When two vowels go walking in Bantu: A comparative analysis of vowel hiatus resolution in chiNambya and chiZezuru

  • Maxwell Kadenge


Vowel hiatus is inadmissible in many languages. ChiNambya and chiZezuru rely on coalescence, glide epenthesis, elision, glide formation and secondary articulation to resolve vowel hiatus. This article presents a comparative analysis of three hiatus-avoidance methods, namely, glide formation, secondary articulation and vowel elision in chiNambya and chiZezuru, using Optimality Theory (hereafter OT). These repair strategies operate within nominals and occur in a phonologically conditioned complementary distribution. Two interlinguistic differences are noticeable: (i) when the first vowel (henceforth V1) is /i/ and is preceded by a consonant, chiZezuru deletes V1 regardless of the quality of the preceding consonant because it does not allow palatalised consonants. In contrast, chiNambya, which allows some palatalised consonants, employs secondary articulation with all other consonants except when the preceding consonant is palatal; where V1 is deleted; and (ii) when V1 is /u/ and is preceded by a labial consonant and followed by a labial vowel, chiZezuru employs secondary articulation while chiNambya which does not allow labialised labial consonants followed by labial vowels, employs elision. These interlinguistic differences allow for an OT analysis where a factorial typology accounts for the differences.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2014, 32(1): 55–77

Author Biography

Maxwell Kadenge
Department of Linguistics, School of Literature, Language and Media, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag X3, WITS 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614