Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session




Babole, a Bantu language of Congo, has both voiced and voiceless prenasalized consonants. While the consonants of the voiced series have free distribution as segments, those of the voiceless series occur only stem-initially following a prefix. In the case of unprefixed imperatives, stem-initial voiceless prenasals drop the prenasalization. Adopting the ranked-constraint approach of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993), the paper shows that both the skewed distribution of voiced and voiceless prenasals, and the phenomenon of nasal-dropping follow from the intersection of three constraints. One constraint, ClusterVoi, reflects the grammar's preference for voiced prenasals. A second, ALIGN, insists that prefixes be immediately followed by a syllable, effectively prohibiting underparsed material stem-initially. The third constraint, PARSE, penalizes the underparsing of segments or features (nasality in this case). I propose a ranking for the constraints and show that the quirky behavior of prenasals can be accounted for succinctly by the constraint interaction. The paper thus solves an interesting descriptive problem and provides support for Optimality Theory.

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