A Study of the Structure and Function of Tone in Three Relatively Lesser Known Gur Languages of Ghana


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




The goal of this project is to produce a comprehensive documentation and description of the structure and function of tone in three relatively lesser known Gur languages spoken in Ghana, namely, Talni, Nabit, and Kusaal. Specifically, this project describes the types of lexical tones in these languages. Secondly, it describes the functions of these tones in the morphology and syntax of the languages. The project advances our understanding of how the speakers of these languages organize pitch into meaningful patterns and stimulates graduate research into tone studies. The main data for this project is pitch and pitch phenomena. To obtain these data, recording sessions are carried out using digital tape recorders and computers. The sessions are also recorded on video so that a visual record of articulatory gestures will be available during the analysis. The sample population includes older and young native speakers, male and female, literate and non-literate. This takes care of sociophonetic variations based on these categories within the languages. The data gathering involves elicitations using carrier frames and word lists, and naturally occurring and spontaneous speech, and is followed by an impressionistic analysis. In addition selected portions of the data are analyzed acoustically using computer software such as Praat in order to confirm our own impressionistic analysis.