Setswana Phonology

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When Batswana communicate, they use a combination of sounds which enable them to convey various ideas with each other. Each of these sounds consists of words which are made out of discrete speech sounds known as phonemes. This study of phonemes and other phenomena related to the sounds of a particular language is known as phonology. In order to gain a full understanding of the Setswana language, it is necessary to carefully analyze the inventory and structure of its consonants and vowels. In all, there are 28 Setswana consonants that each have different distinctive features. These 28 consonants consist of four aspirated voiceless plosives, three non aspirated voiceless plosives, one voiced plosive, three aspirated voiceless affricates, three non-aspirated voiceless affricates, one voiced affricate, five fricatives, four nasals, and four sonorants. It is also important to note that there are other consonants besides these 28 which include clicking sounds that are accompanied by the sucking of the air in the mouth cavity. These clicks consist of the dental click, the lateral click, and the palatal click. Since these clicks are only found in marginal words such as interjections and ideophones, they are not officially considered as part of the Setswana phonological system. Moreover, these clicks are slowly starting to disappear in the speech of young Batswana. There are many peculiarities associated with Setswana consonants that should be addressed. The phoneme g is pronounced as a throaty h sound similar to the ch in loch. One example of this phoneme is in the pronunciation of Botswana's capital, Gaborone. Another unusual phoneme is f which is often spoken as h in most dialects (except Sekgatla, Setlokwa and Selete). This is particularly the case before u as in sefuba which is normally pronounced as sehuba. Furthermore, the phoneme th is pronounced as a hard t sound such as in the word tap rather than thick. The same is true for all...
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