Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 211–250 | Cite as

High tone in Moro: effects of prosodic categories and morphological domains

  • Peter Jenks
  • Sharon Rose
Open Access


This paper presents a description and analysis of the tonal system of Moro, a Kordofanian language of Sudan, showing that the distribution of H(igh) tone is sensitive to a number of morphological and prosodic factors. First, we demonstrate that the distribution of H on nouns is sensitive to the OCP, both within roots and with affixes. Nouns also exhibit lexical distinctions between forms that exhibit unbounded rightward spreading of H and those that show no spreading. We model this distinction using cophonologies. While the distribution of H on Moro verb stems bears some similarities to nouns, crucial differences emerge. Rightward H tone spreading is binary on verbs, and sensitive to the weight of the syllable in terms of both the presence of an onset and a coda. We model this effect as H tone spreading within a binary foot. Furthermore, unlike nouns, underlying representations play little role in the distribution of H on verb roots. H tone is predictably distributed within a morphological category, the derived stem (D-stem), similar to a constituent recognized in Bantu languages (e.g. Downing 2000). Finally, we analyze competition between H associated with the D-stem and H associated with affixes. This H tone competition is an OCP-driven effect occurring within the macrostem.


Tone Prosody Cophonology Morphological domains Tone doubling OCP 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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