Phonetic and phonological considerations on the moraic status of pre-NC vowels in Bemba

Silke Hamann, Nancy Kula


The pre-NC vowel in many Bantu languages, among which Bemba, is generally understood to be long. In Bemba, where there is also a vowel length contrast, this raises the question whether the pre-NC vowel is phonetically as long as lexical long vowels and how phonologized this length might be. This paper presents an evaluation of whether the pre-NC vowel is monomoraic or bimoraic by considering both phonetic and phonological evidence. The findings are mixed but lean towards a monomoraic treatment of the pre-NC vowel based on some segmental and tonal evidence. One set of tonal data, however, show variation in moraicity, presenting a mixed picture that we conclude emanates from the intermediate length of the pre-NC vowel and the nuanced interpretation this entails in phonology.

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

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