Dagara Tongue-Root Vowel Harmony

  • Nerius Kuubezelle University of African Studies
  • George Akanlig-Pare University of Ghana
Keywords: Mabia language, Tongue-root vowel, Autosegmental Theory, Progressive harmony, Regressive harmony


Though tongue-root vowel harmony in many Ghanaian languages has been described, there still remain many others which have received little or no description at all. Dagara, a dialect of Dagaare a Mabia language, is one of such dialects. This paper presents a description of Dagara tongue-root vowel harmony using Autosegmental Theory. The paper reveals that Dagara has bi-directional [ATR] harmony with [+ATR] vowels being the triggers of the harmonic process. In the progressive harmony processes, the [+ATR] feature of stem vowels causes [-ATR] vowels of suffixes to change to harmonize with them; in a regressive harmony process, [+ATR] vowels of the suffixes have dominance over those of stems and cause them to change to harmonize. The paper also shows that [f] is an opaque consonant, and blocks [+ATR] harmony spread from stems to suffix vowels. The opacity effect is however unidirectional as there is no evidence of such restriction in left-to-right harmony. The paper concludes that, there is a strict co-occurrence restriction on vowels of words in Dagara.

Author Biographies

Nerius Kuubezelle, University of African Studies
Nerius Kuubezelle is a Lecturer in the Department African and General Studies in the Faculty of Integrated Development, at University for Development Studies, Wa Campus. He holds an MPhil degree in Linguistics from University of Ghana. His research interests include phonology and language teaching and learning.
George Akanlig-Pare, University of Ghana
George Akanlig-Pare is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, University of Ghana, Legon. His research interests include tonology, tone-morpho-syntax interfaces, sign language linguistics, forensic linguistics, and adult literacy practices. His core area of specialization is the phonetics and phonology of tone, and how this interfaces with the morpho-syntax of Buli, a Gur language spoken in the Upper East Region of Ghana. He has also been researching on this same phenomenon in several other members of the Gur language family. His research focus seeks to emphasize the major role that tone plays in the morphology and syntax of tone languages.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2026-6596