Buwal language

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Native toCameroon
RegionFar North Province
Native speakers
10,000 (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3bhs

Buwal (also known as Ma Buwal, Bual, Gadala) is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Cameroon in Far North Province in and around Gadala.[1]


Labial Alveolar Lateral alveolar Palatal Velar Labialized velar Labial-velar
Nasal m n ŋ ŋʷ ŋm
Voiceless plosive p t k kp
Voiced plosive b d ɡ ɡʷ ɡb
Prenasalized plosive ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ ᵑɡʷ ŋmɡb
Implosive ɓ ɗ
Voiceless affricate ts
Voiced affricate dz ⁿdz
Voiceless fricative f s ɬ x
Voiceless fricative v z ɮ ɣ ɣʷ
Flap r
Approximant l j w

The labiodental flap, /ⱱ/ is marginal, only occurring in two native Buwal words. The labial-velar plosives are also marginal; in particular, /kp/ only occurs in one word, the ideophone kpaŋ.

Buwal has the vowels /ə a/, which can occur in high, middle, or low tone. Each vowel has a variety of phonetic realizations. /ə/ can occur as [i u ɪ ʏ ʊ], and /a/ can occur as [e o ɛ œ ɐ ɔ]. The schwa can be analyzed as a solely epenthetic vowel. They occur as rounded allophones when adjacent to a labialized consonant, and as front vowels when the word is palatalized.

Palatalization in Buwal occurs across an entire word, and also affects the affricate consonants /ts dz ⁿdz/, which surface as [tʃ dʒ ⁿdʒ] in a palatalized word. As a result, all of the vowels within a single word are either front or back, producing vowel harmony. An example of this contrast is between [mɐ̄ⁿdʊ́wɐ́n] 'rat' (underlyingly /māⁿdwán/), which is non-palatalized, and [mɛ̀vɛ̄ɗvɛ̄ɗɛ̄ŋ] (underlyingly /màvāɗvāɗāŋ/) 'turtle', which is palatalized. This process does not affect loanwords, e.g. [nɛ̀bɐ̄m] 'oil' (from Fulfulde nebbam) or [lɛ̀kʷól] 'school' (from French l'école). Some loanwords have been modified to accommodate Buwal phonology, e.g. [sɐ́j] 'tea', from Fulfulde sha'i.[3]


  1. ^ a b Buwal at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Buwal". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Melanie Helen Viljoen, A grammatical description of the Buwal language, La Trobe University, 2013, 739 p. (thesis)