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M.A. Theses in Linguistics
at the University of North Dakota
Roe, Amy 2014
The phonetics and phonology of Bora tone
Bora is a Witotoan language spoken in Peru and Colombia. It has an unusual mixed
tone/stress system in which L is the specified tone and H the unspecified tone. In this
thesis, I describe the underlying tone patterns of noun and verb roots and show how
their surface representations change in different phonological environments. I examine
noun stems with seven different suffixes and one prefix and verb stems with thirteen
Disyllabic noun roots have three underlying tone patterns: L∅, ∅L, and ∅∅.
Additionally, Bora has a low boundary tone that associates to the right edge of noun
phrases. Verb roots are underlyingly toneless. However, verb stems with bound
suffixes are assigned one of the following surface tone patterns based on their suffix:
L∅, ∅L, or ∅∅. Bora also has a verbal boundary tone that associates to the right edge
of verb stems. Affixes may be toneless, have underlying low tones, or have floating low
In addition to the underlying tone patterns of morphemes, Bora assigns low tones
to stressed syllables. One and two syllable words have stress on the penultimate
syllable, while longer words have antepenultimate stress.
In Bora, the Obligatory Contour Principle restricts sequences of adjacent low tones.
Bora exhibits three responses to OCP conflicts: L Merger, L Deletion, and L Delinking.
The choice of OCP resolution is lexically and phonologically determined.