Nzadi is a Bantu language spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "from Kwamuntu to Ilebo along the north side of the Kasai River in Bandundu Province." The number of speakers of Nzadi is not known, but is estimated to be in the thousands. The Nzadi language has three dialects, Ngiemba, Lensibun, and Ndzé Ntaa.
|Native to||DR Congo|
|unknown, but probably several thousands (2011)|
Nzadi contains seven contrastive vowels, which can be either long or short. The table below shows all the vowel phonemes found in the language:
|high||i ii||u uu|
|high-mid||e ee||o oo|
|low-mid||ɛ ɛɛ||ɔ ɔɔ|
|stops||p b||t d||k (g)||kp (gb)|
|affricates||(pf) bv||ts dz|
|fricatives||f v||s z|
Unlike other Bantu languages, which favor polysyllablic word stems, Nzadi consists primarily of monosyllabic stems. Bisyllabic stems are also present, but they are primarily borrowings or reduplications.
All stems necessarily begin with a consonant, and monosyllabic stems take four possible structures: CV, CVC, CVV, or CVVC. In the case of bisyllabic stems, both syllables begin with a consonant, and long vowels never occur in the first syllable, and rarely in the second.
As a result of the systematic shortening of word stems, Nzadi words tend to have more vowel clusters than other Bantu languages, and in many cases adjusts one or more of the adjacent vowels by the following processes.
When two different vowels occur in succession, one of three things can happen, depending on several factors:
|Coalescence Process||Occurs When|
|(i)||V1 deletes without affecting the length of V2||V1 + V2 → V2||V1 is a non-stem vowel|
|(ii)||V1 deletes with compensatory lengthening of V2||V1 + V2 → V2V2||V1 is a stem vowel|
|(iii)||The two vowels can be realized without modification||V1 + V2 → V1V2||V1 and V2 meet when two lexical words occur in sequence|
In cases in which coalescence does not occur, a long vowel followed immediately by another vowel will shorten.
Due to the historical word shortening from Proto-Bantu, Nzadi does not have the stem-level vowel harmony that many other Bantu languages do. However, one kind of harmony does present itself: /e-/ or /o-/ noun prefixes will harmonize to ɛ- or ɔ- if the stem has an identical /ɛ/ or /ɔ/ vowel.
Nzadi, like other Bantu languages, has two contrastive tone leves, high (H) and low (L), which can combine to form falling (HL), rising (LH), and rising-falling (LHL) contour tones.
Tone in Nzadi conveys important lexical and grammatical information, and can be the only difference between different words and forms, as seen in the minimal quintuplet here:
|H:||ŋkún||'that very one'|
|L:||okun||'to bury, plant'|
When a contour tone is followed by another tone that begins with the same tone level as the end of the first, the first tone is simplified by dropping the final tone level. For example, a HL contour followed by a L tone will be simplified to H.
Contour simplification is similar to tone absorption, but occurs when adjacent tone levels are different, as seen in the following possessive constructions:
|/mbwɔ̌m okáàr/||mbwɔm okáàr 'the woman's nose'|
|/mbǔn mbéè/||mbun mbéè 'the friend's forehead'|
|/ikɔ̌ŋ é ibaa/||ikɔŋ ibáà 'the man's spear'|
|/ikɔ̌ŋ é mùùr/||ikɔŋ e múùr 'the person's spear'|
Despite the functional load of tone in Nzadi, intonation can interact or interfere with lexical tones, particularly when a pause in the utterance is taken. In this case, a H boundary tone is inserted.
|L-L||mbum 'fruit'||mbǔm, mi ó pé mwǎàn 'a fruit I gave the child'|
|L-LH||mbǔm 'maggot'||mbǔm, mi ó pé mwǎàn 'a maggot I gave the child'|
|L-HL||mpúù 'rat'||mpúù, mi ó pé mwǎàn 'a rat I gave the child'|
|L-H||epúú 'cloth'||epúú, mi ó pé mwǎàn 'a cloth I gave the child'|
Note: The Guthrie classification is geographic and its groupings do not imply a relationship between the languages within them.