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Tone in the pronominal system in Bissa Barka

Le ton dans le système pronominal du bissa barka
Тон в системе местоимений биса-барка
Pamela Morris
p. 77-94

Abstracts

This paper presents an introductory overview of the pronominal system in Bissa Barka, an Eastern Mande language spoken in south-east Burkina Faso and northern Ghana. Primary focus is placed on the tonal behaviour of the pronouns. The paper begins with a discussion of the number of level tones represented in the language, including a summary of past tonal research. Next, it presents the two sets of personal pronouns used in the language. The tonal behaviour of each of the personal pronouns is presented, along with the tonal behaviour of the pronouns in a possessive phrase, and the tonal behaviour of the logophoric pronoun. The paper ends with a discussion of the four tonal processes identified in the pronominal system including a floating H tone, L tone spread, final falling tone and a restriction of L tone followed by a L tone.

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1. Introduction

1This article looks at the tone of the pronouns in Bissa Barka, specifically the personal pronouns, both in simple constructions and in possessive constructions, and the logophoric pronoun. Bissa (BIB) is an eastern Mande language spoken in southern Burkina Faso, in the provinces of Boulgou, Zoundweogo and Koupelogo, as well as in the northern regions of both Togo and Ghana. According to the Ethnologue1, there are 640 000 total Bissa speakers across the three countries, with 399 000 of them residing in Burkina Faso. There are two main Bissa dialects: Lebri in the west and Barka in the east2. This study focuses on the Barka dialect as spoken in the town of Garango.

2Before discussing the tone in the pronouns, I will start by establishing the number of tones that exist in Bissa Barka. There are two reasons for beginning this way. First, the question of the number of tones is still somewhat contested in the existing documents concerning Bissa. Secondly, the study on the number of tones reveals a couple of tonal phenomena that will be relevant to our discussion of the pronouns. In the third section, I will present the tone of the personal pronouns, both in simple phrases and in a possessive phrase along with the tone of the logophoric pronoun. I do not claim that this is a complete list of all the pronouns used in Bissa. In the fourth section I will identify the tonal processes that can be observed through this limited data set. Note, that this final section is not intended as an analysis of the tonal system in Bissa; that is a topic for a further study.

2. Levels of tone

3When asked, most Bissa speakers will say that Bissa has three tones, and cite the following minimal triplet as proof:

[gɛ́r] ‘someone’

[gɛ̄r] ‘road’

[gɛ̀r] ‘stone’

4In the existing documents discussing Bissa however, there is a wide range of opinion regarding the tone system. In his grammar of the Lebri dialect, Anthony Naden doesn’t address the question of tone. Where he does come close to discussing tone, he refers to it as intonation and simply states that “There is very little use of suprasegmental phonological features in the Syntax of Bisa.” (Naden 1973: 244) This lack of treatment of tone has led some people to conclude that Bissa is a toneless language – see for instance the posting for Bissa on WALS3.

5Schreiber suggests that Bissa may be a pitch‑accent language, rather than a tonal language (Schreiber 2000: 60). Opinion among the remaining authors is split between those who claim a two‑tone system: Hidden (1982), Galbane (1985), Vanhoudt (1992a), and those who claim a three tone system: Prost (1950), Zouré (1975), Bambara (1980), Monet (1989).

  • 4 ‘A two‑tone system (high and low) plus downstep’.

6Naden, Zouré, Hidden and Vanhoudt all discuss the Lebri dialect, but Hidden is the only author who gives a detailed analysis of tone, presenting two papers on the topic (Hidden 1982; Hidden 1986). He concludes that Bissa Lebri has “un système à deux tons (haut et bas) plus faille tonale4(Hidden 1982: 1).

  • 5 ‘There are 3 tonesː the ordinary tone, the high tone and the low tone’.

7Regarding the Barka dialect, which is our concern, three documents are of interest. First is the grammar written by André Prost. He states that “Il y a 3 tons : le ton ordinaire, le ton haut et le ton bas5” (Prost 1950: 16). He does not elaborate on the tone system, nor does he explain what he means by “ton ordinaire”.

  • 6 ‘Barka has three tonesː low, mid and high’.

8In the 1980s two Bissa speakers, Eloï Bambara and Adama Galbane wrote dissertations about the phonology of the Bissa spoken in Garango. Bambara claims that “Le barka connaît trois tons : bas, moyen et haut.6(Bambara 1980: 96). He follows this statement with several minimal pairs.

  • 7 ‘results from the combination of a low tone and a high tone’.

9Five years later, Galbane argued that the “mid” tone is in fact “issu de la combinaison d’un ton bas et d’un ton haut7”. (Galbane 1985: 38). He bases his conclusion on the limited distribution of the supposed mid tone as well as on the lack of tone melodies such as HM, MH, LM and ML (p. 37). Finally, he asserts that when the plural suffix is added to nouns with a supposed M tone, the LH melody reappears (p. 38).

  • 8 See (Kutsch Lojenga 1996) for a full description.

10Working in collaboration with the National Bible Translation and Literacy Association (ANTBA), we assembled a small group of Bissa speakers and spent two weeks in June of 2012 investigating the number of tones. We used a participatory approach developed by Constance Kutsch Lojenga8, whereby simple words are written out on individual cards and then the speakers of the language sort them into groups according to which ones are pronounced in the same way, or are pronounced differently according to the feature being investigated, in this case, tone melodies. Using this method we were able to verify the tone melodies for 250 simple nouns and verbs.

11Once all the words were sorted following this method, we were left with four distinct tone melodies or word melodies as Gussenhoven calls them (Gussenhoven 2004ː 30‑32). The melody applies to the whole word, although it may be comprised of two distinct tones. On monosyllabic words, the full melody is associated with the single syllable, whereas in disyllabic words the melody is spread across both syllables. The four melodies H, L, LH and HL can be seen in Table 1 belowː

Table 1: Tone melodies on monosyllabic and disyllabic words

H

  /gɛ́r/

  ‘someone’

/nágá/

  ‘sorgho’

  /sɛ́/

  ‘fire’

/túúré/

  ‘passage’

HL

/bûr/

  bread’

  /kɛ́nɔ̀/

   room’

/kã̂/

  daba’

  /sáánà/

   stranger’

L

  /gɛ̀r/

  ‘stone’

  /kàsɩ̀/

   ‘basket’

  /kì/

  ‘pebble’

  /pààsɩ̀/

   ‘cheek’

LH

/gɛ̌r/

  ‘road’

/sìsí/

   ‘horse’

/mĩ̌/

  ‘problem’

/zə̀kə́/

   ‘shoulder’

12Once we established these four melodies, we can see that the distinction between the minimal triplet /gɛ́r/ ‘someone’, /gɛ̌r/ ‘road’ and /gɛ̀r/ ‘stone’ originally cited as evidence of a mid tone is in fact the contrast of three different tone melodies, and not a contrast of three distinct tones.

13As we continued our research, we discovered that this perception of the tone does not match the actual realization of each of the tone melodies. The underlying H and HL melodies are indeed realized as H and HL, but the LH melody is realized as L, and the L melody is realized as L followed by a falling tone. The difference between the underlying form, the perceived form and the actual realization can be seen in Table 2 below. Each of these forms represents the word as spoken and heard in isolation.

Table 2. Difference between actual and perceived realizations of the four tone melodies

  • 9 The use of the mid‑falling symbol to indicate the tonal realization here is not quite accurate, sin (...)

Melody

Gloss

Underlying
form

Perceived
realization

Actual
Realization

H

‘someone’

/gɛ́r/

gɛ́r

[gɛ́r]

‘sorgho’

/nágá/

nágá

[nágá]

HL

‘bread’

/bûr/

bûr

[bûr]

‘stranger’

/sáánà/

sáánà

[sáánà]

LH

‘road’

/gɛ̌r/

gɛ̄r

[gɛ̀r]

‘horse’

/sìsí/

sīsī

[sìsì]

L

‘stone’

/gɛ̀r/

gɛ̀r

[gɛr]9

‘basket’

/kàsɩ̀/

kàsɩ̀

[kàsɩ᷆]

  • 10 The vowel in words with a CVC syllable structure lengthens with the addition of the suffix. In word (...)

14Next, we investigated the plural form of nouns. The plural is formed by the addition of the suffix –RÒ10. We observed the same process that Galbane described – the LH melody becomes visible, as can be seen in Table 3. Note that [gɛ́r] ‘person’ has an irregular plural form [gɔ́ɔ́rɔ̀].

Table 3ː Plural forms of the four tonal melodies

Melody

Gloss

Singular

Plural

H

‘wing’

[zá]

[zárɔ᷆]

‘someone’

[gɛ́r]

[gɔ́ɔ́rɔ᷆]

‘sorgho’

[nágá]

[nágárɔ᷆]

HL

‘hoe’

[kã̂]

[kã̂nnɔ᷆]

‘bread’

[bûr]

[búùro᷆]

‘stranger’

[sáánà]

[sáánàrɔ᷆]

LH

‘foot’

[gã̀]

[gã̌nnɔ᷆]

‘road’

[gɛ̀r]

[gɛ̀ɛ́rɔ᷆]

‘horse’

[sìsì]

[sìsíro᷆]

L

‘slave’

[lɔ᷆]

[lɔ̀nɔ᷆]

‘stone’

[gɛ᷆r]

[gɛ̀ɛ̀rɔ᷆]

‘basket’

[kàsɩ᷆]

[kàsɩ̀rɔ᷆]

15The LH melody is evident in other contexts, specifically when a word with the LH melody appears before a verb with a L tone. Examples (1) and (2) below show the realization of the LH words /sìsí/ ‘ horse’ and /kʋ̀sɔ́/ ‘shoe’:

(1)

Mʋ̌n

sìsí

gʋ̀là.

1sg

horse

get.down

‘I got the horse down’.

(2)

Mʋ̌n

kʋ̀sɔ́

gʋ̀là.

1sg

shoe

get.down

‘I got the shoe down’.

16We therefore conclude, as did Galbane, that Bissa Barka has two level tones, H and L and four tone melodiesː H, HL, L and LH.

17As we already discussed, in isolation words with a LH melody are realized with a simple L tone (as opposed to the falling L tone of words with a L melody); this phenomenon is the reason why native speakers of Bissa claim the existence of a mid tone. This process applies to both monosyllabic and disyllabic roots, as in the following words:

/gɛ̌r/

[gɛ̀r]

‘road’

/sìsí/

[sìsì]

‘horse’

/mĩ̌/

[mĩ̀]

‘problem’

/zə̀kə́/

[zə̀kə̀]

‘shoulder’

18The timeframe of our study did not permit us to study polysyllabic words, nor to clearly define all the contexts in which the LH melody is fully realized rather than appearing as a low tone. These are questions for future study.

3. Pronouns – overview

19Bissa makes use of two different sets of personal pronouns; a long form as shown by Group A below, and a short form under Group B.

     Group A

     Group B

Sg.

Pl.

Sg.

Pl.

1

mʋ̌n

ɔ̀rɔ́ɔ́

1

ɔ́

2

ɩ̀rɩ́ɩ́

àráá

2

ɩ́

á

3

à

3

à

20Since the tone of the first and second person pronouns are LH in Group A, and H in Group B, calling Group B the short form of the pronouns in Group A is probably too simplistic, but for ease of comprehension, I will use these terms for the time being rather than constantly referring to Group A and Group B.

21So far, I have not encountered a long form of the 3rd person pronouns in any natural text. But when pressed, most Bissa speakers claim there is a long form of the 3rd person pronouns, to complete the first set. They agree that the long form of the third person singular pronoun would be araa, but there is no consensus as to what the long form of the third person plural pronoun would be.

  • 11 ‘The use of the two sets of pronouns is governed by the existence or absence of a co‑reference with (...)

22In her study on the use of these two sets of pronouns in the Lebri dialect, Bettie Vanhoudt concludes that “Les deux séries de formes pronominales répondent à un choix dicté par l’existence ou l’absence d’une coréférence avec le sujet”11 (Vanhoudt 1992: 108). Essentially, she is saying that within an utterance, the short pronouns can only be used once the reference has been established by a long pronoun. I have not done a similar study in the Barka dialect to confirm that this same criterion holds, but based on my initial observations of textual data, it is a likely hypothesis.

23The third person plural pronoun in both sets of pronouns, and the first person singular short pronoun are nasal consonants that will assimilate to the place of articulation of the following consonant. They can therefore be realized as [m], [n] or [ŋ], as seen in (3) – (5):

(3)

[m̀

pɛ̀tʋ́

gʋ̀là]

3pl

boxer.shorts

get.down

‘They got the boxer shorts down’.

(4)

[ń

nágá

gʋ̀là]

1sg

sorgho

get.down

‘I got down the sorgho’.

(5)

[ŋ̀

kɩ̀rá

gʋ̀là]

3pl

stake

get.down

‘They got the stake down’.

3.1 Personal pronouns

24As we have already mentioned, Bissa Barka uses two sets of pronouns. The underlying tone melody of the first and second person of the long form is LH. However, because of the process described above whereby the LH melody is often realized with only a L tone, the first and second person of long pronouns are usually realized with a L tone, as shown in sentences (6) through (8):

(6)

[mʋ̀n

tómà

n]

1sg

water

give

Thomas

to

‘I gave water to Thomas’.

(7)

[ɩ̀rɩ̀ɩ̀

nɩ́

tómà

nɩ̀

y]

2sg

pfv.neg

water

give

Thomas

to

neg

‘You didn’t give water to Thomas’.

(8)

[ɔ̀rɔ̀ɔ̀

tɩ́

ká-ŋ

tómà

n]

1pl

ipfv.aff

water

give-prog

Thomas

to

‘We are giving water to Thomas’.

25Their true LH melody only becomes apparent when the pronoun is placed in front of a L toned object or a LH object. The pronoun and object noun only come into direct contact in affirmative perfective clauses, where there is a zero predicate marker. Sentences (9), (10) and (11) below provide some examples:

  • 12 The reader will have noticed that the tone of the verb /kɩ́dá/ is different in these two sentences. (...)

(9)

[mʋ̌n

sìsì

kɩ́dá]

1sg

horse

put down

‘I put down the horse’.

(10)

[mʋ̌n

gʋ̀rà

kɩ̀dà]12

1sg

baton

put down

‘I put the baton down’.

(11)

[ɩ̀rɩ́ɩ́

kàsɩ̀

yɩ̀]

2sg

basket

see

‘You saw the basket’.

26Interestingly enough, we can see from (12) and (13) that the L toned predicate marker bɩ̀r, which marks negative imperfective clauses, does not cause the LH melody to appear:

(12)

[mʋ̀n

bɩ̀r

gɛ́ɛ́-lɛ́]

1sg

ipfv.neg

come-prog

‘I am not coming’.

(13)

[ɩ̀rɩ̀ɩ̀

bɩ̀r

ká-ŋ

tómâ

nɩ̀

y]

2sg

ipfv.neg

water

give-prog

Thomas

to

neg

‘You aren’t giving water to Thomas’.

27The short forms of the 1st and 2nd person pronouns carry a H tone and do not show any alternate forms, as seen in sentences (14) to (17):

(14)

[ń

nágá

gʋ̀là]

1sg

sorgho

get.down

‘I got down the sorgho’.

(15)

[ɩ́

kàsɩ̀

gʋ̀là]

2sg

basket

get.down

‘You got the basket down’.

(16)

[ɔ́

sìsí

gʋ̀là]

1pl

horse

get.down

‘I got the horse down’.

(17)

dʋ́rɛ̀

gʋ̀là]

2pl

partridge

get.down

‘You got the partridge down’.

28The third person pronouns spread their L tone to the H toned predicate markers /nɩ́/ for negative perfective clauses (18) and /tɩ́/ for affirmative perfective clauses (19), as well as spreading to the first syllable of H toned objects (20):

(18)

nɩ̀

Tómà

nɩ̀

y]

3sg

pfv.neg

water

give

Thomas

to

neg

‘He didn’t give water to Thomas’.

(19)

[ǹ

tɩ̀

ká-ŋ

Tómà

n]

3pl

ipfv.aff

water

give-prog

Thomas

to

‘They are giving water to Thomas’.

(20)

nàgá

gʋ̀là]

3sg

sorgho

get.down

‘He got the sorgho down’.

29Note that the L tone of the pronoun does not spread to the H tone of a HL melody (21), offering evidence that spread applies to the tone melody.

(21)

dʋ́rɛ̀

gʋ̀là]

3sg

partridge

get.down

‘He got the partridge down’.

30There is also one context that blocks the L tone spread. When a monosyllabic H toned object precedes a L toned verb, the L tone of the pronoun does not spread to the object, as seen in (22):

(22)

[à

gʋ̀là]

3sg

water

get.down

‘He got down the water’.

31We can summarize our observations of the tonal behaviour of the personal pronouns with the following statements:

  • The first and second person long pronouns have a LH melody, but are realized L unless followed by a L tone.

  • The first and second person short pronouns have a H melody and do not show any alternate forms.

  • The third person pronoun, which is identical in both sets, spreads its L tone one syllable to the right. This spread affects H toned predicate markers, and H tone objects when there is no predicate marker.

  • The L spread is blocked however when a H toned monosyllabic object noun is followed by a L toned verb.

3.2 Pronouns within a possessive phrase

32When the personal pronouns are used within a possessive phrase, the tones change. In both sets of the pronouns, they become L toned. The L tone of the first and second person pronouns acts in the same way as the third person personal pronoun. The L tone will spread to the first syllable of a H toned noun. Sentences (23) to (25) show this spread. Examples (a) use the long pronoun, while examples marked (b) show the short pronoun:

(23a)

[mʋ̀n

hì]

(23b)

[ŋ̀

hì]

1sg.poss

water

1sg.poss

water

‘my water’

‘my water’

(24a)

[ɩ̀rɩ̀ɩ̀

pɛ̀tʋ́]

(24b)

[ɩ̀

pɛ̀tʋ́]

2sg.poss

shorts

2sg.poss

shorts

‘your shorts’

‘your shorts’

(25a)

[ɔ̀rɔ̀ɔ̀

nàgá]

(25b)

[ɔ̀

nàgá]

1pl.poss

sorgho

1pl.poss

sorgho

‘our sorgho’

‘our sorgho’

33The L tone does not spread to a noun with a HL melody, as in (26) and (27):

(26a)

[mʋ̀n

bûr]

(26b)

[m̀

bûr]

1sg.poss

bread

1sg.poss

bread

‘my bread’

‘my bread’

(27a)

[ɔ̀rɔ̀ɔ̀

dʋ́rɛ̀]

(27b)

[ɔ̀

dʋ́rɛ̀]

1sg.poss

partridge

1sg.poss

partridge

‘my partridge’

‘my partridge’

34However, when the noun is L toned a H tone is inserted as shown is (28) to (30):

(28a)

[mʋ̀n

bír]

(28b)

[m̀

bír]

1sg.poss

goat

1sg.poss

goat

‘my goat’

‘my goat’

(29a)

[ɩ̀rɩ̀ɩ̀

gɛ́r]

(29b)

[ɩ̀

gɛ́r]

2sg.poss

stone

2sg.poss

stone

‘your stone’

‘your stone’

(30a)

[àràà

kásɩ̀]

(30b)

kásɩ̀]

2pl.poss

basket

2pl.poss

basket

‘your basket’

‘my basket’

35Finally, in examples (31) and (32) we see that when the noun has a LH melody the noun retains its melody fully:

(31a)

[mʋ̀n

kǔl]

(31b)

[ŋ̀

kǔl]

1sg.poss

ram

1sg.poss

ram

‘my ram’

‘my ram’

(32a)

[ɩ̀rɩ̀ɩ̀

sìsí]

(32b)

[ɩ̀

sìsí]

2sg.poss

horse

2sg.poss

horse

‘your horse’

‘your horse’

36When it comes to the third person pronoun, as with the non possessive use of the personal pronouns, it behaves in a different manner from the first and second person pronouns. The L tone of the pronoun will spread, but now it affects the whole word, not just one syllable. Both H toned nouns and LH nouns are affected the same way. Examples (a) in sentences (33) to (35) show the spread to H toned nouns, while examples (b) show the spread to LH nouns:

H nouns

LH nouns

(33a)

hì]

(33b)

kùl]

3sg.poss

water

3sg.poss

ram

‘his/her water’

‘his/her ram’

(34a)

pɛ̀tʋ̀]

(34b)

sìsì]

3sg.poss

shorts

3sg.poss

horse

‘his/her shorts’

‘his/her shorts’

(35a)

[ǹ

nàgà]

(35b)

[ǹ

zə̀kə̀]

3pl.poss

sorgho

3pl.poss

shoulder

‘their sorgho’

‘their shoulder’

37The L tone does not spread to the HL melody as seen in (36):

(36a)

bûr]

(36b)

dʋ́rɛ̀]

3sg.poss

bread

3sg.poss

partridge

‘his/her bread’

‘his/her partridge’

38Unlike in sentences (28) to (30) where a H tone is inserted between the L pronoun and the L noun, in the possessive phrases there is no H tone insertion, as we see in sentence (37):

(37a)

gɛ᷆r]

(37b)

kàsɩ᷆]

3sg.poss

stone

3sg.poss

basket

‘his/her stone’

‘his/her basket’

39The result of each of these processes is that in three of the four tone groups, the output is a surface L melody. However, there is a subtle difference: nouns that have an underlying L tone are realized with a fall at the end (40), whereas nouns that have an underlying H or LH melody do not end with a fall (38) and (39):

(38)

/nágá/

nàgà]

3sg.poss

sorgho

‘his/her sorgho’

(39)

/zə̀kə́/

zə̀kə̀]

3sg.poss

shoulder

‘his/her shoulder’

(40)

/kàsɩ̀/

kàsɩ᷆]

3sg.poss

basket

‘his/her basket’

40We can summarize the tonal behaviour of the possessive use of the personal pronouns in the following way:

  • The pronouns are all low toned when used within a possessive phrase.

  • The L tone of the first and second person pronouns in both sets spreads one syllable to the right to H and LH nouns, but not the HL nouns.

  • The L tone of the third person pronoun within a possessive phrase spreads to the whole word.

3.3 Logophoric pronoun

41At first glance, the logophoric pronoun appears to be the same as the 3s personal pronoun, however, its tonal behaviour is different. As we have already seen, the L tone of the third person personal pronoun spreads to the right. But, the L tone of the logophoric pronoun does not spread. The difference then between the following sentences can be seen on the tone of /tɩ́/. In (41) the L tone of the personal pronoun has spread, but in (42) the L tone of the logophoric pronoun has not:

(41)

w

à

tɩ̀

gɛ̀ɛ́]

3sg

comp

3sg

ipfv.aff

come

‘He (John) said that he (Stephen) is coming’.

(42)

w

à

tɩ́

           gɛ́ɛ́]

3sg

comp

3sg.log

ipfv.aff

           come

‘He said that he (himself) is coming’.

42I have also noticed similar behaviour with the reflexive pronouns, but have not yet been able to confirm exactly how they behave.

4. Preliminary proposal of tone processes

43Based on the observations above, we can begin to formulate some initial tonal rules for Bissa Barka. But, at this early stage of analysis I will consider them more as observed processes rather than rules, until I can better formulate each one.

44Process number 1: The LH melody is realized as L unless followed by a L tone.
We have observed this phenomenon when words with a LH melody are pronounced in isolation, as well as within a phrase. We can explain this process by positing that the H tone of the melody is a floating tone. When a word with a LH melody is followed by a H tone, the floating H can simply be absorbed into that tone, as seen in sentence (43). But when the LH melody is followed by a L tone, the H docks to the final syllable of the word, as in (44)ː

45Hidden posits several floating tones in his analysis of Lebri tone (Hidden 1986), so a floating H tone in Barka is not an inconsistent solution. We still need to identify all the contexts in which the LH melody appears as such, and in which contexts it is realized as L in order to properly formulate a rule.

46Process number 2: Final L tones fall
We have observed that final L tones will fall whether the word is pronounced in isolation or as part of a phrase. Table 4 below shows the realization of each of the four tone melodies. The first word /pɛ́tʋ́/ ‘boxer shorts’ is associated with the H melody and as such does not fall. The words /kàsɩ̀/ ‘basket’ and /dʋ́rɛ̀/ ‘partridge’, which are associated with the L and HL melodies respectively both end with a L tone, and therefore do fall. The word /sìsí/ ‘horse’ is associated with the LH melody.
It ends with a floating H as described above, and does not fall.

Table 4: Phonetic realization of the four basic tone melodies

Table 4: Phonetic realization of the four basic tone melodies

47The final falling tone allows us to clearly distinguish the four tone melodies, even out of context.

48The final fall can also be seen at the end of a possessive phrase with the third person singular pronoun. Words with the LH melody do not end with a fall as in (45), whereas words with a L melody do end in a fall as in (46):

(45)

/zə̀kə́/

zə̀kə̀]

3sg.poss

shoulder

‘his/her shoulder’

(46)

/kàsɩ̀/

kàsɩ᷆]

3sg.poss

basket

‘his/her basket’

49As with the first process, we still need to fully identify the contexts in which the final low tone falls. Only then can we say whether the fall occurs word finally, utterance finally or at some other boundary.

50Process number 3: L tone spread
We have observed two distinct forms of L tone spread among the pronouns in Bissa Barka.
The first and most common form is a L tone spread one syllable to the right. This spread occurs in the 3rd person personal pronouns, and among the 1st and 2nd person pronouns when used as the head of a possessive phrase, both the long and short forms. The L tone of these pronouns spreads to the object in the absence of a predicate marker, in this case /nágá/ ‘sorgho’ in (47) and (48), and to H toned predicate markers (49):

(47)

nàgá

gʋ̀là]

3sg

sorgho

get.down

‘He got the sorgho down’.

(48a)

[ɔ̀rɔ̀ɔ̀

nàgá]

(48b)

[ɔ̀

nàgá]

1pl.poss

sorgho

1pl.poss

sorgho

‘our sorgho’

‘our sorgho’

(49)

nɩ̀

tómà

nɩ̀

y]

3sg

pfv.neg

water

give

Thomas

to

neg

‘He didn’t give water to Thomas’.

51The second type of spread is found among the 3rd person pronouns in possessive phrases. In this case, the L tone of the pronoun spreads to the whole word that it is modifying (50):

(50a)

pɛ̀tʋ̀]

(50b)

sìsì]

3sg.poss

shorts

3sg.poss

horse

‘his/her shorts’

‘his/her shorts’

52This second type of spread seems to displace the existing melody. We would normally expect the final tone of /pɛtʋ/ in (50a) to fall, based on the second process described above. But, since the final tone does not fall, the H melody associated with /pɛ́tʋ́/ must still be part of the phrase and blocks the final fall.

53Process number 4: Restriction on L + L
This restriction in the language causes two different reactions.
Firstly, it will block L tone spread when that would result in a purely L sequence. This blocking is clearly seen in affirmative perfective clauses as in (51) where there is a zero predicate marker. A H toned monosyllabic object is realized with a H tone; the L tone of the subject does not spread:

(51)

gʋ̀là]

3sg

water

get.down

‘He got down the water’.

54The second effect of the L + L restriction is the insertion of H tone in possessive constructions with a L tone noun when combined with the 1st or 2nd person pronoun, as in (52) and (53):

(52 a)

/mʋ̀n bìr/

[mʋ̀n

bír]

1sg.poss

goat

‘my goat’

(52b)

/m̀ bìr/

[m̀

bír]

1sg.poss

goat

‘my goat’

(53 a)

/àràà kàsɩ̀/

[àràà

kásɩ̀]

2pl.poss

basket

‘your basket’

(53b)

/à kàsɩ̀/

    [à

  kásɩ̀]

    2pl.poss

  basket

    ‘your basket’

55However, this restriction does not apparently hold with the 3rd person possessive pronoun as seen in sentences (54) and (55):

(54)

/à bìr/

  [à

  bìr]

  3sg.poss

  goat

  ‘his/her goat’

(55)

/à kàsɩ̀/

  kàsɩ̀]

3sg.poss

  basket

‘his/her basket’

56We will need to examine more contexts to see what L combination is not allowed as it’s not simply two consecutive L toned syllables, nor two consecutive L toned words. It may be as simple as applying the Obligatory Contour Principle, but we will need to examine more contexts before we can provide a precise definition.

5. Conclusion

57In summary, our study on the tone in the personal pronouns in Bissa Barka has revealed that Bissa Barka has two underlying level tones, H and L that combine to create four tone melodies: H, L, LH and HL. These four melodies behave in distinct ways.

58We have observed four tonal processes:

1. LH is realized as L

2. Final L tones fall

3. L tone spread

4. Restriction on L + L

59Each of these processes of course lead to many more questions that will be the subject of future investigations.

Abbreviations

comp

complementizer

ipfv.aff

imperfective.affimative

ipfv.neg

imperfective.negative

log

logophoric

neg

negative

pfv.neg

perfective.negative

poss

possessive

prog

progressive

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Bibliography

Bambara Eloï, 1980, Contribution à l’étude phonologique du bisa (étude synchronique), dialecte de Garango, Ouagadougou, Université de Ouagadougou, Mémoire de maîtrise.

Galbane Adama, 1985, Éléments de phonologie et de grammaire du bisa (étude synchronique du bisa barka), Ouagadougou, Université de Ouagadougou, Mémoire de maîtrise.

Gussenhoven Carlos, 2004, The Phonology of Tone and Intonation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Kutsch Lojenga Constance, 1996, “Participatory Research in Linguistics”, Notes on Linguistics, no 73, pp. 13‑27.

Hidden Rudolf W. H., 1982, Tons et downstep en bissa (Expanded version of a paper presented at Université de Ouagadougou, December 1981).

Hidden Rudolf W. H., 1986, The tones of monosyllabic nouns in the associative construction in Bissa, Leiden, University of Leiden.

Monet Bintou, 1989, Esquisse phonologique du bisa de Zabré (variété Lɛ́ɛlɛ́), Ouagadougou, Université de Ouagadougou, Institut Supérieur des Langues, des Lettres, et des Arts, Département de Linguistique, Mémoire de maîtrise.

Naden T. J., 1973, The grammar of Bisa: A synchronic description of the Lebir dialect, London, Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies, Doctoral Dissertation.

Prost André, 1950, La langue bisa : grammaire et dictionnaire, Ouagadougou, Centre IFAN (2e éd. : Farnborough, Gregg Press, 1968).

Schreiber Henning, 2000, Zur Phonologie des Bisa, Unveröff. Magisterarbeit, J.W. Goethe‑Universität, Frankfurt am Main, M.A. Thesis.

Vanhoudt Bettie, 1992a, Description du bisa de Zabré, langue mandé du groupe sudest, Bruxelles, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres.

Vanhoudt Bettie, 1992b, « Les pronoms personnels du bisa », Mandenkan, no 23, p. 83‑108.

Vossen Raimund, Schreiber Henning, 2001, « Approche de la situation dialectologique du bisa (mandé oriental) : la phonologie », in Nicolaï Robert et al. (éd.), Leçons d’Afrique : filiations, ruptures et reconstruction de langues. Un hommage à Gabriel Manessy, Louvain‑Paris, Peeters, p. 221‑238.

Zouré Auguste, 1975, A lexicalphonological description of Bisa, Southern Illinois University, Department of Linguistics, M.A. Thesis.

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Notes

1 http://www.ethnologue.com/language/bib (consulted March 30, 2016).

2 For a discussion of the different dialects, see (Vossen 2001).

3 http://wals.info/feature/13A#5/12. 383/19.358 (consulted June 11, 2016).

4 ‘A two‑tone system (high and low) plus downstep’.

5 ‘There are 3 tonesː the ordinary tone, the high tone and the low tone’.

6 ‘Barka has three tonesː low, mid and high’.

7 ‘results from the combination of a low tone and a high tone’.

8 See (Kutsch Lojenga 1996) for a full description.

9 The use of the mid‑falling symbol to indicate the tonal realization here is not quite accurate, since the fall is in fact low‑falling. However this is the clearest solution I could find to distinguish this type of fall from the high‑fall that is associated with the HL melody.

10 The vowel in words with a CVC syllable structure lengthens with the addition of the suffix. In words ending with a nasal vowel, the consonant of the suffix doubles in length.

11 ‘The use of the two sets of pronouns is governed by the existence or absence of a co‑reference with the subject’.

12 The reader will have noticed that the tone of the verb /kɩ́dá/ is different in these two sentences. This is due to tonal interactions between the object and the verb. However a full discussion of these processes is beyond the scope of this paper.

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List of illustrations

URL http://mandenkan.revues.org/docannexe/image/805/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 80k
Title Table 4: Phonetic realization of the four basic tone melodies
URL http://mandenkan.revues.org/docannexe/image/805/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 68k
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References

Bibliographical reference

Pamela Morris, « Tone in the pronominal system in Bissa Barka », Mandenkan, 56 | 2016, 77-94.

Electronic reference

Pamela Morris, « Tone in the pronominal system in Bissa Barka », Mandenkan [Online], 56 | 2016, Online since 17 February 2017, connection on 30 April 2017. URL : http://mandenkan.revues.org/805 ; DOI : 10.4000/mandenkan.805

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About the author

Pamela Morris

SIL, Burkina Faso
pamela_morris@sil.org

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