An exploration into Penultimate and Final Lengthening in Tswana (Southern Bantu)

Fabian Schubö, Ian Bekker, Rigardt Pretorius, Valencia Wagner, Sabine Zerbian


This study investigates the segmental lengthening patterns resulting from prosodic boundaries in Tswana, a Southern Bantu language. The aim is to shed light on the interaction between Penultimate Lengthening and Final Lengthening, providing the first quantitative investigation of these phenomena in Tswana. We conducted a production experiment that applies a widely tested design to elicit production data of two different phrasal structures in coordinated noun phrases. The results suggest that Penultimate Lengthening and Final Lengthening constitute independent mechanisms, which both apply in Tswana. Penultimate Lengthening occurs before prosodic phrase boundaries as well as before word boundaries, yet at differing degrees. Before phrase boundaries, it involves a strong lengthening effect on the vowel of the penultimate syllable. Before word boundaries, the amount of lengthening is smaller. Final lengthening operates on the final syllable before a phrase boundary, involving a larger amount on the final vowel than on the preceding consonant. This pattern is in line with the pattern observed in other languages. The amount of lengthening on the final vowel is comparable to the amount on the penultimate vowel. Given that a large increase of lengthening on the penultimate syllable has not been observed in connection with Final Lengthening, we assume that Penultimate Lengthening constitutes a language-specific mechanism that applies independently. Final Lengthening, on the other hand, might be a universal phenomenon. The perceptual salience of Penultimate Lengthening, which has been widely reported in the literature for Bantu languages, might have to do with the dynamics within the lengthening domains, namely that the lengthening in penultimate position is abrupt and relatively stronger than in final position when compared to the preceding syllable.


Tswana; duration; prosodic phrasing; final lengthening; penultimate lengthening

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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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