A Look into the Concept of Diphthongisation in Bantu: A Case of Shona

Isaac Mhute


This is a qualitative analysis of the traditional position in theoretical linguistics that Bantu languages have only monophthong vowels. It assesses the pronunciation of some of the typical Shona syllables involving vowels that do not qualify to be treated as monophthongs by some Shona speakers in Harare and Masvingo provinces where Zezuru and Karanga varieties of the language are traditionally spoken. It argues that vowels used in such environments are similar to their counterparts that are treated as diphthongs in certain English environments. The overall position is that the general resolution that has been made long ago (that Bantu languages do not have diphthongs and triphthongs) qualifies to be treated as one of the implicational universals that have been made on the languages which need to be dismissed right away. The paper observes that in the beginning such vowels might have been pronounced as chains of vowels but not anymore probably due to the language’s constant contact with Romance languages like English. The research recommends the carrying out of more researches to determine the position of such implicational universal resolutions on Bantu languages

Keywords: Diphthongs, Monophthongs, triphthongs, Bantu language


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