On the link between onset clusters and codas in Mbat (Jarawan Bantu)

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This paper explores morphologically-conditioned alternations in Mbat (Jarawan Bantu) verb stems. Some inflectional affixation in Mbat results in resyllabification. The singleton coda of a CGVC verb stem will become the onset of a new syllable following the addition of a vowel-initial suffix (e.g., Perfective -am). What is surprising is that this, in turn, triggers onset simplification in the stem itself (i.e., CV.C-am). Adding further complexity to Mbat is that these alternations are limited to verb stems containing mid vowels. Stems with low vowels retain their pre-vocalic glide upon suffixation (i.e., CGV.C-am). These outcomes have implications for at least two contemporary lines of inquiry in phonological theory: i) the prosodification and behavior of pre-vocalic glides, and ii) the formal connection between so-called M2 syllable margin positions (i.e., the second member of a complex onset and the sole member of a singleton coda). I illustrate that Mbat has something to contribute to current perspectives on both these fronts. In addition to the theoretical and typological contributions entailed herein, this paper is also significant in that it is the first formal linguistic study of a Jarawan Bantu language, a cluster of languages spoken primarily in eastern Nigeria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-122
Number of pages26
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Jarawan Bantu
  • Phonotactics
  • Pre-vocalic glides
  • Split margin syllable
  • Syllable structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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