Misrepresentations and Omissions in Kiswahili Phonology
Prof. Kithaka wa Mberia

Kiswahili is one of the most studied and documented African languages. Whereas we must commend those who have authored books and papers on Kiswahili linguistics using either English or Kiswahili as the medium, it is important to point out that some of the works have misleading claims on the language. Such claims tend to, at best, confuse students of Kiswahili linguistics and, at worst, reverse gains already achieved in the study of the language. In this paper, I look at misrepresentations in the works on Kiswahili phonology. I show that some of the claims on the production of Kiswahili sounds are incorrect from a phonetic point of view. I also show that a number of rules formulated for Kiswahili phonological processes are incorrect and, therefore, untenable. Such rules pertain to consonant weakening, palatalisation, liquid hardening, “vowel coalescence” and glide formation. I also show that rules that are convincingly part of Kiswahili phonology are omitted in most if not in all works in the language. I conclude the paper by making the claim that thorough grounding in articulatory phonetics and a good grasp of phonological theory are prequisites in delivering a credible phonological analysis of Kiswahili and, indeed, of any other language.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijlc.v3n1a12