Working paper Open Access
The aim of this paper will be to seek an improved model of vowel height for Bantu
languages. Based on a study of several representative patterns of height assimilation, it
will suggest that vowel height can be regarded as a uniform phonetic and phonological
parameter, characterized in terms of a single, binary feature [open].
This approach differs both from the standard feature system discussed above, in which vowel height is described in terms of several formally unrelated features such as [high] and [low], and from alternative models in which vowel height is characterized in terms of one-valued features, also called particles (see, for example, Schane 1984).
The new approach is described in the next section. The following sections apply it to several different Bantu vowel height systems, and show that it provides a straightforward account of several different types of assimilation processes, while allowing a uniform characterization of vowel height across superfically different systems.