Somali as a tone language

Author(s): David Le Gac


Since Hyman’s seminal paper, Somali has usually been considered to be a tonal/pitch-accent language. Recently, phonologists have cast doubt upon the pertinence of such a prosodic class, arguing that pitch-accent languages do not form a coherent category with distinctive criteria and can be reduced to either stress/accent or tonal languages. This paper outlines a tonal analysis of Somali. It aims at showing that the multiple pitch patterns observed in different classes of words and syntactic contexts find a more accurate account within an approach using tonal features only.