Sunday, June 10, 2018

fatta: a loan from Chadic into Songhay?

The Proto-Chadic word for "go out" was reconstructed by Newman and Ma (1966) as *p-t-, with attested reflexes in all primary subgroups of the family; the best known of these is of course (West Chadic A.1) Hausa fìtā.  The vowels vary across languages, and there is often no final vowel.  Only one subgroup, as far as I can see on a quick check, shows the consistent vocalisation *patā: the Bole languages (West Chadic A.2), spoken in Nigeria's Yobe State along the boundary between Hausa and Kanuri.  Thus Bole pàtā, Ngamo hàtâ, Karekare fàtā.

Most Songhay varieties have reflexes of two near-synonyms for "go out": *hùnú and *fáttá.  Usually, the distinction seems to be roughly "leave (a place or event)" vs. "go out of (an enclosed or concealed space)".  In Northern Songhay - the subgroup most isolated from the rest for longest, spoken in the Sahara - only reflexes of *hùnú seem to be attested, covering both senses (eg Korandje hnu).  This could be interpreted as reflecting Northern Songhay's general tendency to reduce its inherited vocabulary by widening the usage of generic terms.  In light of the Chadic data, however, it is tempting to interpret it the other way around: did Northern Songhay preserve the original situation, while a West Chadic borrowing spread throughout the rest of the family via the Niger River?


David Marjanović said...

Looks like a slam dunk, but why are the tones so different?

although in Dendi .


John Cowan said...

That's normal, David. When you learn a new Tai language, the first thing you do is figure out how the Proto-Tai tonemes A, B, C, D (often split once or even twice) map onto the local tones. After that, reconstruction is normally straightforward. Similarly, you can'tto predict how the tones of a Sinitic language new to you are going to be mapped onto the yin and yang flavors of the four Middle Chinese tones.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Hmm. I was going to say something about Dendi, but then I realised I didn't have enough examples to be sure. Better delete that.

As for the tones, I have no idea - need more examples.

David Marjanović said...

That's normal, David.

Sure, but this example seems much more straightforward than the tone correspondences even just among Mandarin dialects: all of West Chadic A (both 1 and 2) has a low tone on the first syllable, Proto-Songhay has a high one.

In principle, that could mean all sorts of fascinating things, like a tone sandhi process (LH > HH for instance) in pre-Proto-Songhay, which would otherwise be inaccessible to the comparative method as long as relatives of Songhay are not identified.

Anonymous said...

FT (~PT)-yafta- page 287-288 / 305 [ftu in Morocco syn. of ddu)= go, leave etc..
◾Lewicki, Tadeusz. 1934. Quelques textes inedits en vieux berbere provenant d’une chronique ibadite anonyme. Revue des Etudes Islamiques 3. 275–305.

Etienne said...

David, John Cowan: tone correspondences involving Chadic (especially verbs) can be expected to be very messy. This is because in many Chadic languages tonal change (sometimes accompanied by word-internal alternations in vowel quality, and/or by various affixes) is part of verb morphology, so that I would expect the tone correspondences within Chadic (involving verbs especially) to be much messier than tone correspondences between isolating languages such as Sinitic or Tai ones (Anyone: Would I be right in guessing that this kind of Chadic internal inflection helps explain why Newman and Ma could not reconstruct the vowels of *P-T- ?).

Indeed, I suspect that a comparative + historical study of Chadic tone (a desideratum of the field, I understand) would best work if it began by establishing regular correspondences involving tone between cognates across Chadic drawn from non-inflected words. Subsequently, the study of tone in Chadic inflected words could take these correspondences as basic in order to establish the role played by various morphological changes in the history of each language.

David Marjanović said...

I see.

a desideratum of the field, I understand

I'm sure you're right – there isn't even a reconstruction of Proto-Chadic yet, and there's only been one of Proto-Central Chadic for a few years.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Thanks for the comments everybody, and especially Anonymous above. That root seems to be found in most of the Atlas branch:

Tashelhiyt: ftu, fttu, ifta "partir, marcher, s'en aller, circuler" (El Mountassir 2003)
Tamazight: ftu, fettu, ifta "partir, s'en aller" (Taifi)

But is it connected to the following?
Zenaga: äbḏīh, ?, yäbḏāh "marcher, aller" (Taine-Cheikh)

If so, the comparison becomes a little harder to be sure of, but still worth exploring.