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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Prosodic Structure of Focalization: The case of Somali and French Add Dissertation
Author: David Le Gac Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Ohio State University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2001
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Phonology;
Subject Language(s): French
Director(s): Georges Boulakia
Jean Lowenstamm

Abstract: This thesis is a phonetic and phonological analysis of the prosodic structure of focalization in Somali and French.

The Somali language is spoken by between six and eight million people who live in the eastern part of the Horn of Africa. This area includes the countries of Somalia, and parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. The Somali language is a member of the Cushitic family of languages, which belong to the Afro-Asiatic phyllum. Somali is a tonal accent language like Japanese and Swedish. However, the tonal accent of Somali undergoes many accentual shifts and reductions triggered by morphological features such as gender, number and verbal paradigms, on the one hand, and by syntactic (subject, non-subject) and discursive (Focus, Topic) contexts on the other hand.

As far as the intonation of Somali is concerned, very few researchers studied it. In this thesis, it is shown that boundary tones and downdrift, an iterative tonal lowering, are closely linked to syntactic and in particular to discursive structure of the utterances.

The aim of this thesis is threefold : 1) to carry out an instrumental and experimental phonetic description of the prosody of focalization in Somali, 2) to construct a phonological model to account for the phonetic analysis, and 3) to verify this model for Somali by confronting it with data from French, an intonation language.

It is claimed that Somali and French have the same intonative structure : at the phonological level, the same intonative tones and formal processes apply in both languages. The difference between French and Somali, and more generally between intonation languages and tonal accent ones arises from the fact that the tonal accent languages present an accentual tone which takes place at a different independent phonological level.

Finally, I discuss the application of the phonological model to other tonal accent or accent languages, such as Swedish, Japanese and Greek