Phonological Readjustment and Multimodular Interaction: Evidence from Kirundi Language Games

Jeanine Ntihirageza 1
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1Northeastern Illinois University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


This paper investigates language games (also called ludlings [Laycock 1969, 1972, Bagemihl 1988a, 1995]) as linguistic tools used to unveil and understand phonological phenomena such as tone, vowel length and voice dissimilation. Although this study is comparative in nature, the focus is on novel data produced by Kirundi speakers. Three types of affixation language game data are analyzed. The goal of this investigation is twofold. First I show that the only length and tone that matter are the ones that come floating with the affixed segmental material. Second, this paper discusses the issue of source language, i.e., where in the phonology of the language the game rules apply. Following Bagemihl’s modular model (1988, 1995), couched in lexical phonology, I demonstrate that the source language of the language games belongs to different modules depending on the nature of the inserted material. I also show that one language game can pertain to different modules depending on its characteristics. Thus while the voice dissimilation rule is a level 2 morphological rule in Kirundi, the language game data indicate that this rule applies in both the lexical and post-lexical phonology as pointed out in (Goldsmith & Sabimana 1989, Goldsmith 1992). All in all, this study examines what insights into the regular phonology of languages can be obtained through an analysis of the language game data.

Keywords: language games; Kirundi; vowel length; Bantu; tone; voice dissimilation



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