Research Article

Civili tones inventory revisited: The implication of hiatus repair processes

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 41, issue 1, 2021 , pages: 61–68
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2021.1902135
Author(s): Hugues Steve Ndinga-Koumba-Binza, South Africa


Civili, a Bantu language spoken in central Africa, is said to be a tone language with four tones: low, high, rising and falling. This article challenges the current inventory of tones for Civili. Only two ‘tonemes’ are found in the language, because the sole tonal minimal pairs possible are high versus low tones. This study argues that rising and falling tones emanate from phonological processes, such as hiatus repair of phonological processes, i.e. semivocalisation and consonantalisation, vowel deletion, and compensatory vowel lengthening. The article concludes that at the autosegmental level, tones identified as rising and falling are formed as an implication of hiatus repair strategies at the segmental level. This study contributes to the debate in asserting the exact number of tones in the studied language.

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