Phonology

The following is a summary of the orthography guide of Kemedzung (Cox, B. 2005. Kemezung orthography guide. Yaoundé: SIL).

 

Alphabet

The Kemedzung alphabet is made up of 22 consonants and 9 vowels. They are represented in upper and lower cases:

A a, B b, C c, D d, Dz dz, E e, Ə ə, Ɛ ɛ, F f, G g, Gb gb, H h, I I, Ɨ ɨ, J j, K k, Kp kp, L l, M m, N n, Ŋ ŋ, Ny, ny, O o, Ɔ ɔ, S s, Sh sh, T t, Ts ts, U u, W w, Y y

A a achu leaves for eating
B b banchɛ gather
C c chɛfiɛ spider
D d diəəŋ rightly
Dz dz dzaŋ rain
- e dze take
Ə ə əbɔɔ bo bird of prey
Ɛ ɛ ɛi exclamation
F f fiantɛdiɛ small grasshopper
G g guyɛ opening
Gb gb gbɨyaŋ eighty
H h hahɔ okay
I i ish exclamation
Ɨ ɨ ɨŋŋ yes
J j jiŋfi less worry
K k kiŋfidi dance
Kp kp kpaŋ finger
L l lakɨlakɨ sparkling
M m mfiyɛ study
N n ndindi picture
Ŋ ŋ ŋkɔndiɛ cocoyam leaf
Ny ny nyɛŋ animal
O o ɔɔwɔ exclamation
Ɔ ɔ pampa tin
S s səŋfɨ laugh
Sh sh shəŋ heart
T t tombi push
Ts ts tsaŋ guinea fowl
U u uuhuhu sound made by a horse
W w wumbɔŋ alone
Y y yəsɨ eye

Consonants

There are several combinations of consonants.

The first consonant is a nasal (m, n, ŋ): Most consonants, with the exception of h, can follow a nasal. This can occur at the beginning and in the middle of a word.

For example:

mbi                 world

bunga             force

 

The second consonant is the sound j: Most of the times this is written as i. The first consonant is normally an: b, d, gb, k, kp, t, f, l, m or n. This can occur at the beginning and in the middle of a word.

For example:

biansɨ             large rock

miə              neck

 

 

The second consonant is the sound w: The w can follow an: b, g, k, kp, f or m. This can occur at the beginning and in the middle of a word.

For example:

 

kwəlɨ              cheek

gwəŋ           door

 

There are rules on which consonants can occur in which positions and which ones can be written together:

 

  • Never write a z without a d in front of it
  • Never write p without a k in front of it
  • The only consonant that can be word-final is ŋ
  • If you hear a nasal consonant before b always write m
  • If you hear a nasal consonant before f, write m at the start of a word, else write ŋ
  • If you hear a nasal consonant before k, g, kp or gb, always write ŋ
  • Never write If you hear a ‘v’, write f
  • Never write r. If you hear an ‘r’, write l
  • Write a double nasal at the beginning of a word when there is a nasal added for grammatical reasons (for example a verb that becomes a noun or a verb in the first person singular:

           me     sleep                    mme     sleeping                                    nya    give                      nnya               I give

 

Vowels

There are both short and long vowels. The long vowels are written as a sequence of two vowels. They don’t occur often. Examples of the long vowels and the contrasting short vowels are shown below.

mfiiŋ               round                                mfiŋ         magic

kɨyee               slow                                  ye            snake

boo                 white                                bo            kind of bird

mbɛɛ               address to the fon            kambɛ       snail

təə                 full                                     tə             loincloth

diəəŋ             correct                               bidiəŋ       food

gɔɔ                 red                                    gɔ            worms

 

It is also possible to have a sequence of three vowels, used for ideophones:

baaa    full

 

If there is a sequence of two or more different vowels, the first vowel is always i. This i goes together with the consonant before it and sounds like j. An i followed by another vowel can occur in the middle and at the end of a word:

bnə              week

kɨdio               swallow

 

There are some rules on which vowels can occur in which positions.

  • Never write i between sh and another vowel
  • With the exception of hahɔ ‘okay’, the letter h should always be written between two identical vowels

 

Tone on individual words is normally not written. Except for some nouns that make the difference between singular and plural with different tone. In that case the plural is written with a relative high tone mark on the first vowel:

 

biosu               a fish

bíosu               many fish

 

Word division

  • Write noun class markers together with the noun:

              bənaŋ             cows    (bə is noun class 2, naŋ is cow)

 

  • Write the noun class agreement marker together with a noun modifier (like possessives, demonstratives, numerals, quantifiers, adjectives):

           bəchi              all        (bə is noun class 2, chi is all)

 

  • Write the associative marker (for example wu) separate from the noun before and after:

           wɛŋ wu shə   

child of  fowl (chick)

 

  • Write the two nouns in a compound separately

           chɛ     ku

father compound (compound head)

 

  • Write the verbal aspects and relational markers together with the verb:

           dalɨ          cooking (da is cook, lɨ is indicating it is ongoing)

 

  • Write the completer as a separate word. If the ‘l’ drops because the previous word ends in a nasal (m, n, ŋ) write ’ə as a suffix

            bənɨ     bə  bitsa  lə 

people  of  belt   COMPL (army)

 

           finyinyi          fi         naŋ’ə

bird                 of         cow COMPL (oxpecker)

 

Minimal pairs

 

To distinct some minimal pairs, words with the same sounds but different tone, they are spelled in a different way to avoid confusion:

 

bɔ́        up                them

bɛŋŋ   my       bəŋ     this

nɨŋ      work    nɨŋŋ    refuse

diɔ      sun      diɔ́      day

llə       cross             that

kkə     know           beat