Phonology-Syntax Interface in Bantu Languages (SynPhonI)

This project undertakes a comparative study of the mutual influence of phonetics, phonology, syntax and information structure on the phrasal prosody of selected Bantu languages. The project investigates the syntax and prosody of complex syntactic structures - embedded clauses, dislocations and questions - to test whether prosodic models developed for simple structures extend to more complex data. Careful phonetic analysis of the data is being undertaken in order to provide a more detailed description of systematic correlates of phrasal prosody, allowing each prosodic level to be better motivated. As we are analyzing the data in current syntactic models, the project also aims to provide a more fine-grained picture of the syntactic factors that condition prosody and determine whether non-syntactic factors influence phrasal prosody. Investigating the same structures in several Bantu languages, spoken over a geographically wide area, will provide the basis for a comparative study of the syntax and prosody of these structures that will be of interest both to Bantuists and to other researchers working on similar issues.

The following research questions are central to this proposal:

  • Does the Prosodic Hierarchy provide enough levels to define the domains for different types of phrasal prosody?
  • Do different prosodic levels have (cross-linguistically) consistent phonetic correlates?
  • Can one account for prosodic phrasing only by referring to syntactic constituent edges or do other factors (like cyclic syntactic domains, argument-adjunct distinctions or information structure) play a role?


French-German cooperative research project

Funding period


Principal investigators

Dr. Laura J. Downing (Berlin) & Dr. Annie Rialland (Paris)