Vowel hiatus resolution in ciNsenga: An Optimality Theory analysis

  • Silvester Ron Simango
  • Maxwell Kadenge


This article examines patterns of vowel hiatus resolution in ciNsenga, using Optimality Theory (OT). We present a formal analysis of the morphosyntatic and phonological contexts in which potential vowel hiatus occurs and the strategies that are utilised to resolve it. In this language, hiatus resolution is a function of whether V2 is an affix vowel, a nominal root initial vowel or a verbal stem initial vowel. The language has a complete ban on vowel hiatus in nominals. In verbs, it is prohibited when V2 is an affix vowel but is allowed when V2 is a verb stem-initial vowel. Thus, when V2 is a prefix or nominal stem-initial glide formation, secondary articulation and vowel elision are triggered to resolve hiatus. The main challenge is to account for the fact that in this language vowel hiatus is tolerated in one domain and is banned in another. Drawing on insights from OT we argue that, in ciNsenga, hiatus resolution is blocked when V2 is verb stem-initial because the morphoprosodic alignment constraint ALIGN (ROOTVERB, L,σ,L) outranks ONSET in the verbal domain.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2014, 32(1): 79–96

Author Biographies

Silvester Ron Simango
Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
Maxwell Kadenge
Department of Linguistics, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag X3, WITS 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614