LINGUIST List 27.1046

Mon Feb 29 2016

Diss: Samue, Gur, Phonetics, Phonology: Virpi Ouattara: 'A phonological and tonal analysis of Samue using Optimality Theory'

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 29-Feb-2016
From: Virpi Ouattara <>
Subject: A phonological and tonal analysis of Samue using Optimality Theory
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Institution: University of Turku
Program: Department of Phonetics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2015

Author: Virpi Ouattara

Dissertation Title: A phonological and tonal analysis of Samue using Optimality Theory

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Subject Language(s): Wara (wbf)
Language Family(ies): Unclassified Gur

Dissertation Director:
Maija S Peltola

Dissertation Abstract:

The topic of the present doctoral dissertation is the analysis of the phonological and tonal structures of a previously largely undescribed language, namely Samue. It is a Gur language belonging to the Niger-Congo language phulym, which is spoken in Burkina Faso. The data were collected during the fieldwork period in a Sama village; the data include 1800 lexical items, thousands of elicited sentences and 30 oral texts. The data were first transcribed phonetically and then the phonological and tonal analyses were conducted.

The results show that the phonological system of Samue with the phoneme inventory and phonological processes has the same characteristics as other related Gur languages, although some particularities were found, such as the voicing and lenition of stop consonants in medial positions. Tonal analysis revealed three level tones, which have both lexical and grammatical functions. A particularity of the tonal system is the regressive Mid tone spreading in the verb phrase.

The theoretical framework used in the study is Optimality theory. Optimality theory is rarely used in the analysis of an entire language system, and thus an objective was to see whether the theory was applicable to this type of work. Within the tonal analysis especially, some language specific constraints had to be created, although the basic Optimality Theory principle is the universal nature of the constraints. These constraints define the well-formedness of the language structures and they are differently ranked in different languages.

This study gives new insights about typological phenomena in Gur languages. It is also a fundamental starting point for the Samue language in relation to the establishment of an orthography. From the theoretical point of view, the study proves that Optimality theory is largely applicable in the analysis of an entire sound system.

Page Updated: 29-Feb-2016