Consonants affect tonal patterns in several ways in Saxwe, a Kwa language spoken in Benin. In monomorphemic nouns and verbs, a two-way division is seen in the way that an underlying low or high-toned melody is realized, depending on the nature of the consonant involved. In this division, voiceless obstruents and the retroflex coronal stop are always opposed to voiced obstruents, while sonorants vary in their alignment. High-tone spread is iterative and is blocked by voiced obstruents. Low-tone spread is a one-time spread that occurs as either 1) spread of a regular low tone across a voiced obstruent, or 2) partial spread of a downstepped low tone across any voiced consonant resulting in a rising pitch. Voiced obstruents trigger a lowering of register for the immediately following low tone. This process can be recursive. This study concludes that an explanation of the Saxwe tone system necessitates a theoretical framework that both allows the interpretation of register to be relative and provides a mechanism for the register-lowering effect of voiced obstruents in Saxwe.
Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context
edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-453-9 library binding
xi + 337 pages
publication date: 2012
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA