Syllable Weight In Dholuo
This paper is about syllable weight in Dholuo, a Western Nilotic language spoken in south-western Kenya and the neighbouring northern tip of Tanzania. Dholuo has both open and closed syllables, as well as heavy and light syllables. A light syllable in Dholuo consists of CV, V, CVC or VC syllable structures (or V and VC rhyme structures), while a heavy syllable is composed of CV:, CVV, V:, VV, CV:C, CVVC, V:C or VVC syllable structures (or V:, VV, V:C, and VVC rhyme structures). The paper demonstrates that Dholuo is a type-B language, according to Katamba’s (1989) classification of languages into type-A and type-B depending on their syllable weight. It is a type-B language because the coda does not count in the determination of its syllable weight. In a type-B language, both the onset and coda do not play a role in the determination of the weight of a syllable. The paper also shows that if a word ends in a closed syllable (in which case it has a coda) in utterance-final position, the vowel in that syllable gets lengthened and therefore becomes heavy and is hence stressed. If a non-monosyllabic, that is, a polysyllabic word ends in an open syllable in utterance-final position, it is its penultimate vowel that gets lengthened and, hence, becomes heavy and stressed. Therefore, though the coda is irrelevant in determining the weight of a syllable, it plays an important role in triggering vowel lengthening and, hence, stress placement in words occurring in utterance-final position in Dholuo.
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