Tonal head marking in Mande compounds: endpoint neutralization and outliers

Christopher R. Green, Maria Konoshenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper explores the nature and realization of tonal head marking (THM) in endocentric compounds headed by nominal stems in Mande. In Mande, a compound’s head is most often revalued by a tune or melody that expones the head/dependent relationship between the compound’s elements. We explore how this process interacts with the phonologies of individual languages by establishing the microtypology of Mande THM based on a sample of 54 closely related Mande lects. We argue that, with few exceptions, THM can be traced to a single pattern involving either lowering or loss of the head’s lexical melody. We further show that the head’s tonal revaluation is largely predictable relative to a given language’s tonal inventory and innovative phonological rules. We propose an account of Mande THM via scalar endpoint neutralization and consider the ways in which the phenomenon aligns with other grammatical tone operations proposed in recent typologies. We also consider outliers within the family that fail to exhibit such type of neutralization and offer possibilities to explain their exceptional behavior relative to other languages in the family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-44
Number of pages42
Issue number67
StatePublished - 2022


  • Mande
  • grammatical tone
  • head marking
  • microtypology
  • neutralization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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