Tonal and Non-Tonal Intonation in Shekgalagari

  • Larry M. HymanEmail author
  • Kemmonye C. Monaka
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT)


The study of intonation in a (fully) tonal language presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to see how a language which exploits F0 mainly for the purpose of lexical and grammatical contrasts succeeds in encoding the functions often expressed by means of intonation in non-tonal languages. As is well-known, word-level tonal distinctions can be quite rich and can be subject to considerable manipulation in the phrasal phonology. Particularly when tone systems are complex in these ways, the question is how there can be much room left for intonation to modify or add pitch specifications without obscuring the word-level tonal contrasts. The goal of this paper is to examine how Shekgalagari, a Bantu language of Botswana which exploits F0 mainly for the purpose of lexical and grammatical contrasts, succeeds in encoding the functions often expressed by means of intonational phonology in non-tonal languages. Whereas other languages with lexical tone adopt different strategies for incorporating intonational pitch features, we demonstrate that most of the intonational marking is non-tonal in Shekgalagari, thereby raising the question of what is a possible intonational system.


Tone Intonation Universals Markedness 



Besides the TIE3 conference, the first author presented this paper as colloquia at the University of California, Berkeley and M.I.T. We are grateful for the comments we received at all three presentations and individually, particularly from Carlos Gussenhoven and Keith Johnson, as well as from the editors and two anonymous reviewers. The second author was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship which allowed her to spend the 2007–2008 academic year at UC Berkeley.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of EnglishUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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