A Pedagogical Study of Tone Neutralization in Cibemba Phonetics and Phonology

  • A Kasonde
  • M Dunham


The paper discussed the concept of tone in African languages generally and in the Bantu linguistic group in particular from a pedagogical perspective. Using illustrative examples from Cibemba, the major language of Zambia, with an air of extension in DR Congo, in comparison with Germanic and Romance languages, the paper pointed out various theoretical issues surrounding tone. Amongst issues discussed was the need to put tone in context as opposed to approaching tone purely from the perspective of lexical semantics or content. This view of tone generally defined as syllable-based relative pitch contrast effectively and separates segmental units from suprasegmental units in order to satisfy pedagogical needs. For instance, the French text remains recognizable regardless of whether or not accents are omitted, thanks to context. Similarly, the French dictation exercise stands to benefit from using isolated vocabulary words in addition to narratives or passages that put text in context. The issue of tone context also raises the question of definition of phonetics and how it differs from phonology. Last but not least the paper argued that tone patterns represent dialect variations and their evolution to the extent that diachronic and synchronic tests can be administered.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2070-0083
print ISSN: 1994-9057