Sunday, November 13, 2011

Improbable regular cognates

In Zenaga (the Berber language of Mauritania), the word for "slave" is oʔḅḅäy.

In the "Shelha" Berber spoken near Touggourt, the word for "black" is aɣəggal. (In Tamasheq - Malian Tuareg - ɣǎggal means "to be brown".)

As you've probably guessed from the title, these are originally the same word. The semantic shift is sadly predictable, given Saharan history, but how can the consonants be related? Well:

Zenaga ʔ regularly corresponds to pan-Berber ɣ, eg iʔf "head" = iɣəf, iʔy "arm" = iɣil, iʔssi "bone" = iɣəs.

Proto-Berber *ww becomes bb in Zenaga and gg(ʷ) almost everywhere else in Berber, eg "year": Zenaga äššäbbaš = pan-Berber asəgg(ʷ)as.

Pan-Berber l becomes Zenaga y word-finally, eg ađ̣abbäy "male in-law" = pan-Berber aḍəgg(ʷ)al. But if you add the feminine ending -t, the resulting cluster lt becomes L. Sure enough, "slave (f.)" in Zenaga is toʔḅḅäL.

So if you're tired of repeating Armenian "erku" = English "two" every time you need an example of a non-trivial sound change, consider opting for a Berber example.

(All Zenaga data from Taine-Cheikh 2010; Tamasheq data from Heath 2006; Touggourt (specifically Tala n Aʕməṛ) data courtesy of a friend. The correspondences in question are discussed in more detail in Kossmann 1999.)


lethargic-man said...

So if you're tired of repeating Armenian "erku" = English "two" every time you need an example of a non-trivial sound change

I didn't know that. I went in search of evidence from the Net of a Thousand Lies, and this post of yours now occupies places 3 and 4 on googling the appropriate words. :o)

consider opting for a Berber example.

...if you know enough Berber to know how to pronounce and ä and ǎ (and ʔ and ɣ)...

Anonymous said...

Hi Lameen nice post :-)

I want to mention:

ungal: used for black and brown in the Moroccan High-Atlas [south-central&east]
The root GL ->>

ssengel: se mettre de Kohol
ungal: qui a les paupières noires

source| M.Kossmann 'essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère

iqelian (Sous) et -iqelliun- (A. Ba3mran); coll. pl. que l'on doit rapporter à un mot -ghuel- (Ouargla), être bleu foncé d'ou -agheggal-, adjectief de couleur, bleu^noir -ungal-: noir (Dads)

source | Dictionnaire Berbère / Français - Dialecte des Ntifa par M.DRAY

Claire said...

That's definitely going on the list! Thanks!

Zeus said...

/agheggwal/ =black is used in Shawi berber among the tribe of Ighassiren (whose territory stretches fom tifelfal to Ghoufi on ighzer amellal). two miles from tifelfal in taghit (on the sam river bank inhabited by ait buliman) it is no longer /agheggwal/ but /aberkan/ for black!!!!!!