Current Trends in Phonology: Theoretic Account of Amharic Spirintization
Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume 7, Issue 3, May 2019, Pages: 115-120
Received: Jan. 28, 2019; Accepted: Apr. 8, 2019; Published: Jul. 4, 2019
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Tilahun Negash, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Debre Markos University, Debre Markos, Ethiopia
Yoseph Zewdu, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Debre Markos University, Debre Markos, Ethiopia
Haile Kassahun, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Debre Markos University, Debre Markos, Ethiopia
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This paper intends to illustrate an analysis about one of the common phonological process known as spirantization in Amharic in the framework of Optimality and Feature Geometry. The theoretical models we have been assuming - known as the linear theory of representation-was quite successful in explaining a number of facts about sound systems. A defining characteristic of the theory is the view that segments are matrices of feature values, where every segment has a specification for each of the two dozen distinctive features. There were, however, phonological realms which the theory had largely ignored, and that were spirintization and assimilation. The process of these phonological processes in Amharic language can be shown and represented in Optimality Theory and Feature Geometry more clearly than in linear phonology. The method used in this research is analytical-descriptive. Six native speakers who were selected from different age groups that ranges from 30 to 50 and different educational levels were interviewed. Furthermore, free conversation and life stories were also included in the corpus. The data gathered is phonemically transcribed following the IPA conventions as revised to 2005 and analyzed using Optimality and Feature Geometry. Amharic, which is one of the most important languages of Ethiopia, is mainly spoken in Amhara regional state of Ethiopia. The language belongs to Transversal South-Ethio-Semitic group of the Afro-Asiatic language phylum. According to the 2007 Population Census, Census (2008) report, there are around 22 million Amharic native speakers and additional 7 million second language speakers. The language spoken in this region can be divided into four general regional dialects. The investigation of the major dialectal variations and isoglosses of Amharic are scanty. The available literature identifies four major dialects of Amharic: Gojjam, Gonder, Shewa and Wollo. Although the isoglosses and internal dialectal variations are hitherto not clearly established, the literature agrees on the mutual intelligibility among the dialects of this language. In Amharic, there are two consonants which engage in spirantization process. These consonants include /b, k / which are changed to the fricatives. Lenition patterns are expressed in terms of conflicts between the effort minimization constraint, LAZY, and on the other hand a class of lenition-blocking constraints. Spirantization, for example, is analyzed in terms of rankings where LAZY dominates IDENT (x). Under the opposite ranking, spirantization is blocked. There are three major feature groups, laryngeal features, manner features and place features, which Clements calls Class Nodes. In spirantization process, in the manner node, the feature (continuant) is added to a stop consonant, producing a fricative at the same place.
Amharic, Feature Geometry (FG), Lenition, Optimality Theory (OT), Spirantization
To cite this article
Tilahun Negash, Yoseph Zewdu, Haile Kassahun, Current Trends in Phonology: Theoretic Account of Amharic Spirintization, Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 7, No. 3, 2019, pp. 115-120. doi: 10.11648/j.hss.20190703.14
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This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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