Set the controls for the heart of the alternation: Dahl’s Law in Kitharaka

  • Christian Uffmann University of Sussex
Keywords: Kitharaka, voicing dissimilation, Parallel Structures Model, Optimality Theory, division of labour


This paper looks at Dahl’s Law, a voicing dissimilation process found in a number of Bantu languages, in Kitharaka, and argues that it is best analysed within a framework of minimal (contrastive) feature specifications. We show that the standard account of [±voice] dissimilation runs into a number of problems in Kitharaka and propose a new analysis, couched within the framework of the Parallel Structures Model of Feature Geometry (Morén 2003; 2006) and Optimality Theory, thereby also addressing the question of the division of labour between constraints and representations. The analysis shows that it is crucial to look at the whole system of phonological oppositions and natural classes in Kitharaka to understand how the process works, ultimately also using loanwords to glean crucial insight into how the phoneme system of Kitharaka is organised.