On the underlying representation of contour tones in Wobe

John Victor Singler


In a 1980 article entitled "The tone puzzle of Wobe," Thomas Bearth and Christa Link argue that only by positing phonemic contour tones can one account satisfactorily for the tone facts of Wobe, a western Kru language spoken in the Ivory Coast. In their analysis, they posit the features [Rise], [Fall], and [Concave] in addition to [High], [Low], and [Extreme]. In that their analysis abandons the assertion that surface glides can always be "de-composed" into sequences of underlying level tones, it represents an enrichment of phonological theory. The present account calls into question that enrichment, arguing not only that Bearth and Link's analysis obscures more insights than it captures but also that an analysis that uses only level tones at the phonemic level succeeds where Bearth and Link's account fails.

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