Bondu-so vowel harmony: A descriptive analysis with theoretical implications


  • Abie Hantgan
  • Stuart Davis


Bondu-so, vowel harmony, [ATR]


This paper provides a descriptive analysis of the [ATR] vowel harmony system of Bondu-so (Dogon, Mali), a previously undocumented language. Data come from fieldwork and have not yet been published. While Bondu-so has seven surface vowels, namely, two [+ATR, +high] vowels ([i], [u]), a [–ATR +low] vowel [a] and a [±ATR] contrast in the mid vowels with front [e]/[ɛ] and back [o]/[ɔ], there is evidence for a more abstract vowel system phonologically consisting of ten vowels with [±ATR] contrasts with all vowel heights. Further, the language shows a three-way contrast with respect to the feature [ATR] on suffixal vowels: some suffixal vowels act as [+ATR] dominant, spreading their [+ATR] feature onto the root; other suffixes act as [–ATR] dominant, spreading [–ATR] onto the root, and still other suffixes have vowels unspecified for [ATR] receiving their [±ATR] feature by rightward spreading of the [±ATR] value of the root vowel. We offer an autosegmental analysis and then discuss the theoretical implications of such an analysis. These implications include the ternary use of [ATR], the issue of phonological versus morphological harmony, the relationship between vowel inventories and [ATR] harmony systems, and the question of abstractness in phonology.