Although Afro-asiatic tone languages typically do not exhibit overt stress in the form of higher pitch or greater intensity, this paper will consider the evidence for a metrical system in Kera (an Eastern Chadic tone language spoken in southern Chad and parts of Cameroon, with 50,000 speakers). Iambic feet are constructed over a combination of light and heavy syllables with an obligatory heavy syllable for the head of the foot. Deletion and lengthening of vowels takes place as necessary to form iambic feet which are light-heavy or heavy. Inputs of the form /CVCV/ in phrase-medial position undergo deletion of the final vowel to form a monosyllabic, heavy foot (CVC). But in phrase final position, the second vowel undergoes iambic lengthening, giving (CVCV:). Other evidence for the iambic nature of Kera comes from vowel allophony, vowel harmony and tone spreading. These will be demonstrated with acoustic measurements. After a brief survey of the role of weight and iambicity in other Chadic languages, we will conclude that the foot structure is a central part of Kera phonology and that other Afro-asiatic languages may well provide similar insights into the interaction of metrical systems with tone, vowel quality, duration and syllable structure.
Selected Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
edited by Doris L. Payne and Jaime Peña
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