The tone puzzle of Wobe

Thomas Bearth, Christa Link


This paper presents evidence for 14 contrasting tones, including rising and falling glides, which occur on short
monosyllables in Wobe, a Kru language of Western Ivory Coast. Possible interpretations of the glides are tested in the light of ~heir distributional, realizational, and morphotonemic characteristics. It is shown that only their treatment as unitary tonemes, rather than as sequences of level tones, allows one to account for all the facts in a satisfactory way. Moreover the morphotonemic patterns, concurrently with differences in the realization of tonemes, reveal the existence of a concave feature which plays a pivotal role in the functioning of the system. A comparison with neighbouring Guere provides a plausible hypothesis as to how some of the peculiarities of the Wobe tone system may have originated through
tone splitting.

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