By Leila Schroeder
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Extra resources for Bantu Orthography Manual
Vowel length attributable to the loss of intervocalic consonants In a few Bantu languages, phonemic length has not been retained from Proto-Bantu, but contrastive length has developed from the loss of intervocalic consonants or morpheme concatenation. In such cases, there will not be any phonologically conditioned length. Among these is Tonga (M64) (Maddieson 2003:38). Chapter 2 - Representing Linguistic Features 19 Vowel length only in certain morphemes It is also possible that a contrastive long vowel may be retained in certain tense prefixes even in a language which otherwise has no phonemic vowel length (Nurse 2003:100).
The other implication of the presence of a shortening rule is that in an orthography which represents conditioned vowel length using double vowels, a large percentage of stems would be affected by any length-preservation rule such as that mentioned in the previous paragraph. Instead of involving only stems having phonemically long vowels (usually a relatively small number) it would also theoretically involve any stem in which there is a phonologically conditioned long vowel. If a spelling rule preserves the morphemic shape of a verb stem such as [-biik-] above, this will either necessitate also preserving length in a verb stem such as [-geend-] (in which the vowel length is merely conditioned, and not contrastive) or else readers and writers will need to be taught to differentiate between phonemic and conditioned length when deciding which length to retain.
Try writing content words (nouns, verb roots, words with clear meanings) phonemically and grammatical particles morphophonemically. Vowel coalescence/assimilation Some vowels, originally distinct, change when they adjoin one another. Since these modifications are word-internal and involve changes into sounds which do exist elsewhere as phonemes in the language, reflecting the phonological changes in writing is usually best. Some morphemic contrasts are lost in this process, but beginning readers really benefit, especially for languages which have many vowels in the verbs.
Bantu Orthography Manual by Leila Schroeder