Constraint Interaction in the Syllabic Phonology of Lubukusu: an Optimality Theory Account
Nandelenga, Henry Simiyu
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This study investigated constraint interaction in the syllabic phonology of Lubukusu, a dialect of the Luhya language spoken in Western part of Kenya. To understand any phonological processes and alterations in a language, there is the need to determine the syllable structure of the language. The objective of this study was to determine the Lubukusu syllable structure and how it constrains the attested phonological processes. The basic research question was; how do Optimality Theory's constraints explain the syllable structure of the language and the various phonological processes that are clearly motivated by the syllable structure. The rationale of the study rests on the premise that there is no consensus as to why nasal consonant sequences are often avoided and why dissimilar hetero-syllabic vowels are repaired cross-linguistically. In OT, it is assumed that there is some markedness associated with such structures. In addition, there is need to account for the role of the syllable position in initiating and blocking various phonological processes and the emergence ofCV syllables in reduplication. In this study, the surface-oriented OT analysis is adopted via interaction of markedness and faithfulness constraints. This is because the banned structures are due to their markedness on surface manifestation because they violate syllable structure phonotactics of the language. Primary data from native speakers were used in analysis through constraint ranking in tableaus to account for the syllable-based phonological processes. In the analysis, it emerged that constraints are able to fully account for the syllable structure of Lubukusu and the phonological processes constrained by the syllable structure. The entire analysis confirms our thesis that there is no need to posit ad hoc rules of derivation. Instead, mere recourse to the interaction of markedness and faithfulness constraints is sufficient. It is expected that this study will be an important contribution to the phonological theory of markedness and the role of constraints in phonological description and analysis as opposed to the standard rule-based derivational approach. An important implication of this study is that there is need for linguists to adopt a constraint-based analysis in accounting for phonological processes in particular. Similarly, the syllable is central in determining the possible and impossible phonological processes. It is recommended that future research should carry out a full-fledged study of Lubukusu phonology for a fuller critique of OT as a model of grammar. In addition, there is need to investigate the absence of pure voiced plosives, the use of the palatal /j1 as an epenthetic segment and the low open /a! as stern final vowel in terms of markedness theory ofOT.