Sunday, June 10, 2018
Most Songhay varieties have reflexes of two near-synonyms for "go out": *hùnú and *fáttá. Usually, the distinction seems to be roughly "leave (a place or event)" vs. "go out of (an enclosed or concealed space)". In Northern Songhay - the subgroup most isolated from the rest for longest, spoken in the Sahara - only reflexes of *hùnú seem to be attested, covering both senses (eg Korandje hnu). This could be interpreted as reflecting Northern Songhay's general tendency to reduce its inherited vocabulary by widening the usage of generic terms. In light of the Chadic data, however, it is tempting to interpret it the other way around: did Northern Songhay preserve the original situation, while a West Chadic borrowing spread throughout the rest of the family via the Niger River?
Saturday, June 09, 2018
The first examples I've managed to find come from a late 19th or early 20th century manuscript of 8 pages, belonging to the family of Alphamoye Baber Djenepo, to which the cataloguers gave the title مكتوب في اللغة "writing on language" (which, after passing through a layer or two of translation, ended up in English as "Philology"). It's an obviously incomplete part of an alphabetical poem (unknown to Google) recounting the life of the Prophet, which gives for each letter of the Arabic alphabet in order a section rhyming in that letter. The language is somewhat obscure, and is copiously annotated - mainly in Arabic, but every so often in Songhay.
On p. 8, for instance, we see the Arabic word تَعَوُّذِ "seeking God's protection" glossed with the Songhay word sumburku "holy formula, spell":
On p. 9 of the same, we see Arabic نَادِ "caller" glossed with Songhay kaati "call, shout":
This particular example is too recent to contribute much to Songhay philology, but it at least proves that Songhay was used to gloss manuscripts in Djenne, and suggests that it would be worth looking through the collection for other examples.
(Added after posting): On p. 5, we find Arabic تمساح "crocodile" glossed with Songhay kaarey "small crocodile sp.":
(PPS): And in this undated fragment of Maqamat al-Hariri, p. 4, we find another identifiable Songhay gloss (or at least a word found in Djenne Chiini): tangara for قضيب "rod, staff", followed by عجم "non-Arab" to make its status clearer:
Friday, June 01, 2018
The only Berber cognates Taine-Cheikh suggests for ägur are reflexes of a verb that may be reconstructed as *agir "throw; rise (of sun)" (eg Tashelhiyt gr, Kabyle gər, Chaoui gər). Presumably the semantic shift of "throw" to "draw water" would be explained via the idea of throwing the bucket down the well. If the comparison is accepted, then the verb shows an innovative semantic shift specific to Zenaga. (It would be interesting to see if Tetserrét shares this, but unfortunately the relevant term doesn't seem to have been recorded.)
If the Zenaga word is indeed cognate to the suggested Berber forms, then it seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that proto-Songhay borrowed *gúrú "draw water" from an early relative of Zenaga. This would fit well with the evidence for a Western Berber language having played an important role in the history of at least northern Mali. If not, then it would become tempting to draw a conclusion much harder to fit with what is known of the region's history: that Zenaga borrowed the word from proto-Songhay.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
In general, Taine-Cheikh's Vʔ corresponds regularly to Ismail's V:, with the length clearly marked, as distinct from Taine-Cheikh's short V, which Ismail consistently transcribes short. Thus:
|cows||tiššīđan||ətšiʔđaʔn / ətšiʔđän|
There are only two contexts where this correspondence does not hold. In the context / _C#, if C is a stop or fricative, Ismail retains the glottal stop; if C is a sonorant, it disappears without affecting vowel length. (More examples of this context would be useful to confirm the exact conditioning.)
Word-finally, the variety Taine-Cheikh describes has no overtly realised glottal stops (*ʔ > Ø / _#); the contrast, however, is maintained, since all originally vowel-final words now end in h (*V > Vh / _#). In Ismail's dialect, the latter change never happened:
Nevertheless, the two classes have not completely merged; final *i remains i, but final *iʔ becomes u:
In the variety Taine-Cheikh describes, long vowels derive not from *Vʔ but from *Vh (ultimately *Vβ). Given that vowel length can be a reflex of a former glottal stop in Ismail's dialect, the next thing we need to check is what happens to *Vh there; it turns out that there too it yields long vowels:
The regularity of these correspondences is a testimony to the accuracy of both parties' work, and confirms the value of Zenaga as a data source for Berber historical phonology.
Monday, May 28, 2018
- "he knew me": yūgah-i
- "he knew you m.": yūgah-ku
- "he knew you f.": yūgah-kam
- "he knew him": yūgaz-zu
- "he knew her": yūgaz-zað
- "he knew us": yūgah-ānag
- "he knew you m.pl.": yūgah-kūn
- "he knew you f.pl.": yūgah-kimmið
- "he knew them m.": yūgaz-zin
- "he knew them f.": yūgaz-zincað (maybe; not quite sure how چَّٰ is supposed to be read)
- "he was owned by me": yiššag-i
- "he was owned by you m.": yiššak-ku
- "he was owned by you f.": yiššak-kam
- "he was owned by him": yiššak-tu
- "he was owned by her": yiššak-tað
- "he was owned by us": yiššag-ānag
- "he was owned by you m.pl.": yiššak-kūn
- "he was owned by you f.pl.": yiššak-kamað
- "he was owned by them m.": yiššak-tan
- "he was owned by them f.": yiššak-tinyað
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
- Pougetoux is a diminutive of:
- Pouget, which is a diminutive (in -et) of:
- Occitan puech / pueg / puog / poujhë "hill", which comes from:
- Latin podium "balcony", which comes from:
- Greek πόδιον "foot of a vase", a diminutive (in -ion) of:
- Greek πούς "foot", which comes from:
- Proto-Indo-European *pod-s "foot"
In the course of this long history, no less than three different diminutive suffixes have been accreted on to the original root (although I'm not quite sure about the identity of that -oux.) I wonder whether that generalizes; do words meaning "hill" tend to accrete more and more diminutive suffixes as they develop over time?
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Running this through R again to get its eigenvectors, the first two principal components are easily interpretable:
- PC1 (eigenvalue=7.3) separates Songhay into three low-level subgroups - Western, Eastern, and Northern, in that order - with an obvious longitude effect: it traces a line eastward all the way down the Niger river, jumps further east to In-Gall, and then proceeds back westward through the Sahara.
- PC2 (eigenvalue=1.1) measures the level of Berber/Tuareg influence.
The resulting cluster patterns have a strikingly shallow time depth; as in the Arabic example in my last post, this method's results correspond well to criteria of synchronic mutual intelligibility (Western Songhay is much easier for Eastern Songhay speakers to understand than Northern is), but it completely fails to pick up on the deeper historic tie between Northern Songhay and Western Songhay (they demonstrably form a subgroup as against Eastern). It's nice how the strongest contact influence shows up as a PC, though; it would be worth exploring how good this method is at identifying contact more generally.
* Strictly speaking, this may not quite count as PCA - I'm starting from a similarity matrix generated non-numerically, rather than turning the lexical data into binary numeric data and letting that produce a similarity matrix.
Update, following Whygh's comment below: here's what SplitsTree gives based on the same table: