Kinyarwanda/Pronunciation

Kinyarwanda has five vowels which are either long or short, high-toned and no tones. The high tone can appear either on first mora or the second mora. These vowels are the two high vowels i and u, the midvowels e and o and the center low vowel a. The midvowels e and o are not allowed in both the (pre)prefix and suffix positions. In verbs, however, these midvowels can appear in the suffix position as a result of vowel harmony if the vowel of the verb stem is a midvowel. ex. gukosa 'to make mistakes' gukosoora 'to correct' /ku-kos-uur-a/; kumenya 'to know' kumenyeesha /ku-meny-iish-a/. The majority of word stems have the same identical vowel in all syllables: u-mu-biri 'body', u-bu-riri 'bed, i-ki-reenge 'leg', i-béere 'breast', u-mu-góongo 'back', u-mu-hoondo 'yellow', u-ku-guru 'leg', u-ru-túgu 'shoulder', igihaánga 'skull', i-ki-gaanza 'hand palm'. This observation raises the question as to whether the stem is assigned only one vowel which is copied or spreads to other syllables. Since kinyarwanda has open syllables only, loan-words with cluster consonants copy the vowel of the syllable on the right or a default vowel u with bilabial consonants and i with others. As the following work loan-word porogaramu 'program' shows, both vowels o and a are copied on the preceding vowelless consonants and the vowel u is inserted after the final consonant m.

Last modified on 18 August 2006, at 10:47