A study of the morphophonology of standard Kiswahili, Kipemba, Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi

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University of Dar es Salaam
This study investigates whether identical morphemes undergo similar or different phonological processes at identical morpheme boundaries in four Kiswahili dialects, namely, Standard Kiswahili, Kipemba, Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi. The theoretical model which is used in this study is generative phonology and the basic postulate of generative dialectology. The study is organized into six chapters. The first chapter, which is introductory, provides the background to the study. It states the problem, defines its scope, and articulates the objectives of the study. It also presents the hypotheses to be tested and the theoretical framework within which the discussion will be conducted. The methodology used in data collection and analysis is also discussed in this chapter. The four subsequent chapters discuss the major phonological processes which occur in the four Kiswahili dialects. Each dialect is examined separately under the following main sub-headings: underlying segments, pronominal prefixes, pronominal orphophonologica processes, noun classes, verb extensions and nominal deriva-tions. The sixth chapter attempts to synthesize the similarities and differences that have been observed in these dialects. The study shows that all the four dialects use the same inventory of sound segments and the same underlying forms for the prefixes whose underlying shapes are: /(C)u/, /(C)a/, /(C)i/ and /N/. The post-radical affixes are also basically the same in the four dialects. However, different tense aspect markers can be observed in the past and perfective affirmative verb forms, and the present, past and consequential negative verb forms. Seventeen phonological process which are governed by twenty different rules have been identified in this study. The major processes are glide formation (Rules 1, 2, 7 and 8); vowel deletion (Rules 4a, 4b, 5a and 5b); vowel harmony in the verb extensions (Rule 14); Palatalization.(Ru 11), place assimilation and nasal syllabification (Rules 12a and 12b), and neutralization(Rule 13) of the classes 9 and 10 nominal prefix /N/; and spirantization (Rule 15) and sibilantization (Rule 16) in nominal derivations. By making explicit the rules governing the occurrences of these processes in the different dialects, the study was able to provide a more accurate and systematic characterization of each of the four dialects. This can best be illustrated by referring to the two most common phonological processes, that is glide formation and vowel deletion. In Kipemba, glide formation is restricted to specific nominal stems which begin with nonback vowels while in the other three dialects, it always occurs whenever the /(C)u/ and /(C)i/ prefixes are immediately followed by non-high vowels or a high vowel with the opposite value for the feature [back]. In both Standard Kiswahili and Kipemba: (a) vowel deletion is restricted to specific nominal stems, while in Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi it occurs before both nominal and verb stems, (b) only one type of vowel coalescence occurs whereby /a + i/- [S] (Rule 6), while in Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi there are two types, namely, /a + i /- [å]and /a + u/-[É] (Rule 19 ). In standard Kiswahili, Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi, the prefix /mu/ undergoes vowel deletion -cumnasal syllabification before consonant initial morphemes, while in Kipemba, this prefix as well as the prefix /ni/ and the tense/aspect marker + na + undergo vowel deletion, nasal syllabification and place assimilation in a similar environment (Rules 17a and 17b). Assibilation - cum - vowel deletion in the prefix /ki/ (Rules 10 and 9) only occur in standard Kiswahili, Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi but not in Kipemba, where glide formation occurs instead. Finally, the study has shown that standard Kiswahili and Kipemba are closer to each other than they are to Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi which are also very much alike.
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Swahili language, Phonology, Phonetics
Maganga, C (1991) A study of the morphophonology of standard Kiswahili, Kipemba, Kitumbatu and Kimakunduchi, PhD dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (