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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Volume 39, Issue 2


Markedness and dominance in the ATR harmony system of Diola-Fogny

Roderic F. Casali
  • Corresponding author
  • Linguistics, Canada Institute of Linguistics, Langley Township, Canada; Trinity Western University, Langley Township, Canada
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Published Online: 2018-11-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2018-0008


Diola-Fogny is a well-known example of a tongue root harmony language with assimilatory dominance of [+ATR] vowels. Less well known, however, are some asymmetries involving the frequency and distribution of [+ATR] and [-ATR] vowels. In addition to being dominant, [+ATR] vowels are subject to restrictions on their occurrence in certain classes of function words and affixes and occur with far lower overall frequency than [-ATR] vowels. In essence, they pattern like a marked sound class. This paper focuses on some implications of these findings for a theoretical topic of interest: markedness relations involving tongue root features. The Diola-Fogny patterns conform quite well to the expectations of a traditional understanding of featural markedness, which equates the dominant value of a feature with the marked one. They are problematic, however, for a widely assumed view of tongue root markedness relations that treats [-ATR] as universally marked in high vowels. Under this view, marked patterning of all [+ATR] vowels (including high [+ATR] [i], [u]) is unexpected. I show that such patterning is intelligible in a framework in which markedness has a representational basis and in which [+ATR] quality is represented by a privative feature [ATR].

Keywords: Diola-Fogny; ATR harmony; [+ATR] dominance; markedness; privative features


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-11-09

Published in Print: 2018-11-06

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Volume 39, Issue 2, Pages 201–239, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2018-0008.

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