Nasal consonant harmony at a distance the case of Yaka


  • Larry M. Hyman


Bantu, phonology, consonant harmony, Yaka


In a number of Bantu languages the [d-l] reflex of Proto-Bantu *-Vd- suffixes alternates with [n] when the consonant of the preceding syllable is nasal, e.g., /dim-id-/ 'cultivate for' ~ [dim-in-]. Because these Bantu languages do not allow nasalized vowels, it is necessary to view such assimilation as operating "at a distance" [Poser 1983], with the intervening vowel(s) being transparent. Transvocalic nasal consonant harmony (NCR) is widespread within Bantu [Greenberg 1951], and was repeatedly cited by phonologists in the 1970's, e.g., from Luba [Howard 1972, Johnson 1972] and Lamba [Kenstowicz and Kisseberth 1979]. In this paper I treat a more extensive and dramatic case of NCR at a distance in Yaka, a language spoken in Zaire. In this language /-Vd-/ suffixes are realized [-Vn-] even when the triggering nasal consonant is not in the immediately preceding syllable, e.g., /-miituk-id-/ 'sulk for' ~ [miituk-in-] (cf. Ao [1991], Piggott [1993] and Odden [1994], who cite parallel facts from Kongo). I begin by documenting the pervasiveness of the (stem-level) nasal harmony effects in the language, which therefore require a phonological analysis (vs. one involving allomorphy). Discussion centers around the problem of why voiceless and prenasalized consonants should be transparent to NCR.