Aspects of phonetics, phonology and morphophonology of Thok Reel
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This dissertation presents the first descriptive study of a hitherto undocumented Western Nilotic language Thok Reel. The language is spoken in Southern Sudan by a minority ethnic group known as Atuot. The study presents a descriptive account of Thok Reel phonetics, phonology and morphophonology. The description follows the topics on word and syllable structure, consonants, vowels, and tone. Each section accounts for the phonological distinctions and provides the phonetic description of the phenomena that is either typologically unusual or deviates from what is attested in related languages. Thok Reel is a predominantly monosyllabic language with rich morphology. Morphological inflection to a large extent is expressed by means of alternations of phonological material on the monosyllabic roots. The description of morphophonology provides an account of the alternations in vowel quality, voice quality, vowel length and root-final consonants. The description is restricted to subject agreement marking in finite transitive and antipassive verbs in simple declarative sentences. The findings of this study show that there is more complexity in transitive verbs than in antipassive verbs with respect to vowel length alternations, and that transitive verbs show simpler behaviour than the antipassive with respect to voice and vowel quality alternations. Thok Reel shows more complexity with respect to vowel length alternations than is attested in related languages. One of the important findings of this study is that in Thok Reel the three levels of vowel length can be lexical. The description of the tone system consists of phonetic and phonological accounts. The three tonemes High (H), Low (L) and High-Low (HL) are realised within a narrow frequency range and are distinguished almost solely by f0 alignment (pitch movements). The HL tone is typologically unusual in that, although there is evidence for it being a composite tone, it does not always behave as is expected of a tone composed of H and L components. In sentences, tone sandhi processes and a contextual modification alter the phonological status of the two tonemes H and HL. The ordering of these processes varies at different levels of derivation, described as phrase-level and sentence-level. The onset of sandhi and its direction in sentences with finite transitive verbs is shown to deviate from the common pattern found in sentences with other types of verbs. It is argued that in sentences with finite transitive verbs tone sandhi is used by syntax to mark the juncture between the verb and its object.