IRCS Technical Reports Series

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

December 1995


University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-96-07.


The nature of language is the enigma linguists try to solve. What makes their task difficult is that in a number of cases, the logical links between the different components of a linguistic unit are difficult to establish. For example, in tone languages, the basic units that are the words are composed of two kinds of minimal, significant sound units, the phonemes on the segmental tier and the tonemes on a distinct tier. The word consists then of these two types of linguistic elements, related by phonological principles.

In Mawukakan, a Manding language spoken in Western Ivory Coast, the word resembles an architectural construction where the function of some structures only becomes evident when you consider the building with its surroundings. This is illustrated below by the tonal assignment of toneless clitics and the lengthening of the vowel of the focus marker le in Mawu.



Date Posted: 26 August 2006