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Domains of H tone spreading and the noun class prefix in Xitsonga

Seunghun J Lee


This article reports results from an investigation of domains of H tone spreading in Xitsonga, a southern Bantu language. High (H) tone spreads into toneless syllables but it spreads only to the first syllable if a nominal root has an H tone. Kisseberth (1994) argues that domain structures created by the Pre-High Projection rule account for the patterns regarding the non-spreading of H tone in Xitsonga. The findings concur with Kisseberth’s analysis of domain sensitive H tone spreading when nouns have one or two toneless syllables before an H-toned syllable. In this paper, Kisseberth’s observation is extended by analysing H tone spreading in nouns with more than two toneless syllables before an H-tone syllable. Results show that H tone spreads only to the noun class prefix, which suggests that the noun class prefix is outside of the prosodic domain formed in nouns. I further propose that the Obligatory Contour Principle functions at the prosodic word level and that the noun class prefix of a noun phrase in Xitsonga is encliticised to a preceding word.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2014, 32(1): 21–34