Monday, May 28, 2018

A "crazy rule" in Zenaga

As part of what seems to be a solo documentation effort, Ahmadou Ismail has been posting some very interesting tidbits on Zenaga (in Arabic). The dialect reflected differs in some ways from the one reflected in Catherine Taine-Cheikh's publications. One of the more conspicuous differences is in the fate of proto-Berber *z. For Taine-Cheikh, *z > ẕ̌ in general (a slightly lowered ž), but *zt > Z (a tautosyllabic geminate zz). In Ahmadou Ismail's dialect, *zt > zz as with Taine-Cheikh, but otherwise *z > h, eg tihigrarin "tarawih prayers" vs. Taine-Cheikh's təẕ̌əgrärən, hīmmar "lamb" vs. Taine-Cheikh's iẕ̌iʔmär, awahiđ̣ "rooster" vs. äwäẕ̌uđ̣, yahinha "he sold" vs. yäžžənẕ̌äh. This leads to systematic alternations between h and zz; synchronically, Ismail's dialect of Zenaga has the "crazy rule" ht > zz. This is nicely illustrated by "he knew" (Taine-Cheikh: yuʔgäẕ̌) plus the direct object personal pronoun clitics:
  • "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": yūgah-kūn
  • "he knew you": 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)
For forms without assimilation, compare, as posted by someone else on the same group (Omar Sidi Mohamed), "he was owned by" (Taine-Cheikh yənšäg):
  • "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": yiššak-kūn
  • "he was owned by you": yiššak-kamað
  • "he was owned by them m.": yiššak-tan
  • "he was owned by them f.": yiššak-tinyað


David Marjanović said...


I don't have permission to create the discussion page for the Glottolog article, so let me mention that affrication before /u/ (Japanese ta chi tsu te to, da ji zu de do) isn't as crazy as some other things. Māori aspirates before /i/ and /u/.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

That's an interesting parallel - affrication often seems to be linked to aspiration (tʰ > ts). Not sure why /u/ in either case though...

Whygh said...

Māori plosives didn't use to be aspirated. A study of aspiration in Maori by Maclagan and King (here) shows one speaker aspirating /t/ more in front of /i/ and /u/, but it's not a categorical thing.

Miikka said...

The چَّٰ is Ahmadou Ismail's way of writing the palatal nasal, which in this case is doubled: yūgaz-ziññað. There is a Whatsapp group called آوي ان اثنكن (āway n uθ̣nagan, or "Zenaga language") created in September 2017 where he and other contributors came up with this system of transcription. I've personally heard z > h among Tendgha, and in some words even ẓ > h, e.g. aharfu 'money' and amarhih 'back (of a person)' vs. aθ̣arfi and amarθ̣ih among Oulad Dayman and Idablahsen. The latter change is not fully regular as for instance 'nine' is still tuθ̣ah and not *tuhah.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Miikka: I think Catherine mentioned you to me once; can you email me or leave your email here? I'd love to talk. (Mine is lameen at gmail dot com).

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Note that audio of several words exemplifying this reflex can now be heard on .