Songhay is a close-knit family of languages in West Africa, spread by the medieval Songhay Empire, that happens to be rather relevant to my PhD. It has no close relatives; the best guess is that it's Nilo-Saharan, but if it were spoken in the Americas, it would undoubtedly be classed as having no relatives whatsoever, and the resemblance to other languages is not strong. It has some rather interesting syntactic patterns. Throughout the family, NPs are organised as follows: possessor - head - adjective - determiner - plural marker, eg Kwarandzie adra kedda gh yu (mountain small this pl) "these small mountains", Sidi L`arbi n iz yu n targa (Sidi Larbi 's child pl 's canal) "Sidi Larbi's children's canal". While at least one other West African family, Mande, has this NP order, the only case I am aware of offhand outside Africa is Ulwa in Nicaragua. Even rarer worldwide is a feature found in a number of centrally located Songhay varieties: having two distinct classes of verb, one - the vast majority - requiring SOV word order (ie preverbal objects), and the other (including such verbs as "follow", "marry", "want", "see", "fear", "bring", at least in Gao) requiring SVO order (ie postverbal objects.)
Anyway, for me this has been a great week for finding materials on Songhay. Jeffrey Heath has updated his webpage, adding work in progress on the nearly undocumented dialect of Humburi as well as several others (I will find the Tadaksahak wordlist especially useful; aside from Songhay, readers may also want to check out his Dogon materials.) On a missionary website (though I strongly disapprove of such work, it does have useful byproducts), I found a good hour of fairly comprehensible audio in Tadaksahak, an inadequately documented Northern Songhay language important for my purposes; and SOAS library just informed me that the copy of Ousseina Alidou's unpublished dissertation on Tasawaq, an even more important language for comparisons to Kwarandzie, has at long last arrived from Hamburg. Above all, I got an email from a kind contact from Tabelbala, with some more Kwarandzie audio files.
For other Songhay materials, try Relative Clauses in Tadaksahak, Some Verb Morphology Features of Tadaksahak, Northern Songhay Languages in Mali and Niger, Southern Songhay Speech Varieties in Niger, The Zarma Website, Zarma Dictionary, Notions élémentaires pour apprendre le Zarma, La dénomination en Zarma, Lexique kaado-français...
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