Asymmetries in the phonological behaviour of Dagbani place features: Implications for markedness
It has been observed in phonological studies that phonological processes often apply to place features in asymmetrical ways. Certain processes may affect only one of the place features, others may affect all but one place feature. This paper analyses various asymmetrical phonological patterns in Dagbani, a Gur language of Ghana. It shows that while the dorsal place is the target of most processes that lead to the loss of underlying place features, the labial and coronal places are targets of processes that enhance underlying place specifications. Labial-dorsals [kp, ɡb, ŋm] also surface in patterns of neutralisation with dorsals. Evidence from both diachronic and synchronic sound patterns suggest active sound changes in progress with the labial-dorsals being preferred to plain dorsals. The paper discusses the implication of these findings for the understanding of the theory of markedness and questions the widely held view of segmental complexity as a markedness diagnostic.