Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A note on Azer

In the unlikely event that you've heard of Azer, a northern dialect of Soninke formerly spoken in the now Arabic-speaking region of Tichit and Walata in southeastern Mauritania, you may well have formed the impression - as I did initially - that it was heavily influenced by Berber, like the Northern Songhay languages are. If you know anything about Berber, a look at Monteil's article on Azer is sufficient to dispel this idea. If you don't, then chapter 3 of Long's thesis on Northern Mande, which I just came across, clarifies the issue nicely. This rather highlights the Northern Songhay problem: if centuries of close contact with Berber left Azer so little changed, why is Northern Songhay so full of Berber words?


John Cowan said...

Well, who knows? Why is English so receptive to Romance loanwords and loan morphemes, Dutch to loanwords but not in general loan morphemes, German much more resistant than either, and Icelandic almost completely resistant? The answer can't be merely linguistic: it's really the people who speak these languages at different periods who are collectively accepting or resisting.

bulbul said...

The answer can't be merely linguistic
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the history of a particular language is but a reflection of the history of its speakers.

David Marjanović said...

German much more resistant than either

...while at the same time having much less of a problem than English in keeping the original stress (often on the last syllable) as opposed to imposing a word-initial one. For instance, English keeps final stress in mature but not in nature, culture or any other -ure word, unlike German or apparently Dutch.

John Cowan said...

David: I suspect that has to do with mature being an adjective. Nouns in -ure don't have final stress, with the exception of very recent borrowings like brochure, chaussure, couture, doublure, gipure, hachure,voiture. Velure dates to Middle English days, but is now usually spelled velour. Verbs in -ure are found with both final and non-final stress.

Caffeind said...

English "student" has word-initial stress, German "Student" has final stress.

Perhaps the most obvious guess would be a past era of elite dominance by Berber speakers over Northern Songhay speakers. Which areas of life are the Berber loanwords concentrated in?