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.