Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Subclassification of Songhay, now online

After more than a year, I can now finally put a PDF of my article The Subclassification of Songhay and its Historical Implications online for whoever may be interested. The abstract follows:
This paper seeks to establish the first cladistic subgrouping of Songhay explicitly based on shared arbitrary innovations, a prerequisite both for distinguishing recent loans from valid extra-Songhay comparanda and for determining how Songhay spread. The results indicate that the Northern Songhay languages of the Sahara form a valid subfamily, even though no known historical records link Tabelbala to the others, and that Northern Songhay and Western Songhay (spoken around Timbuktu and Djenné) together form a valid subfamily, Northwestern Songhay. The speakers of Proto-Northern Songhay practised cultivation and permanent architecture, but were unfamiliar with date palms. Proto-Northwestern Songhay was already in contact with Berber and probably (perhaps indirectly) with Arabic, and was spoken along the Niger River. Proto-Songhay itself appears likely to have been in contact with Gur languages, confirming its relatively southerly location. This result is compatible with two scenarios for the northerly spread of Songhay. On Hypothesis A, Northern Songhay spread out from an oasis north-east of Gao, probably Tadmakkat or Takedda, and Northwestern Songhay had been spoken in areas west of Gao which now speak Eastern Songhay. On Hypothesis B, Northern Songhay spread out from the Timbuktu region, and Western Songhay derives from heavy “de-creolising” influence by Eastern Songhay on an originally Northern Songhay language. To choose between these hypotheses, further fieldwork will be required.
Comments welcome!


David Marjanović said...

Ooh, awesome! I'll read it ASAP.

David Marjanović said...

As far as I can tell, this is a great work!

The one part I'm qualified to comment on is the section headline "Worten und Sachen". German Wort has two plurals, Worte (nom./gen./acc.) ~ Worten (dat.) and Wörter (nom./gen./acc.) ~ Wörtern. Prescriptively, the difference is that Wörter refers to literal words while Worte means sayings or verses that consist of several literal words; in practice, Worte appears to be northern and Wörter southern. So, in any case, you picked the dative, and at least from a prescriptive point of view you picked the wrong plural.

The dative is of course appropriate with certain prepositions: Von Worten/Wörtern und Sachen would mean "of words and things". Is that where you took it from?

Sache (feminine) belongs to a different declension class than Wort (neuter), so its plural is Sachen in all four cases. German has very few distinct endings for a lot of morphological functions.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Darn! I could have sworn I had fixed that before publication after checking Wikipedia, but evidently not. It should of course have been Wörter und Sachen. Thanks for pointing that out.