The Kifuliiru Language, Volume 1: Phonology, Tone, and Morphological Derivation

Van Otterloo, Karen

This volume on Kifuliiru, a Bantu (J) language of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and its companion volume, The Kifuliiru Language, Volume 2: A Descriptive Grammar is one of the most thorough and yet readable Bantu grammars available.

This two volume set comprises "one of the most comprehensive grammars of any Bantu language." – Derek Nurse, Research Professor in the Linguistics Department, Memorial University

Designed primarily as language documentation rather than as theoretical analysis, these volumes aim at a thorough presentation of the many interesting features found in a typical Interlacustrine Bantu (J) language.

A special highlight of this first volume is an unusually detailed and thorough autosegmental analysis of Kifuliiru tone, with emphasis on the realization of tone in an extensive variety of verbal forms and constructions, with and without various object prefixes and including passive and causative variations of most forms. This allows clear evaluation of the concomitant tonal changes. Whereas in most Bantu languages a high tone seems to contrast only with its absence, this thorough analysis of Kifuliiru indicates a synchronic three-way distinction in verbs between high (H), low (L), and toneless (Ø). Verbs of all three classes are used to illustrate each different grammatical tone pattern.

One chapter is dedicated to a detailed presentation of the morphology and morphophonology of derivation in Kifuliiru. Discussion of the verbal extensions includes the morphophonological and syntactic aspects as well as the semantic nuances of each extension. An exhaustive treatment of the formation of the resultative (often called perfective) form of the verb stem is also included.

The sound files which accompany Volume 1 were produced in Nairobi, Kenya, in late 2005. Recordings cover numbered examples, tables, and texts, as well as many examples found within the discussion and analysis. A free gloss is included for each utterance. However, more detailed information, such as the tone class of the verb or a morpheme breakdown, is not generally included in the sound file transcriptions and glosses. This information is found only in the volume itself.

About the Author

Karen Van Otterloo received a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1977. She and her husband Roger (author of Volume 2) lived with their family in the Kifuliiru-speaking area of what was then Zaire from 1980–1996 and still continue contact and involvement today.

The Kifuliiru Language, Two Volume Set is available. Save 12% on the purchase of the set over purchasing each volume separately.

Table of Contents:

List of Tables
Bafuliiru Foreward
A Brief Background to Writing Grammars in Africa by Derek Nurse

1. Conventions

  • 1.1 Language name and classification
  • 1.2 Dialects
  • 1.3 Previous language work; contributors to the present work
  • 1.4 Conventions

2. Phonology

  • 2.1 Phoneme inventory
  • 2.2 Phonetic realization and distribution of phonemes
  • 2.3 Phonological rules and processes
  • 2.4 Syllable structure, word structure, and syllable prominence

3. Tone

  • 3.1 Assumptions from autosegmental theory
  • 3.2 The tone-bearing unit: mora or syllable?
  • 3.3 Tone inventory
  • 3.4 Functional load of tone
  • 3.5 Tone on verbs
  • 3.6 Extratonality of the final syllable in nouns and verbs
  • 3.7 General characteristics of tone association in Kifuliiru
  • 3.8 General rules affecting tone at the word level
  • 3.9 Lexical tone of verbal affixes
  • 3.10 Tone on nouns
  • 3.11 Tone on other parts of speech
  • 3.12 General rules affecting the tones of words on the phrase and clause level
  • 3.13 Downdrift
  • 3.14 Floating L tones and (non-automatic) downstep

4. Derivational processes

  • 4.1 Noun derivations
  • 4.2 Verb derivations
  • 4.3 Adjectives derived from verbs
  • 4.4 Adverbs derived from verbs

5. Verb stems

  • 5.1 Extensions: General considerations
  • 5.2 Degrees of productivity in extensions
  • 5.3 Relative order of extensions
  • 5.4 Extensions and their relationship to valence
  • 5.5 Productive extensions
  • 5.6 Non-productive extensions and expansions
  • 5.7 Other suffixes (expansions)
  • 5.8 Various extension combinations
  • 5.9 The resultative final: Structural considerations

Appendix: Determining word boundaries and related orthography issues

  • 1. The relevant units: words, affixes, and clitics
    • 1.1 Words
    • 1.2 Affixes
    • 1.3 Clitics
  • 2. Phonological indicators of word boundaries
    • 2.1 Compensatory vowel lengthening
    • 2.2 Clitic-related vowel lengthening
    • 2.3 Mora-based vowel shortening
    • 2.4 Lexical and post lexical level vowel coalescence
    • 2.5 Tonal contours
  • 3 Grammatical indicators of word boundaries in verbs
    • 3.1 Multiple subject prefixes
    • 3.2 Infinitive following auxiliary
    • 3.3 Subjunctive forms with no subjunctive FV
    • 3.4 Placement of pre-final emphatic -ag extension
    • 3.5 Grammatical tone of the verb stem
  • 4 Other word break issues
    • 4.1 Clause-level clitics
      • 4.1.1 Clitics attached to the ends of verbs
      • 4.1.2 Single syllable verbs as enclitics
    • 4.2 Vowel coalescence, word breaks, and orthography

Person index
Language index
Overall index

Retail Price:
xxxii, 481 pages
African languages
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
6 × 9 × 1 in
1.6 lb
Congo (Kinshasa)
Subject Languages:
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