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Review of  Fonologia do lung’Ie

Reviewer: Emmanuel Schang
Book Title: Fonologia do lung’Ie
Book Author: Ana Lívia dos Santos Agostinho
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Principense
Issue Number: 28.2786

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


This short book (145 pages all included) deals with the phonology of the Portuguese-based Creole of the Gulf of Guinea named lung'Ie (also known as Príncipense) which is spoken on the island of Príncipe (República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe). This volume, based on a Ph.D. dissertation defended in 2014 at the University of São Paulo (Brasil), is written in Portuguese. The author, Ana Lívia dos Santos Agostinho (henceforth ALSA), is a teacher at the Departamento de Língua e Literatura Vernáculas da Universidade Federal of Santa Catarina (Brasil). The language studied here is known as an endangered language. It is only spoken by a few tens of people, and suffers from the rivalry of Portuguese and two other Creole languages: Cape-Verdean and Forro (the main Creole language of São Tomé Island). In this context, a book dedicated to the phonology of lung'Ie (henceforth LI), literally 'the language of the Island' is more than welcomed. ALSA based her work on fieldwork studies during which she collected the material described in this book. She also makes use of the two previous major descriptions of LI: Günther (1973) and Maurer (2009).
Chapter 1 is a short introduction (16 pages) presenting the language under study, the methodology and a meager presentation of the linguistic literature about the Gulf of Guinea Creoles. Chapter 2 is dedicated to the phonological inventory. It is well constructed and richly illustrated by numerous examples. The vowel inventory is similar to the one presented in Maurer (2009) and as for the consonants, the author discusses specifically nasals, labial-velar consonants (‘kp’ and ‘gb’) and the status of the fricative consonants, where her analyses differ from those found in Maurer (2009). Chapter 3 deals with the syllabic structure, focusing on long vowels, glides and syllabic nasals. The study is based on a collection of 3,907 words and provides quantified results on syllabic shape distribution. Chapter 4 (9 pages) presents some information about tone and accent, which is a crucial feature for creolist studies and a matter of debate (see diverging analyses in Günther (1973), Ferraz & Trail (1981) and Maurer (2009)). Chapter 5 discusses some synchronic phonological processes : apheresis, diphthongs, nasalization, sandhi rules, etc. Chapter 6 concludes in three pages this short volume.


This book deals with with a phonological description of LI, couched in the mainstream generative framework (autosegmental phonology for tone and accent analyses) and treats interesting elements of the phonology of Lung'Ie. The analyses are presented in a very clear way, which, I think, allows a reader with only a basic knowledge of Portuguese to read the book without much effort. Many examples are provided to support the author's claims, which makes this book a valuable resource for all linguists. However, this is not a book about creolistics, for the following reasons. The author knowingly confines herself to synchronic studies, which is a laudable approach, but this leads her to problematic formulations. Let me develop one example. When dealing with phonological processes, ALSA describes the alternation [ʃi'kɔlɐ] / [ʃ'kɔlɐ] as a syncope, which is only correct on the assumption that [ʃi'kɔlɐ] is the initial form. But this clearly misses the links with the Portuguese etymon ‘escola’ “school” which gives the form ‘iskola’ in Casamance, ‘skola’ in Santiago (Cap Verde) and ‘xkola’ in Forro (another Gulf of Guinea Creole). These elements could have been easily found in Rougé (2004).

This example is representative of the approach defended in this book, which deliberately plays down the influence of Portuguese on LI, as can be read on page 96, talking about tones: ''Come considero que o lung'Ie provém do proto-crioulo do Golfo da Guiné, e não do Português, esta seção não nos será relevante'' (My translation: Since I consider that LI comes from the Proto-Creole of the Gulf of Guinea, but not from Portuguese, this section won't be relevant to the discussion). This argument, repeated many times in the book is a little short since the author never details what this proto-creole is and how it is so different from Portuguese. This reveals one real weakness of this book: the absence of both a diachronic perspective and a complete review of the literature on the emergence of the Gulf of Guinea Creoles. In the same vein, Chapter 4 deals with a crucial matter in creolistics: the presence/absence of tone in a creole language (see McWhorter (2011) for instance). While Maurer (2009) provides some well exemplified arguments for the presence of tone in LI, ALSA argues that LI is not a tonal language like standard tone languages (p.101), since:

- there are tonal alternations with only a few disyllabic words
- tonal pairs are absent in monosyllabic words
- the informants do not confirm nor recognize the minimal tonal pairs.

These remarks are of very high value for creolistics but the author doesn't take full advantage of the corpus she collected (and which is not available online). The author admits (p.102) that a precise study on the relationship between tone and accent is necessary. One can only regret this absence, given the importance of this subject in creolistics (see Gooden & alii (2009) for instance).
Despite these reservations, this book remains interesting and useful as an important contribution to the phonology of an endangered language.


Gunther, W. 1973. Das portugiesische Kreolisch der Ilha do Príncipe. Marburger Studien zur Afrika-und Asienkunde, Serie A Marburg, (2), 1-277.

Gooden, S., Drayton, K. A., & Beckman, M. 2009. Tone inventories and tune-text alignments Prosodic variation in 'hybrid' prosodic systems. Studies in Language, 33(2), 396-436.

McWhorter, J. H. 2011. Linguistic simplicity and complexity: why do languages undress? (Vol. 1). Walter de Gruyter.

Maurer, P. 2009. Principense. Grammar, Texts, and Vocabulary of the Afro-Portuguese Creole of the Island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. London: Battlebridge.

Rougé, J. L. 2004. Dictionnaire étymologique des créoles portugais d'Afrique. Karthala.

Traill, A., & Ferraz, L. 1981. The interpretation of tone in Principense Creole. University of California.
Emmanuel Schang is an associate professor in syntax at the University of Orléans (France). He has published several papers on Saotomense and Guadeloupean Creoles. He's in charge of the SEEPiCLa (Structure, Emergence and Evolution of Pidgin and Creole Languages) International Research Group (CNRS).