Layered feet laid bare in Copperbelt Bemba tone

Jeroen Breteler, René Kager


In this paper, we identify a new type of ternarity found in bounded tone spreading in Copperbelt Bemba (Bickmore & Kula 2013).
We argue that this ternarity must be metrical in nature, because it is quantity-sensitive and therefore not capturable in a straightforward counting rule.
Traditional binary feet approaches to ternarity hinge on the minimal presence of unparsed syllables.
However, ternarity in Copperbelt Bemba can occur in the presence of a multitude of unparsed syllables.
Consequently, we argue that Copperbelt Bemba demands a larger foot constituent.
We apply layered feet (Martínez-Paricio & Kager, 2013) to the analysis of the pattern, proposing that the foot in Copperbelt Bemba has an inner iamb and a monomoraic adjunct.

The data is complicated by cases of falling tones on heavy syllables. We propose that these are reflections of syllable integrity violating feet, and point to other cases where this representational device has been used. Thus, we identify Copperbelt Bemba as the first instance of a blended foot, which allows more syllable integrity violations than syllabic feet, but fewer than moraic feet.


Copperbelt Bemba; Tone; Layered feet; Feet; Ternarity; Quantity sensitivity; Phonology; Prosody

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Copyright (c) 2017 Jeroen Breteler