The Status Of Onset Of Somali Syllable Structure

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THE STATUS OF ONSET IN SOMALI SYLLABLE STRUCTURE: AN OPTIMALITY THEORETIC STUDY

Abstract:
The onset in Somali syllable structure provokes considerable argument among scholars who are interested in the syllable structure in this language. Owrin (1996) and Saeed (1999) agree that onset is mandatory in this language whereas Zetterholm and Tronnier (2012) state onsets are as optional as codas in this language. Therefore, this research is to investigate whether onsets in Somali syllable structure are mandatory or optional in light of Optimality Theory (OT), as a framework. This study primarily depends on data taken from extant literature including books, articles, and theses. Furthermore, 10 Somali native speakers were consulted about the fact of data. This study concludes that consonant epenthesis as well as resyllbification manifest the importance of onsets in Somali. Consonant epenthesis occurs initially when a monosyllable word begins with a vowel (onsetless syllable), e.g., /èj/→ [ʔèj] ‘dog’. Likewise, this type of epenthesis is found in the intervocalic position when syllables of the form CV are associated with vowel-initial suffixes, e.g. /ma-a:n/→ [ma.Ɂa:n] ‘not I’. The process of resyllabification in Somali is motivated by syllable types CVC and CVVC that are associated with vowel-initial suffixes, e.g. /na:ɡ-i/→[na:.ɡi] ‘woman’, /war.qad-u:/→ [war.qa.du:] formal letters’.

Keywords: Somali language; syllable structure; onset; Optimality Theory (OT).

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