Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

James S. Roberts


This thesis provides an analysis of the phonology of Asu, a small and endangered Nupoid language of Nigeria. The corpus of data used for the analysis comes from more than two hours of recordings of a word list for the language, provided to me by the historian and anthropologist Constanze Weise.

The Asu language recognizes only two syllable structures, CV and CGV. The only syllables without onsets are formed by four noun class prefixes [è-,ē-, à-,ā-], that create Asu nouns without onsets word-initially.

The phonemic inventory of consonants consists of seven pairs of corresponding voiced-voiceless obstruents at the labial, alveolar, labial-velar and velar points of articulation. In addition, there are six voiced sonorants. Front vowels cause palatalized allophones of many of the non-labial consonants.

Asu has five oral phonemic vowels [i,e,a,o,u], and three nasal vowels [ã,ĩ,ũ]. There is a co-occurrence restriction on which vowels can occur in CV.CV roots. Those roots do not contain the expected random combination of vowels. The vowel harmony prevents front and back vowels from being present in the same root.

There are three phonemic tones H, M, L. Two surface contours [HL] and [LH] are analyzed to be allophonic surface representations rather than phonemes.

The acoustic section covers VOT of voiced and voiceless stops. It describes the acoustic difference between the phoneme /j/ and an allophonic [ʲ] which surfaces in palatalized allophones. The allophonic difference in final vowel duration is documented. An allophonic short pre-tap vowel is described and pitch level differences between H, M, L are documented.

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