Tonal accent in Somali

Larry M. Hyman


The issue of whether Somali is a tone language or not has been a matter of controversy for several decades. In this paper it is demonstrated that Somali is a tonal accent language, i.e. a language which (a) assigns accents to vowels (rather than syllables), and (b) realizes these accents as an invariant H tone. The language also allows, under specifiable conditions, words totally lacking an accent, another common characteristic of tonal accent languages. The model developed in this study includes rules of accent placement (on either the final or penultimate vowel of a word), accent modification (shifts, reductions), and tone and pitch assignment.

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