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Language science and language technology in Africa: A festschrift for Justus C. Roux

01 Oct 2012-

TL;DR: Language Science and Language Technology in Africa: A Festschrift for Justus C. Roux.
Abstract: CITATION: Ndinga-Koumba-Binza, H.S. & Bosch, S.E. (eds.). 2012. Language Science and Language Technology in Africa: A Festschrift for Justus C. Roux. Stellenbosch: SUN MeDIA. doi:10.18820/9781920338800.
Topics: Language technology (63%), Language education (58%)

Summary (3 min read)


  • Currently, the large-scale assessment of language proficiency, particularly at higher education levels, is dominated by reading and writing tests because listening and speaking skills are thought to be too difficult to evaluate.
  • The same methods can be employed for oral proficiency assessment, although it must be borne in mind that speech carries (among other attributes) the accent and gender of the testee, both of which can increase the possibility of bias.
  • They are logistically more problematic, particularly when the results must be available in a short space of time.
  • Being proficient in academic English is extremely important because even if they did not continue their study of English after the first year, the students would still Automatic assessments of oral proficiency and indicators of linguistic abilities 311 use the language in their academic subjects.
  • The authors report on the correlation between human and automatic ratings for a test population of first year students, as described in the preceding paragraphs.


  • Previous scholars entertained the view that word stress in BSAE is “assigned idiosyncratically, very often on the penultimate syllable, following the phonological rule in Bantu languages where this syllable is lengthened” (de Klerk & Gough 2002:361; see also Hundleby 1964:80-81).
  • In his work, van Rooy (2002) argues that neither of the hypotheses can account for his data in a satisfactory way.
  • This observation is central in the penult-hypothesis, and explanatory reference is made to the prosodic system of South African Bantu languages.
  • Van Rooy (2002) observes that in BSAE the phonological shape of the final syllable also determines stress assignment, more specifically either a consonant cluster in the coda of the final syllable (thus syllable weight; see 1c) or the presence of an underlying diphthong in the final syllable (see 1d) leads to such syllable receiving stress.
  • For the latter one needs to differentiate between two kinds of suffixes (or affixes more generally): on the one hand those which are incorporated into the stem for the purposes of stress assignment, called opaque suffixes by van Rooy (2002:153), and on the other hand those whose presence is ignored in stress assignment, called transparent suffixes.


  • In order to test if the predictions of van Rooy’s (2002) algorithm are borne out in new data, the stress patterns of polysyllabic content words in an already existing corpus of spoken Black South African English have been analysed.
  • The corpus contained the speech of 14 speakers of Black South African English.
  • They obtained an average QPT score of 62/100.
  • Speakers were asked to read nine short paragraphs, containing between 35 and 65 words each.
  • The nine paragraphs contained 79 polysyllabic content words which were subsequently transcribed with respect to their segmental and suprasegmental features by the author of the study and a student researcher.

4.1. Supporting the Stress Algorithm

  • The first observation when comparing the actual realisations to the General South African English realisation is that the divergences between the two varieties in the segmental domain are considerable (mostly with respect to vowel quality and the manner of articulation of the rsound).
  • Furthermore, van Rooy’s (2002) algorithm is confirmed in a variety of ways that will be presented and discussed in detail below.
  • The fact that most words are realised with stress on the penultimate syllable is accounted for by the important generalisation in van Rooy’s (2002) algorithm, namely that stress is usually on the penultimate syllable.
  • In both cases, stress would be predicted on the final syllable when based on the underlying form given that they are superheavy (VCC).
  • (6) orthography underlying predicted realised promised prɒmɪsd proˈmist 'pɹɔmɪz (11), 'pɹɔmɪzd (2) boyfriend bɔɪfrend bɔɪˈfrent 'bɔɪfrɛnd, 'bɔɪfrɛn (10), 'bɔɪfɹɛn (3).


  • As the examples in (2) – (6) show, the new data that have been collected support the BSAE stress algorithm by van Rooy (2002) in a variety of ways.
  • The reader might have noticed these instances in (3) and (6).
  • (7) orthography underlying predicted realised a. divorced dɪvɔːsd diˈvosd diˈvɔs received rɪsiːvd riˈsivd riˈsit, riˈziv b. promised prɒmɪsd proˈmist 'pɹɔmɪzd (2).
  • The examples in (11) show a principled restriction of van Rooy’s stress algorithm4.
  • For all examples in (11), stress is predicted to occur either on the final or on the penultimate syllable whereas it is actually realised on the antepenultimate syllable in agreement with the Standard English stress pattern.


  • The previous section has presented new data from a corpus of read speech which was evaluated against the BSAE stress algorithm proposed by van Rooy (2002).
  • It could be shown that the algorithm accounted for many of the occurring stress realisations and that the corpus thus provided support for all of the assumptions made by van Rooy (2002).
  • It also became clear that the algorithm – not surprisingly – cannot account for all the data.
  • The logical step forward would now be to propose a modification of the algorithm that would do exactly that.
  • Instead the discussion section wants to raise two concerns that prevent me from doing so: these concerns relate to the representation of word prosody in language contact, and the role of grammar and frequency in language.

5.1. Word-Prosodic Systems in Contact Languages

  • By definition, mesolect speakers use a variety which lies between the two languages involved in the language contact situation (Bickerton 1971).
  • Developing a stress algorithm for mesolect speakers of BSAE in fact assumes a stress system, an assumption which contradicts the above-mentioned assumption.
  • Even in simultaneous French-Spanish bilinguals the phonological representation of stress differs from that of monolingual speakers of the languages.
  • Gussenhoven and Udofot (2010; see also Gut 2005) investigate sentence prosody in Nigerian English, a variety arising out of the contact between a stress language and a West African tone language.
  • Also the literature on the acoustic realisation of sentence stress suggests that contact languages can creatively develop prosodic systems which differ from the prosodic systems of both the substrate and the superstrate languages.

5.2. The Role of Grammar and Frequency in Language

  • A second concern that stands in the way of developing a solely grammar-based stress algorithm for BSAE relates to the finding that language learning seems to involve a combination of learning mechanisms (e.g. Carpenter 2010 for stress): some are innate mechanisms specific to language, like formal abstract grammatical principles such as those expressed in an OT analysis, and others are general cognitive mechanisms, like frequency statistics.
  • In order to disentangle the two general mechanisms, the welldocumented influence of usage statistics needs to be controlled for in linguistic studies that address this question so that results can be interpreted as giving evidence about grammar per se.
  • A frequent experimental paradigm that controls for usage statistics is the use of nonsense words, i.e. madeup words that do not exist in the language under investigation.
  • Recently, Zonneveld (2010) reanalysed Van der Pas et al.’s data as showing evidence that speakers of Tswana English show an interim grammar in which final VC-syllables are extrametrical and thereby open up the possibility of antepenultimate stress.


  • Using the general theory of lexicography to plan a dictionary gives lexicographers the opportunity to opt for existing lexicographic procedures or new procedures, but also to combine existing and new procedures by using existing procedures as a basis for innovative adaptations and applications.
  • The way in which numerous multiword terms have been entered into the macrostructure by means of a variety of procedures resulted in different types of sublemmata.
  • In this regard the WGW has applied existing theoretical guidelines in an innovative way to ensure the best possible and wide-ranging macrostructural coverage.
  • Here a contemplative approach to lexicography offers the basis for innovative transformative approaches.

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Edited by
Hugues Steve 
Sonja E. 
Language Science and
Language Technology in Africa
Language Science and
Language Technology in Africa
Hugues Steve 
Sonja E.  Eds)
Festschrift for
Justus C. Roux
Vili, Zulu,
Xhosa, Afrikaans,
English, Swati, Ndebele,
Punu, Shona,Tswana,
Sotho,Sepedi, Obamba,
Mboshi, Nzebi,
is book provides a broad overview of current work on South African languages, language
resources and language technologies. While it provides a fairly comprehensive overview, it
also ties together the most recent knowledge state here, and is therefore truly innovative
… e book is therefore informed by current international trends in the respective elds
of science, and feeds back into them … ere is absolutely no doubt that the book has an
academic peer audience and is directed at specialists in the eld.
Prof. Axel Fleisch, University of Helsinki, Finland
is Festschri, containing 20 stimulating articles by colleagues and students, is a
tting tribute to his 65th birthday. e book covers a wide range of subjects dealing
with phonetics and phonology, language description and resources, lexicography and
terminology, and language technology research and development. Each article presents the
results of experiments completed or the exposition of viewpoints held in connection with
these subject elds. However, the presentations do not just end here. ey also contain
pointers to further problems for research and discussion. ese articles are therefore not
complete in themselves, but open-ended, leaving not only the possibility for reconsidering
the research and discussions presented, but also, because the information and viewpoints
given are original and innovative, for stimulating thought and evoking reaction. ese
articles are therefore meant for specialists in the relevant elds who can fully appreciate the
experiments and arguments and respond to them in an informed manner.
Dr Johan du Plessis, Bureau of the WAT, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Dr H. Steve 
Civili, langue
des Baloango: Esquisse historique et linguisque
A phonec and phonological account of the Civili vowel duraon
South Africa.
Prof. Sonja E. 
             
morphological analysis of African languages, as well as coordinator of the African Wordnet project.
          
ISBN 978-1-920338-79-4

Language Science and Language
Technology in Africa:
A Festschrift for Justus C. Roux
Edited by
Sonja E. BOSCH

Language Science and Language Technology in Africa: Festschrift for Justus C. Roux
Copyright © 2012 SUN MeDIA Stellenbosch and contributing authors
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmied in any form or by any electronic,
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laser disk, on microlm, via the Internet, by e-mail, or by any other information storage and
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First edition 2012
ISBN: 978-1-920338-79-4
e-ISBN: 978-1-920338-80-0
DOI: 10.18820/9781920338800
Set in 10/12 Palatino Linotype
Cover design: Liezel Meintjes
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Printed and bound by SUN MeDIA Stellenbosch, Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch, 7600.

Every contribution in this volume was subjected to a double blind peer-review
process. We wish to acknowledge the participation of the following colleagues
in the production of this book. Some of them had to review the same chapter
two or three times, and others reviewed more than one chapter. Thank you!
Mariëtta Alberts (NWU)
Etienne Barnard (NWU)
Ian Bekker (NWU)
Ansu Berg (NWU)
Sonja E. Bosch (UNISA)
Willem Botha (WAT)
Emmanuel Chabata (Zimbabwe)
Febe de Wet (CSIR)
Johan du Plessis (WAT)
Rufus Gouws (SU)
Marissa Griesel (NWU)
Hendrik Groenewald (NWU)
Maxwell Kadenge (WITS)
Inge Kosch (UNISA)
Albert E. Kotzé (UNISA)
John Lubinda (Botswana)
Ludwine Mabika Mbokou (Gabon)
Paul Achille Mavoungou (Gabon)
Cindy A. McKellar (NWU)
Shamila Naidoo (UKZN)
Steve Ndinga-Koumba-Binza (NWU)
Thomas Niesler (SU)
Mildred Nkolola-Wakumelo (Zambia)
Dion Nkomo (RU)
Blanche Nyangone Assam (UWC)
Sulene Pilon (NWU)
Rigardt Pretorius (NWU)
Danie Prinsloo (UP)
Martin Puttkammer (NWU)
Aditi Sharma Grover (CSIR)
Frenette Southwood (SU)
Elsabé Taljard (UP)
Charl van Heerden (CSIR)
Gerhard van Huyssteen (NWU)
Linda van Huyssteen (TUT)
Bertus van Rooy (NWU)
Daan P. Wissing (NWU)
Sabine Zerbian (Germany)
The editors are also grateful to Professor Axel Fleisch (Department of World
Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland) and to Dr Johan C.M.D. du Plessis
(former editor of Lexikos, Bureau of the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal,
South Africa) for their thorough and insightful review of the entire volume.

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Paul A Mavoungou1Institutions (1)
TL;DR: The present research will only give an account of the dictionary conceptualisation plan as well as future work of the Yilumbu corpus.
Abstract: In this article, an account is given of the planning and production of a corpus of Yilumbu. The primary focus of the article is on the presentation of the project background. Then the article also ...

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E. Botha1Institutions (1)
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Abstract: R.R.K. Hartmann (Editor). Lexicography: Critical Concepts. Volume I: Dictionaries, Compilers, Critics and Users. xxvii + 412 pp. ISBN 0-415-25366-7. Volume II: Reference Works across Time, Space and Languages. xi + 383 pp. ISBN 0-41525367-5. Volume III: Lexicography, Metalexicography and Reference Science. xi + 483 pp. ISBN 0-415-25368-3. ISBN 0-415-25365-9 (Set). London/New York: Routledge. Price: £425.

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Book ChapterDOI
01 Feb 2004
TL;DR: Results indicate that speakers generalise over the entries in their lexicons, and respond differently to patterns which are exemplified versus ones which are not, which raises the question of whether knowledge of phonotactics is categorical, distinguishing only possible from impossible forms, or whether it is gradient, tracking lexical statistics more.
Abstract: The speech literature abounds in evidence that language-specific phonotactic patterns affect perception. Phonotactics affect placement of phoneme category boundaries (Massaro and Cohen 1983), segmentation of nonce forms (Suomi et al. 1997), and speed and accuracy of phoneme monitoring (Otake et al. have provided evidence that perceived well-formedness of phoneme combinations is related to their frequency in the language. Coleman (1996) also found that speakers rated neologisms with attested clusters higher than those containing unattested clusters. These results indicate that speakers generalise over the entries in their lexicons, and respond differently to patterns which are exemplified versus ones which are not. However, patterns may be exemplified to different degrees. This raises the question of whether knowledge of phonotactics is categorical, distinguishing only possible from impossible forms (as predicted by classical generative models), or whether it is gradient, tracking lexical statistics more

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TL;DR: In a sequence recall task with adult speakers of five languages with predictable stress and one language with non-predictable stress, it was found that speakers of all languages except Polish exhibited a strong stress “Deafness”, while Spanish speakers exhibited no such “deafnesses”.
Abstract: Previous studies have documented that speakers of French, a language with predictable stress, have difficulty distinguishing nonsense words that vary in stress position solely (stress “deafness”). In a sequence recall task with adult speakers of five languages with predictable stress (Standard French, Southeastern French, Finnish, Hungarian and Polish) and one language with non-predictable stress (Spanish), it was found that speakers of all languages with predictable stress except Polish exhibited a strong stress “deafness”, while Spanish speakers exhibited no such “deafness”. Polish speakers yielded an intermediate pattern of results: they exhibited a weak stress “deafness”. These findings are discussed in light of current theoretical models of speech perception.

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Journal ArticleDOI
Ulrike Gut1Institutions (1)
Abstract: Nigerian English (NigE) prosody has often been described as strikingly different from Standard English varieties such as British English (BrE) and American English. One possible source for this is the influence of the indigenous tone languages of Nigeria on NigE. This paper investigates the effects of the language contact between the structurally diverse prosodic systems of English and the three major Nigerian languages. Reading passage style and semi-spontaneous speech by speakers of NigE, BrE, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba were analysed acoustically in terms of speech rhythm, syllable structure and tonal structure. Results show that NigE prosody combines elements of intonation / stress languages and tone languages. In terms of speech rhythm, syllable structure and syllable length, NigE groups between the Nigerian languages and BrE. NigE tonal properties are different from those of an intonation language such as BrE insofar as tones are associated with syllables and have a grammatical function. Accentuation in NigE is different from BrE in terms of both accent placement and realisation; accents in NigE are associated with high tone. A proposal for a first sketch of NigE intonational phonology is made and parallels are drawn with other New Englishes.

56 citations

"Language science and language techn..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Gussenhoven and Udofot (2010; see also Gut 2005) investigate sentence prosody in Nigerian English, a variety arising out of the contact between a stress language and a West African tone language....


Book ChapterDOI
18 Jan 2008

38 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: (1984). Stress and intonation and the intelligibility of South African Black English. African Studies: Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 217-230.

31 citations

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