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(June 2011) The findings of four SIL linguistic researchers were presented at the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL), “African Languages in Context,” hosted by the University of Maryland. Presentations by a diverse group of international scholars covered a wide range of topics of particular relevance to African languages.
Presentations by SIL linguists related to the phonology and syntax of question formation, phonology and morphological tone, and spatial semantics:
The topic of Beavon-Ham’s presentation is of particular note. The phenomenon of downstepped low tones is unusual. In Saxwe, a Kwa language spoken in Benin, a low tone can be downstepped, but it is always due to the presence of voiced obstruents (speech sounds involving a constriction that impedes airflow through the nose or mouth). While lowering of tone register is common in African languages, this particular pattern is a surprising discovery.
From Cahill’s presentation: waveform and pitch graphs representing pitch differences between (a) the statement ‘s/he is rolling rope’ and (b) the question ‘is s/he rolling rope?’ in Konni.