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This discussion has omitted many complex and interesting aspects of the Mawu phonological system. For instance, a striking range of tonal phenomena arise when words are combined into phrases. Also omitted have been many fascinating phenomena from other languages of the world: clicks, voice quality variation, vowel harmony, introduction and deletion of features and segments to achieve proper syllable structure, and so on.

The point, however, has not been to present a complete description of any one language, nor has it been to list schematically the components of the universal phonological parts inventory and tool kit. Instead, a detailed analysis of two apparently peculiar facts of Mawu word-level phonology--the three classes of nasal vowels, and the restriction to four word-level tonal patterns--has aimed to show that that these apparent oddities arise naturally out of the interaction of simple elements and structures that are also part of the phonological systems of much more familiar languages. This demonstration exemplifies concretely what phonological analysis is like, and why it tells us something important about the cognitive structures that underlie human speech.

Mark Liberman
Fri Oct 3 14:10:16 EDT 1997