Volume 39, Issue 5
  • ISSN 0176-4225
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9714
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Like other complex morphosyntactic and morphophonological structures that are endemic to single language families, Dogon NP tonosyntax is the result of the fortuitous interlocking of diachronically unrelated processes and constructions. It arose due to the following combination: (a) right-headed prosodic pattern in noun-modifier sequences; (b) loss of numeral classifiers which had previously protected nouns from the right-headed prosodic pattern when followed by numerals; and (c) transfer of tones from possessors to following possessums. Although none of these phenomena were semantically driven, the resulting configuration could only be reinterpreted by native speakers in semantic terms, creating a completely new system unique to Dogon. In spite of having arisen accidentally, this tonosyntactic system is quite stable. One of its benefits is the unusual solution it provided (at no extra charge) to a perennial problem in the design of relative constructions.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Dogon; internally-headed relative clauses; set-theoretic semantics; tonosyntax
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