The phonology of Endo: A southern Nilotic language of Kenya.

The phonology of Endo: A southern Nilotic language of Kenya. By Joost Zwarts. (LINCOM studies in African linguistics 59.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. 142. ISBN 3895868205. $80.36.

Reviewed by Carolina González, Florida State University

This book is a comprehensive description of the phonology of Endo, a Southern Nilotic language spoken by 50,000 speakers in Kenya. It is based on previous sources and Zwarts’s fieldwork in the area from 1998 to 2002.

The book is divided into eight chapters. Ch. 1 (11–15) is a brief introduction to Endo and its genetic affiliation. Chs. 2 (17–19) and 3 (20–32) outline the consonant and vowel inventories of the language. There are thirteen consonant phonemes and twenty vowels; the vowels are distinguished on the basis of quality (there are five distinct qualities), length (short vs. long), and tongue-root position (advanced or retracted).

Ch. 4 (33–53) provides a description of syllable structure. Endo has simple codas and certain complex onsets. Clusters with initial [p] or nasal-plosive sequences are considered extrasyllabic because they are never codas and they appear only root-initially. Roots typically have one or two syllables. An interesting distinction is made between absent and empty onsets; empty onsets may be realized as [h] in intervocalic position before nonlow vowels. This chapter also considers reduplication, which can be total or partial. In partial reduplication, the coda or the onset of the base might delete, depending on which has less sonority.

Chs. 5 (54–69) and 6 (70–82) describe phonological processes involving consonants and vowels respectively. Some examples include assimilation, which primarily targets plosives and glides, and elision, which occurs both in onsets and codas. For vowels, Z describes glide formation, vowel length changes, and coalescence, among other phenomena.

Vowel harmony is discussed separately in Ch. 7 (83–94). It primarily involves [+ATR] dominant vowel harmony in the domain of the word. Neutral [–ATR] affixes that block harmony and [+ATR] affixes that fail to trigger it are also discussed, as well as a floating [+ATR] feature, which is active in certain cases of plural formation, plural agent nominalization, and irregular allomorphy in noun roots.

The last chapter sketches the main characteristics of tone (95–97). Three contrastive tones are identified: high, low, and falling. All have conditioned variants in certain contexts. Two appendices follow. Appendix A lists minimal pairs in the language (98–101); this appendix probably should have been incorporated into the main text. Appendix B (102–33) provides a summary of segmental morphology as related to the main issues described in the book. A list of references and a thematic index follow.

This book provides a succinct description of the phonology of Endo. The organization is good overall, but it would have been nice to see an overview of the contents in the first chapter. A more thorough analysis of tone would also be welcome. Phonologists and linguists interested in the morphology and phonology of African languages will mostly benefit from this description.