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Penultimate lengthening in Bantu

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Abstract

It is often remarked that Eastern and Southern Bantu languages that have lost the historical Proto-Bantu vowel-length contrast tend to have a process of penultimate lengthening (PL). However, there has never been a general, cross-linguistic survey of the phenomenon. In this paper I (i) delimit the geographical distribution of PL; (ii) determine the domain within which PL occurs: it is assumed that the process was innovated before pause, later “narrowing” to the right edge of phrases, then words; (iii) survey the factors that contribute to or block PL; and (iv) propose a historical relationship between PL and the restriction of length contrasts to metrically strong positions (penultimate, antepenultimate), which, I argue, leads to the ultimate loss of contrastive length.

References

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