrase in Southern Sotho. An example from Southern Sotho with the phrase
structure made explicit is shown in (6).
(6) Southern Sotho (Khoali 1991: 65, 76)
a. (((Pódí)
ω
(
!
é-rátá)
ω
(moríti)
ω
)
φ
)
IP
NP9. goat SC9-likes shade
‘A goat likes shade.’
b
.(((Pódí)
ω
(
!
é-bátla)
ω
(jwang)
ω
)
φ
)
IP
NP9.goat SC9-want grass
‘The goat wants grass.’
Khoali’s (1991) approach predicts downstep on the high tone of the subject concord in (6a)
andalsoin(6b).
Khoali adduces language-internal and external evidence for the phrasing in (6): Nouns
with an underlying lexical high tone on the stem-initial syllable (- in (6a) and (6b)) are
realized with an HL-pattern (as opposed to an HH-pattern) when they occur final in a phono-
logical phrase. Thus, the High Tone Spread to the final syllable of the subject in (6) marks it
as not phrase-final (Khoali 1991: 70).
In (7), the noun and following possessive concord are separated by a phonological phrase
boundary according to Khoali (1991).
(7) Absence of downstep in Southern Sotho (Khoali 1991: 114, 117)
a. (Di-pódi)φ(tsé-!kgóló hahóló !dí-hlile)φ
NP10-goat POSS10-big very SC10-arrived
‘Very big goats have arrived.’ (Dipódí !tsé ...)
b. (Bathépu)φ(basélé !bá-hlile)φ
NP2-Thembu POSS2. different SC2-arrived
‘Different Thembus have arrived.’ ( *Bathépú basélé ...)
*
Again, such a phrasing is supported by language-internal evidence. In non-phrase-final posi-
tion, High Tone Spread to the word-final syllable would have taken place. As shown in (7),
the final syllables of the head nouns are low toned, which Khoali interprets as an indication
of their phrase-final status.
Interestingly, both approaches predict downstep for the data in (6), yet for different
reasons. While for Khoali (1991) the prosodic structure of two words within the same phono-
logical phrase is decisive for downstep, for Creissels (1998) it is the phonological condition of
three adjacent high tones. Thus, we have two competing accounts of downstep for the Sotho-
Tswana languages by Creissels (1998) and Khoali (1991), and the present study investigates
experimentally which of the two accounts holds for the variety of Tswana under investigation.
The data of the previous studies are based on elicitation (Creissels 1998) and introspection
(Khoali 1991), and they come from different, though closely related languages. It is not clear
whether the reported differences are linked to the languages investigated or if they form
part of dialectal variation. After all, there is evidence that Tswana shares the phrasing of
subject and verb (as in (6) above) and noun and possessive (as in (7a) above) with Southern
Sotho, as will be shown and discussed in Section 4.1. Furthermore, both Creissels and Khoali
explicitly state that they expect dialectal variation across the different varieties of Sotho-
Tswana, including the tone system. The data in Creissels (1998) come from a single speaker
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 7
who is a native of the town Kanye and identifies herself as a speaker of the Sengwaketse
dialect. In Cole’s (1955: xvi) classification, Sengwaketse belongs to the Central division of
the Setswana cluster of dialects. Khoali’s work investigates the variety of Southern Sotho
spoken in Qacha’s Nek in Lesotho and the Maluti area of South Africa.
The current study tests both approaches empirically with speakers of Tswana spoken
around Vryburg in the North-West province in South Africa. Vryburg is reported to host
dialects of the Southern division of Tswana (Cole 1955: xvi). Geographically the three vari-
eties of Sotho-Tswana discussed in this article are thus distributed across an extended area
in Southern Africa. By running a production study obtaining acoustic data from several
speakers, the current study thus presents the first instrumental approach to the occurrence
of downstep in Tswana (as spoken in Vryburg).
2.4 Predictions and hypotheses
In order to test whether the ‘tonotactic’ or the ‘phrasal’ approach accounts for downstep pat-
terns in Tswana, we constructed experimental stimuli that systematically take the predictions
of the tonotactic and phrasal approaches into account. In particular, two syntactic structures
which differ in phonological phrasing, namely subject–verb sequences and noun–possessive
sequences are tested with two different tonal contexts. We follow a 2 ×2 design with tonal
context (TONE) and syntactic structure/phonological phrasing (PHRASING) as the two factors,
resulting in four contexts as shown in (8) below. As a structural prerequisite, the tonotac-
tic approach requires three adjacent high tones on the surface that are divided such that a
word boundary occurs between the first and the second high tone. The phrasal approach,
on the other hand, requires at least two adjacent high tones and a word boundary between
them. Crucially, for downstep to occur, the two words must belong to the same phonological
phrase.
(8) SYNTACTIC
STRUCTURE
PHONOLOGICAL
STRUCTURE
TONOTACTIC
APPROACH
PREDICTION
PHRASAL
APPROACH
PREDICTION
a. N SC-V... ((... σ́H1)ω(σ́H2 σ́H3 ...)ω...)φσ
σ́!σ ́
σ́ ...
σ
́
́
!σ ́
σ́ ...
b. N SC-ASP-V ((... σ́H1)ω(σ́H2 σ σ́ ...)ω)φ
σ ́ σ ́
σ...
σ
́
́
!σ ́
σ...
c. N POSS N SC-V... ((... σ́H1)ω)φ((σ́H2 σ́H3 ...)ω...)φ
σ ́ !σ ́
σ́ ...
σ
́ σ́
́ σ́
σ́ ...
d. N POSS N SC-V... ((... σ́H1)ω)φ((σ́H2 σ...)ω...)φ
σ
́ σ́
́ σ́
σ...
σ ́ σ ́
σ...
The two approaches converge in their predictions for contexts (8a) and (8d). In (8a), a subject
noun (N) with a final high tone (H1) is followed by a lexically high-toned subject concord
(SC) (H2) which itself is followed by a lexically high-toned verb (V) (H3), as in (5a) above.
Both approaches predict downstep to occur before the subject concord, though for different
reasons. In (8d), a head noun (N) with a final high tone (H1) is followed by a high-toned pos-
sessive concord marker (POSS) (H2) which itself is followed by a low-toned noun (N). Both
approaches predict downstep not to occur before the possessive concord, again for different
reasons.
The two approaches make different predictions for contexts (8b) and (8c) since these
differ in their structural conditions, i.e. in tonal structure and phonological phrasing. In (8b),
a subject noun (N) with a final high tone (H1) is followed by a lexical high-toned subject
concord (SC) (H2) which itself is followed by a low-toned aspect marker (ASP). In (8c),
three adjacent high tones occur across a word boundary in a possessive construction with a
phonological phrase break between the noun and its possessor.
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8Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
The tonotactic approach (Creissels 1998) predicts downstep to occur in (8c) since three
adjacent high tones occur across a word boundary but not in (8b) and (8d) since only two high
tones are adjacent across a word boundary. It thus predicts contexts (8a) and (8c) to pattern
together (downstep) vis-à-vis contexts (8b) and (8d) (no downstep).
The phrasal approach (Khoali 1991) predicts downstep in contexts (8a) and (8b) due to
their parallel phrasal structure. Contexts (8c) and (8d), in contrast, show an intervening phrase
boundary induced to the left of a nominal modifier (POSS N) that blocks the application of
downstep. It thus predicts contexts (8a) and (8b) to pattern together (downstep) vis-à-vis
contexts (8c) and (8d) (no downstep).
3. Production study
3.1 Method
3.1.1 Target sentences
In order to test the predictions outlined in (8), the production experiment followed a 2 ×2
design, such that two surface tonal conditions appeared in two boundary conditions. The
tonal conditions had two adjacent high tones across word boundaries and differed in the third
tone, either (i) H)ωω
(HH, or (ii) H)ωω
(HL. The boundary conditions at the ω-boundary
distinguished between the absence and presence of a ϕ-phrase boundary: H)ω,andH)
ω)ϕ,
respectively.
For each of the contexts A, B, C, and D (corresponding to (8a–d), four different sentences
were constructed. Examples are given in (9). A full list can be found in the appendix.3The
total set of test sentences comprised three repetitions of those 16 sentences.
(9) Illustration of contexts A, B, C, D
a. Ba-rwá bá-thúsá ba-lemi.
NP2-son SC2-help NP2-farmer
‘The sons help the farmers.’
b. Ba-ńná bá-a-húma.
NP2-man SC2-ASP-become.rich
‘The men are becoming rich.’
c. Di-pitsé tsá-gá-Mó-thibi dí-pêdí.
NP10-horse POSS10-LOC-NP1-NAME SC10-two
‘Mothibi has two horses.’ (lit.: ‘The horses of Mothibi are two.’)
d. Di-tsêb tsá-kgômó dí-di-kgólo.
NP10-ear POSS10-cow SC10-AGR10-big
‘The ears of the cow are big.’
ế
3Here and in the Tswana data in the appendix the following needs to be noted: Nasals can be syllabic
in Sotho-Tswana and carry tone, as in (9b), for example. Circumflex on <o> and <e>, as in examples
(9c, d), indicate a difference in vowel quality concerning differences in vowel height, i.e. vowels with a
circumflex are lower than the ones without.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 9
Although considerable care was taken in the construction of the stimuli, a number of
asymmetries emerged at the locus of interest (final syllable of the noun (H1) and first syl-
lable of the following word (H2)). These are listed here: (i) The stimuli vary in the number
of syllables that precede the locus of interest in contexts A, B and C between one and three.
(ii) In contexts A and B, a voiced obstruent intervenes in the locus of interest, whereas it
is a voiceless obstruent in contexts C and D. (iii) There are lexical high tones and derived
high tones in the locus of interest (on the verb in context A, on the noun in context B).
Remember that this should not make a difference; see example (6) above, for instance, for
a case of a derived high tone that causes downstep. (iv) The number of low-toned sylla-
bles following H2 in context D varies between one and two, and shows even a syllabic
nasal in one case. (v) In contexts B, C and D, there are obstruents before H1, whereas it
is sonorants in context A. Despite these asymmetries, we believe that none of them affect the
presence or absence of downstep. Some of these factors may affect the acoustic analysis of
downstep since microprosodic influences due to different types of segments show up in f0.
However, this was taken care of by applying different types of f0 analyses (see Section 3.3.1
below).
3.1.2 Recording procedure and participants
The 48 sentences (4 contexts ×4 sentences ×3 repetitions) were presented in pseudo-
randomized order using presentation software, interspersed with a small number of fillers
showing a similar syntactic structure. Stimuli were presented in Tswana only, using Tswana
orthography which does not mark tone. Care was taken that the same contexts did not occur
twice after each other. Participants were given the possibility to read through the sentences
first to familiarize themselves with the sentences. They were then asked to read out the sen-
tences from the screen one-by-one. There was a short break after one third of the full set of
stimuli.
Recordings were done in people’s homes in Vryburg and Huhudi, North-West Province,
South Africa. An M-audio microtrack II recording device was used (sampling rate 44.1 kHz)
together with a head-mounted microphone. Care was taken to minimize background noise.
Data were transferred to a computer hard drive for further analysis.
Twelve speakers (five male and seven female, aged between 15 years and about 50 years)
took part in the study. Speakers whose speech was considered representative for the area by
the local pastor were invited by him to take part in the research voluntarily. According to Cole
(1955: xvi), the variety of Tswana spoken in this region belongs to the Southern division of
Tswana. In total, 576 sentences were recorded (4 contexts ×4 sentences ×3 repetitions ×
12 speakers).
3.2 Qualitative analysis
Of the data collected, 530 sentences were annotated based on auditory impression (46 sen-
tences had to be discarded due to disfluencies or mispronunciations). The question asked
during annotation was if from the two high-toned syllables under consideration, the second
syllable is perceived as downstepped. Both authors of the study listened to the sound files
of all speakers in all conditions and transcribed each token according to this question. The
transcription was first done independently of each other and was based solely on auditory
impression. Information on actual fundamental frequency (f0), e.g. by means of a pitch track,
was not taken into consideration. Both authors are phonetically-trained and have experience
with African tone languages.
Each target sentence thus received two judgments concerning the occurrence of down-
step, one from each labeller. The inter-annotator reliability, i.e. the agreement between the
two judgments across the whole data set, was calculated after this initial round of annotation
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10 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Table 1 Count of number of disagreements per speaker.
Speaker 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 Total
Count 64511111551765682
Table 2 Auditory impression per speaker and context, giving the number of
downstep/no downstep/unresolved disagreement.
Speaker Context A Context B Context C Context D
01 10/1/1 12/0/0 0/12/0 0/10/0
02 8/1/1 11/0/0 1/8/0 0/5/0
03 7/3/2 12/0/0 3/9/0 3/7/0
04 5/7/0 10/2/0 0/11/1 0/12/0
05 0/12/0 8/4/0 1/10/0 0/11/0
06 5/5/1 11/1/0 2/10/0 0/11/0
07 0/9/1 12/0/0 0/9/0 0/8/0
08 12/0/0 11/1/0 0/12/0 0/12/0
09 2/8/1 11/0/0 0/11/0 0/9/0
10 7/3/0 12/0/0 0/10/0 0/9/0
11 8/3/1 12/0/0 0/11/0 0/11/0
12 7/2/2 9/0/1 0/9/1 0/12/0
using Cohen’s kappa (weights: unweighted). The resulting κ=0.683 (z=16.1, p=0) shows
substantial agreement (see Landis & Koch 1977 for the interpretation of kappa). The total
agreement was 84.3%.
There were 82 cases of disagreement in the first round of annotation (i.e. 15.7%). As we
had a closer look into their distribution, we will briefly comment on them here. Table 1shows
the disagreements per speakers.
The number of disagreements also differed across the different contexts (A =30, B =25,
C=11, D =16). Presumably, segmental characteristics might have contributed to the dis-
agreement. In 36 cases, disagreement occurred when the vowels of the two high tones in
question differed in vowel quality. In this case, the vowel of H1 was always a front high or
mid vowel (/i/or/e/) and the vowel of H2 was the low, back vowel /a/, as in the sentences
A4, B3, B4, C1, and D4 (see Appendix). Vowel-intrinsic pitch is lower in low vowels (e.g.
Whalen & Levitt 1995). In 14 cases, the vowel in H2 was preceded by the affricate /ts/which
was realized as an ejective, leading to clearly perceivable coarticulated laryngealization on
the vowel. We will not pursue this further though, given that speaker-specific and segmental
influences on tone perception lie outside the scope of the present paper and agreement could
be reached in nearly all cases after discussion.
Table 2lists the reported occurrence of downstep, no downstep, and unresolved disagree-
ments between the two annotators in the different contexts per speaker.
There is a clear pattern that emerges across all speakers, namely that downstep occurs
in context B but not in context C or context D. In context A, we find speaker-specific vari-
ation since a clear pattern of downstep is not perceived in all speakers. Speakers 04, 05,
06, 07, and 09 are not perceived to consistently produce downstep. We take up the speaker-
specific variation in Section 3.3.2 below. The quantitative analysis will be discussed in the
next section.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 11
3.3 Quantitative analysis
3.3.1 Data analysis
The main acoustic correlate of tone is fundamental frequency (f0) (see Myers 1998), which
can only be realized on voiced segments. In order to guarantee comparability across all stim-
ulus items, the vowels of the high-toned syllables were delineated and analysed for their f0,
following segmentation criteria in Turk, Nakai & Sugahara (2006), except for double vowels
which we divided by half of their total duration. For every sentence, the vowels carrying the
noun-final high tone and the following word-initial high tone were the target vowels used for
analysis.
Studies on the acoustic realization of a single high tone in the closely related Bantu
language Northern Sotho have shown that fundamental frequency starts rising on the tone-
bearing syllable but the f0 peak is only reached later (Zerbian & Barnard 2009). Its exact
location varies according to a number of factors: It is reached earlier in syllables containing
a voiceless onset than in syllables with a sonorant onset, it occurs earlier in utterance-initial
onsetless syllables, and its exact location is speaker-dependent. Frequently, however, the f0
peak is only found between two or three syllables away, counting from the tone-bearing syl-
lable. This behaviour has been described as High Tone Spread in the literature, and occurs
when no low tone target follows the high-toned syllable.
Peak spread into the adjacent syllable as in High Tone Spread is not expected to occur in
the present data as the second syllable is associated with a lexical high tone and has thus its
own tonal target. We thus expect the tonal target to be realized locally.
It remains an open question where to measure the acoustic correlate of the tone of a
syllable in such a case. In the following we motivate our choice. Myers (1998,1999) used
local f0 maxima in his study on the alignment and scaling of high tones in Chichewa. Zerbian
& Barnard (2009,2010) displayed time-normalized pitch contours across relevant syllables
in their study on Northern Sotho and used the average f0 of a vowel for the statistical analysis.
For the exposition of our acoustic results, we compared the three measures in (10), based on
the respective vowels’ f0 average.
(10) Measures for comparing the tone of the final vowel of the noun (H1) to the initial vowel
of the following word (H2)
a. Mean f0 of H1 to mean f0 of H2
b. Mean f0 of central 50% of H1 to mean f0 of central 50% of H2
c. Mean f0 of final third of H1 to mean f0 of final third of H2
Both the local f0 maximum (Myers 1998) and the mean f0 over a vowel (measure (10a),
Zerbian & Barnard 2009,2010) are susceptible to microprosodic disturbances induced by
segments and/or tones (Lehiste & Peterson 1961, Hombert, Ohala & Ewan 1979). While the
latter is controlled for in the study and at least kept constant within contexts, the former
could not be fully controlled due to restrictions posed by the language itself. For instance,
there are few subject concords in Tswana which start with a sonorant. It was therefore
unavoidable that we use subject concords starting with a voiced plosive which is known
to lower the f0 slightly (Hombert et al. 1979). Similarly, in the possessive construction
some concords start with voiceless plosives which raise the f0 slightly (Lehiste & Peterson
1961).
In measure (10b), the microprosodic influences by preceding and/or following segments
and tones are cut off by using the mean f0 of only the central 50% of the vowel. However,
it is known since Myers’ (1999) study that the pitch peak of a high-toned syllable in Bantu
can be reached late in the syllable or even only in the following syllable. Zerbian & Barnard
(2009) showed that this holds if the syllable carrying the high tone has a sonorant onset.
Thus, using only the central 50% for analysis might leave out the actual pitch target from
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12 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Table 3 Comparison of three phonetic measures for phonological tone in Hz.
Overall f0 mean f0 mean last third f0 mean mid-50%
Context H1 H2 H1 H2 H1 H2
A 185.0 176.5 186.6 171.7 185.6 176.1
B 181.5 164.3 179.9 160.6 181.9 163.7
C 174.5 176.0 171.7 174.3 174.2 176.0
D 178.5 182.0 175.9 182.2 178.2 182.0
Std.dev. mean Std.dev. last third Std.dev. mid-50%
Context H1 H2 H1 H2 H1 H2
A 53.9 50.2 54.1 48.9 54.1 50.0
B 52.6 45.4 52.4 45.6 52.6 45.0
C 47.7 47.5 46.4 47.4 47.6 47.2
D 48.6 47.8 47.0 49.0 48.2 47.7
analysis. This would speak in favour of measure (10c), which considers the f0 only in the
last third of the vowel, thereby cutting off microprosodic influences of a preceding segment
but retaining a possible pitch target towards the end of the syllable. However, the segment
boundary and thus duration of the vowels in context B (-a-...) could not be determined
reliably. Additionally, the long vowel was often accompanied with creaky voice (and hence
undefined f0 values) halfway through the vowel. These facts would not affect measure (10b),
which looks at the mean f0 of the central 50% around the mid of the vowel.
For the quantitative analysis items were excluded which contained hesitations, mis-
pronunciations, or pauses affecting the syllables under consideration (n =59), and/or a
considerable amount of creaky voice (n =13) which does not allow f0 measures. Hence,
the quantitative analysis was based on 517 cases. A comparison of the means and standard
deviations of the three measures in (10) shows that the differences between the measures are
not substantial (see Table 3).
Given that the differences between the measures are not substantial, the mean of the mid-
50% of the tone-bearing vowel is used as acoustic reference because it cuts off microprosodic
influences. The further analysis will be based on this measure.
As a reviewer suggested, an alternative method of measuring f0 contours is to fit them
to polynomial curves based on f0 values at landmarks in the contour, such as onset of rise,
peak, plateau, or offset of fall (e.g. Andruski & Castello 2004). Given that Tswana is a tone
language with only two level tones and little tonal density, the mentioned landmarks are
not necessarily local or salient. Figures 1and 3below illustrate the problem of defining
suitable landmarks for tones in the current study. Whereas f0 maximum seems an appropriate
landmark of the tonal target for H1 in context A, in context C, the f0 maximum of H1 clearly
shows undesirable but unavoidable microprosodic influences of the affricate. We thus decided
against such a modelling approach also because the main focus of the current study is the
occurrence of phonological downstep, not the detailed phonetic modelling of the contour.
Moreover, our acoustic measures are to be seen in conjunction with the auditory transcription
reported in the previous section.
The presence or absence of downstep is established through a comparison between the
f0 of H1 and H2 (see Snider 1998,2007 for downstep in Bimoba and Chumburung, and
Dolphyne 1994, Genzel & Kügler 2011 for downstep in Akan). Downstep occurs when H2
is systematically lower than H1.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 13
Table 4 Estimation of downstep realization between H1 and H2 for each speaker in context A.
Speaker Gender Age H1 (Hz) H2 (Hz) H1–H2 difference Statistics
01 F 50 228 194 ∗∗∗ t=7.8, df =11, p< .001
02 M 20 99 94 ∗∗ t=4.1, df =9, p<.01
03 F 20 208 199 ∗∗∗ t=6.3, df =11, p< .001
04 M 30 145 143 n.s. t=1.6, df =11, p=.1371
05 M 17 136 141 ∗∗ t=−3.8, df =11, p<.01
06 F 15 242 233 n.s. t=2.2, df =10, p=.05337
07 M 45 126 130 ∗∗ t=−3.9, df =9, p<.01
08 M 35 126 110 ∗∗∗ t=8.5, df =11, p< .001
09 F 20 225 221 n.s. t=1.2, df =10, p=.2740
10 F 50 258 242 ∗∗∗ t=6.1, df =9, p< .001
11 F 20 244 230 t=2.4, df =11, p<.05
12 F 50 178 169 t=3.0, df =10, p<.05
Significance levels: .05, ∗∗.01, ∗∗∗ .001
3.3.2 Inter-speaker variability
In context A, both the tonotactic and the phrasal approach predict downstep between the final
high tone of the first word (H1) and the first high tone of the second word (H2). We thus
expected to find the comparison between H1 and H2 to be significantly different across all
speakers, which means that downstep is realized. Surprisingly, we found considerable inter-
speaker variability in this context (only), which we report on in this section. A series of paired
samples t-tests were run examining for each speaker whether H1 and H2 were significantly
downstepped in context A. Seven out of 12 speakers realized a significantly downstepped
H2 (see Table 4). One speaker (speaker 06) very closely approached the significance level
of p< .05. The results from auditory impression mirror the statistical results: There is an
equal number of perceived downsteps and non-downsteps in context A, furthermore there
was a high number of disagreements in this context. For two speakers (speakers 04 and 09)
the difference between H1 and H2 in context A is not significant, which we conclude to be
an indication that downstep was not realized. This is confirmed by the auditory impression
as these speakers realize more contours that were perceived as non-downstepped than as
downstepped. Two other speakers (speakers 05 and 07) show a significant effect, though in
the other direction (indicated by negative t-values). Again, this result is mirrored in the results
from auditory impression because these two speakers are not perceived as realizing downstep
at all.
The speakers who did not produce downstep in context A pattern with the other speakers
in contexts B, C, and D though as will be evident later. There is no comparable inter-speaker
variation in contexts B, C, and D. This means that the speakers do produce downstep in
context B consistently, as well as they did produce no downstep in contexts C and D. The
reason for the high inter-speaker variability in context A remains unclear, neither age nor
gender seems to be decisive.
3.3.3 Results
This section presents the results of the analysis of the mean f0 in the central 50% of the high-
toned vowels H1 and H2. It starts out with representative illustrations, followed by descriptive
statistics before it turns to testing the hypotheses inferentially. Figures 14exemplify the
realization of each context. In each figure, the oscillogram, the spectrogram, the pitch track,
orthographic words and target vowels are shown.
The pitch track in Figure 1shows that the lexical high tone H1 is realized at a higher
pitch (mean of mid-50%: 235 Hz) than the lexical high tone H2 (179 Hz).
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14 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Figure 1 Context A, sentence 2 from speaker 01 (‘The children fear the White people’).
Figure 2 Context B, sentence 2 from speaker 01 (‘The children are calling’).
Figure 3 Context C, sentence 3 from speaker 01 (‘Your dog has eaten my food’).
The example in Figure 2represents context B. Similar to Figure 1, the lexical high tone
H1 is realized at a higher pitch (mean of mid-50%: 227 Hz) than the lexical high tone H2
(183 Hz), which in turn is realized higher than the following low-toned a.
The example in Figure 3represents context C. We see in the pitch track that both lexical
high tones H1 (mean of mid-50%: 189 Hz) and H2 (194 Hz) are realized at roughly equal
pitch heights.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 15
Figure 4 Context D, sentence 1 from speaker 01 (‘The ears of the cow are large’).
160
170
180
190
Context A
F0 (Hz)
H1 H2
n=133 n=133
160
170
180
190
Context B
H1 H2
n=141 n=141
160
170
180
190
Context C
H1 H2
n=125 n=125
160
170
180
190
Context D
H1 H2
n=118 n=118
Figure 5 Averaged f0 means measured in the central 50% of the vowels on H1 and H2 across all speakers split by contexts.
The example in Figure 4represents context D. Tone H2 (mean of mid-50%: 215 Hz) is
clearly realized with a higher pitch than H1 (193 Hz) at a high level.
Turning to descriptive statistics, Figure 5shows the mean values of H1 and H2 in the
mid-50% of the vowels respectively in the four contexts, averaged across all twelve speakers
(comprising male and female). The black circles give the average mean f0, the blue lines the
95% confidence interval.
Figure 5shows that, on average, there is a considerable drop in f0 from H1 to H2 in con-
text A and B whereas f0 stays level or rises slightly in context C and D. The exact numerical
values for the means together with the standard deviations are given in Table 3above, right-
most two columns.4Figure 5suggests that downstep takes place in contexts A and B but not
in C and D.
4The question was raised whether the downstep is a depressor effect due to the voiced plosive [b]which
precedes all H2s in context A and B (but not in context C). Voiced plosives are known to lower the f0 of
a following sonorant (House & Fairbanks 1953). However, this microprosodic effect is in the region of
at most 7 Hz, thus considerably smaller than the difference of on average 14–21 Hz observed in our data.
In the Southern African languages of the Nguni and Shona group, the pitch lowering effect of voiced
obstruents has developed into clear depressor effects on the tone in the region of 40 Hz (Traill, Khumalo
& Fridjhon 1987). No depressor consonants have been reported for Sotho-Tswana.
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16 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Table 5 Report of the linear mixed-effects model specified in the text with the f0 difference between H1 and
H2 in Hz as dependent variable.
Coefficients SE t-value Significant at p<.05
(Intercept) 9.0396 3.9692 2.277
Phrasing=two phrases 16.6214 3.0219 5.500
Tones=two tones 3.6830 1.5641 2.355
Interaction 5.4760 0.7444 7.356
−5 0 5 10 15 20
Phrasing
mean F0 downstep (Hz)
A
B
D
C
3 H tones
2 H tones
1 Phrase 2 Phrases
Figure 6 Interaction plot of fixed factors PHRASING and TONES, illustrating the mean f0 difference between H1 and H2 in Hz as an
indicator of downstep as dependent variable. The negative amount of downstep in the two-phrases condition illustrates no
downstep with a slight increase of f0 between the two high tones.
For the statistical analysis, we fit a multilevel model (Bates et al. 2015) using crossed
random factors SPEAKER and ITEM applying random intercepts and slopes for SPEAKER.
PHRASING (with two levels ‘one phrase’/‘two phrases’) and TONES (with two levels ‘two high
tones’/‘three high tones’) were used as fixed factors. The analysis relied on the difference in
f0 between H1 and H2 in Hz as a dependent variable. Contrast-coding was applied with level
‘one phrase’ as baseline of the factor PHRASING, and level ‘three high tones’ as baseline of
the factor TONES. Model comparisons for the random effect structure was applied. Backward
modelling (Barr et al. 2013) of random slopes for SPEAKER was applied, and likelihood ratio
tests were run to evaluate the models. The basis for removing factors was set at a p-value of
the likelihood ratio test of p< .05 and lower AIC values. However, the maximal model turned
out to be the best fit model. This model assumes that differences exist for each speaker’s
individual realization of the items.
As shown in Table 5, we find a significant effect for the factors PHRASING and TONES as
well as a significant interaction. From the interaction plot in Figure 6it becomes clear that
the factor PHRASING is significant because both contexts A and B differ from contexts C and
D in that they show a difference in f0 between H1 and H2 that amounts to 18 Hz on average
indicating that the two high tones are downstepped. The mean f0 difference between H1 and
H2 in Hz, i.e. downstep, in context A is smaller than in context B due to two facts: First, the
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 17
following tone differs, which is H in context A and L in context B. Second, in context A only
eight of the twelve speakers realized a difference in f0 between H1 and H2. Four speakers
realize no difference of f0 between the two vowels which results in an overall lower mean
difference. Contexts C and D show an average f0 difference between H1 and H2 of 1.8 to
3.8 Hz indicating that the two adjacent high tones are not downstepped. The fact that the
factor TONES becomes significant is presumably due to the large difference between contexts
A and B. Relevant for interpretation is the significant interaction (see Figure 6), which clearly
shows that downstep is realized in contexts A and B, and not in contexts C and D.
4Discussion
The study presented is one of the few that addresses OCP violations above the word level,
and furthermore to our knowledge the first study to provide acoustic data on downstep in a
Bantu language. The acoustic data confirm the results reached at by auditory impression. In
addition to the categorical difference, they reveal a systematic difference in the magnitude of
downstep depending on tonal context. We interpret downstep thus as a repair strategy to OCP
violations above the word level in Tswana, similar to Kishambaa, a Bantu language spoken
in Tanzania (Odden 1982,1986), and the Zambian Bantu language Namwanga (Bickmore
2000: 302).
Our qualitative and quantitative analyses thus confirm for a Southern division variety of
Tswana what has been claimed for closely related Southern Sotho previously, namely that in
the realization of two adjacent high tones across word boundaries the occurrence of downstep
depends on the syntactic structure, and in turn on the prosodic structure. More precisely,
downstep takes place between adjacent high tones belonging to a subject and a verb, which
are mapped into one phonological phrase, but not between high tones belonging to a noun
and a following modifier, which are mapped into two distinct phonological phrases. Our data
thus provide empirical evidence that from the two competing approaches to downstep in the
Sotho-Tswana languages which we presented in Section 2.3 the phrasal approach makes the
correct predictions for the variety of Tswana under investigation.
This section first discusses the phrase-based analysis put forward by Khoali (1991)
for downstep in Southern Sotho before it discusses predictions for an additional syntactic
context.
4.1 Phrase-based analysis for downstep
The four contexts investigated in the current study differ in their syntactic structure, and
hence in the phonological constituency derived from it (Nespor & Vogel 1986): Following
Khoali (1991), in this language, subject and verb form one phonological phrase whereas
head noun and modifier form two separate phonological phrases (for the concrete phrasing
algorithm see footnote 2). Downstep can then be reformulated as a phonological rule which
takes place if the relevant tonal context is met within a phonological phrase (e.g. between
subject and verb) but crucially not across phonological phrase boundaries (e.g. nominal head
and modifier).
The phrasing put forward here in which the subject constitutes one phonological phrase
with the verb is not the default pattern cross-linguistically and thus needs further motivation.
It finds its parallels in other Bantu languages (e.g. Kanerva 1990 for Chichewa; Jokweni 1995
for Xhosa; Cheng & Downing 2007,2009 for Zulu; Zerbian 2007 for Northern Sotho). The
phrasing is supported by a tonal rule in Tswana parallel to the one exemplified for Southern
Sotho in (7): The last syllable of a phonological phrase is exempt as a target for High Tone
Spread in Tswana. The examples in (11) from Tswana show that this is the case in a noun
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18 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
monna ‘man’ followed by a modifier, (11b), but not if this noun is a subject followed by a
verb, (11a).
(11) Tswana (Cole & Mokaila 1962: 7, 83)
a. (Mo-ńná ó-dísá dí-kgômó)φ.
NP1-man SC1-herd NP10-cow
‘The man herds the cattle.’
b. (Mo-ńna)φ(yố-ó-nê-ńg á-tsámaya mố-tselế-ng)φ(ké-rrế)φ.
NP1-man DEM1-SC1-PST-REL SC1-walk LOC-path-LOC COP-1.father
‘The man who was walking along the road is my father.’
5
The postulated intervening phrase boundary between a noun and its modifier is also not the
most common pattern but also finds parallels in other languages, e.g. in the Bantu language
Bàsàá (A43, spoken in Cameroon; Hamlaoui, GjersOe & Makasso 2014). It is furthermore
supported by tonal evidence in Tswana, see (11b).
This generalization concerning the occurrence of downstep in Tswana makes the correct
predictions for the phonetic realization of adjacent high tones in verb–object sequences as
will be shown in the following section.
4.2 Predictions for other syntactic structures
Verb–object sequences constitute a syntactic configuration in which both constituents are
phrased together in a phonological phrase in many Bantu languages (e.g. Kanerva 1990 for
Chichewa, Jokweni 1995 for Xhosa, Zerbian 2007 for Northern Sotho). The prediction is
that, given two adjacent high tones across word boundaries, downstep will occur on the initial
syllable of the object because no phrase boundaries intervene. The example in (12) illustrates
this prediction.
(12) Downstep between verb and object in Tswana
(Ke bítsá !pódi bosígo)φ
1SG call NP9.goat evening
‘I call the goat in the evening.’
Four target sentences with adjacent high tones between verb and object, as in (12), were
recorded from the same speakers (again in three repetitions) in order to empirically test the
prediction concerning the occurrence of downstep. A representative pitch track is given in
Figure 7. The example in Figure 7clearly shows that H2 (mean of mid-50%: 197 Hz) is
downstepped in relation to H1 (228 Hz), as predicted by the phrase-based approach.
A qualitative analysis of this type of sentences (following the procedure detailed in
Section 3.2) revealed the following results: Of the overall 144 recorded sentences (12 speak-
ers ×4 target sentences ×3 repetitions), six had to be excluded due to hesitations. For
the remaining 138 sentences, both annotators agreed on the occurrence of downstep in 129
cases. In two cases, both annotators perceived no downstep, and in seven cases there was
disagreement in the first round of annotations.
The predictions made by the phrase-based approach concerning the occurrence of down-
step in verb–object sequences are thus borne out in the perceptual analysis, and we expect
downstep to occur in other syntactic structures too that meet the respective phonological, i.e.
tonal and phrasal, requirements.
5Note that Cole & Mokaila (1962) do not transcribe downstep in their publication.
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Sequences of high tones across word boundaries in Tswana 19
Figure 7 Context of a verb–object sequence, sentence 1 from speaker 01 (‘I call the goat in the evening’).
5Conclusion
The article started with the discussion of the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP; Leben
1973), a cross-linguistically relevant principle that prohibits adjacent identical elements. For
Sotho-Tswana there is consensus among Khoali (1991) and Mmusi (1992) that these lan-
guages obey the OCP at the word level. The current study has provided the first instrumental
data that show how OCP violations are resolved at the phrase-level: Across words within a
phonological phrase, OCP violations are resolved by downstep in the Tswana variety investi-
gated in this study, whereas across words and across phonological phrases, two adjacent high
tones are realized without downstep.
Acknowledgements
The study has been presented at various conferences. We thank the audiences for helpful comments.
We want to express our thanks to the various (anonymous) reviewers of previous versions of the
manuscript who provided helpful comments, as well as Jonathan Barnes, Andrew Simpson and Oliver
Niebuhr for very constructive feedback. We are grateful to the late Moruti Mascher, Vryburg, for
establishing the contact to the speakers, to all speakers for their participation, to Eric Tabbert, Svenja
Schuermann, and Elisabeth Pieplow-Stagg for assistance in data analysis and to Sabrina Gerth for
discussing statistical issues. This work was funded by the DFG, grant to the Collaborative Research
Centre 632 Information Structure at Potsdam University (projects B9 and D5), and further supported
by DFG grants to the first (ZE 940/3-1) and second author (KU 2323/4-1).
Appendix. Overview of target sentences
Context A (see example (8a) in the text)
‘The sons help the farmers.’
‘The children fear the White people.’
‘The mothers see the uninitiated girls.’
‘The boys are herding the cattle.’
1
Ba-rwá bá-thúsá ba-lemi.
NP
2-son
SC
2-help
NP
2-farmer
2
Ba-ná bá-tshábá Ma-kgóa.
NP
2-child
SC
2-fear
NP
6-white.person
3
B
-mm
ế
bá-b
ba-lé.
NP
2a-mother
SC
2-see
NP
2-girl
4
Ba-símané
bá-dísá dí-kgomó.
NP
2-boy
SC
2-herd
NP
2-cow
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20 Sabine Zerbian & Frank Kügler
Context B (see example (8b) in the text)
1
Ba-ńná bá-a-húma.
‘The men are becoming rich.’
NP
2-man
SC
2-
ASP
-become.rich
2
Ba-ná bá-a-bítsa.
‘The children are calling. ’
NP
2-child
SC
2-
ASP
-call
3
Ba-sádí bá-a-róka.
‘The women are sewing.’
NP
2-woman
SC
2-
ASP
-sew
4
Ba-rútí bá-a-rútá.
‘The teachers are teaching.’
NP
2-teacher
SC
2-
ASP
-teach
Context C (see example (8c) in the text)
1
Di-pitsé tsá-gá-Mó-thibi dí-pêdí.
‘The horses of Mothibi are two.’
NP
10-horse
POSS
10-
LOC
-
NP
1-
NAME
SC
10-two
2
Me-raká
‘The cattleposts of my fathers are not far.’
-gá-b
-rr
ế
ga-é-kgákála.
NP
4-cattlepost
POSS
4-
LOC
-
NP
2a-father
NEG
-
SC
4-far
3
Ntšá yá -gágó é-jél
ế
‘Your dog has eaten my food.’
di-j
tsá-mé.
NP
9.dog
POSS
-2
SG
SC
9-eat.
PST
NP
8-food
POSS
8-1
SG
4
Di-nkú
‘The sheep of the chief are many.’
tsá-kg
ń
dí-di- tsi.
NP
10-sheep
POSS
10-chief
SC
10-
AGR
10-many
Context D (see example (8d) in the text)
1
Di-tsêbế tsá-kgômó
‘The ears of the cow are big.’
dí-di-kgólo.
NP
10-ear
POSS
10-cow
SC
10-
AGR
10-big
2
Di-ntšá
‘The dogs of the cripple are ugly.’
dí-ma-šw
ế
.
NP
10-dog
á-seg
ts
POSS
10-cripple
SC
10-
NP
6-ugly
3
Me-lató
‘The faults of the government are big.’
yá-mmús
é-me-gólo.
NP
3-fault
POSS
10-government
SC
3-
AGR
3-big
4
Mo-lwêtsé
‘The patient of the doctor is at home.’
-ngaka ó-mó-gáé.
NP
1-patient
POSS
1-doctor
SC
1-
AGR
1-home
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