South African Journal of African Languages

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Development of a Setswana tonal minimal pair word list as research tool

Gail Jones, Anita van der Merwe, Jeannie van der Linde, Mia le Roux


This study reports on the development of a Setswana tonal minimal pair word list, which could be implemented as research tool in the field of Bantu language linguistics and in speech pathology in South Africa. The development of the list was conducted in four phases. These are described as four separate studies. All involved Setswana L1 participants living in the urban areas of Gauteng. In Study 1, a 45-pair preliminary list was compiled from dictionaries. During Study 2, eleven L1 speakers’ familiarity with each word was determined. Based on these results the list was narrowed down to 20 pairs. Study 3 entailed the validation of pictorial stimuli, which illustrate the target words. Ten different participants took part. Four pairs were not consistently familiar and were removed, resulting in the experimental list of 16 pairs. This list was validated in Study 4 and involved nine typical L1 speakers and five listeners. Word-specific analyses revealed that some words had a negative impact on the results. Six pairs were removed. A final list of 10 pairs rendered results more aligned to the expectation of typical speakers and listeners. Validation should continue to determine applicability in populations from exclusively rural or urban areas.
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