Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Zenaga dialectal reflexes of ʔ, :

For the purposes of Berber historical linguistics, arguably the most important thing about Zenaga is its thoroughgoing retention of the glottal stop. Some Zenaga glottal stops derive from *q, corresponding to ɣ elsewhere in Berber, but many derive from *ʔ, lost without trace in most Berber varieties. When a rather carefully transcribed new source of dialectal Zenaga data comes to light, it thus seems logical to start by seeing how the glottal stop is reflected there. For convenience, I restrict this first pass to two of Ahmadou Ismail's wordlists: body parts, and herding vocabulary. The results are fairly clear.

In general, Taine-Cheikh's Vʔ corresponds regularly to Ismail's V:, with the length clearly marked, as distinct from Taine-Cheikh's short V, which Ismail consistently transcribes short. Thus:

Ismail Taine-Cheikh
young camel awāra äwaʔräh
waterbag āga äʔgäh
moustache āya aʔyäh
donkey m. ājji aʔž(ž)iy
donkey f. tājil taʔž(ž)əL
beard tāmmart taʔmmärt
camels īyman iʔymän
cows tiššīđan ətšiʔđaʔn / ətšiʔđän
lamb hīmmar iẕ̌iʔmär
donkey foal īgiyu iʔgiyi
shoulder(blade) tūṛiḍ toʔṛuḌ
donkeys ūjjayan uʔž(ž)äyän
shoulder(blade)s tūrdin tuʔṛäđän

There are only two contexts where this correspondence does not hold.  In the context / _C#, if C is a stop or fricative, Ismail retains the glottal stop; if C is a sonorant, it disappears without affecting vowel length.  (More examples of this context would be useful to confirm the exact conditioning.)

spring taniʔđ täniʔḏ
cow taššiʔđ täšši
head iʔf iʔf
camel ayyim äyiʔm
camel f. tayyimt täyi(ʔ)mt

Word-finally, the variety Taine-Cheikh describes has no overtly realised glottal stops (*ʔ > Ø / _#); the contrast, however, is maintained, since all originally vowel-final words now end in h (*V > Vh / _#). In Ismail's dialect, the latter change never happened:

waterbag āga äʔgäh
moustache āya aʔyäh
young camel awāra äwaʔräh
stomach taxṣa taḫs(s)äh
goat tikši təkših
ewe tīyyi tīyih

Nevertheless, the two classes have not completely merged; final *i remains i, but final *iʔ becomes u:

billy-goat ahayu äẕ̌äyi
mouth immu əmmi
tooth awkšu äwkši
tongue itšu ətši
donkey foal īgiyu iʔgiyi
calf īrku īrki
In the variety Taine-Cheikh describes, long vowels derive not from *Vʔ but from *Vh (ultimately *Vβ). Given that vowel length can be a reflex of a former glottal stop in Ismail's dialect, the next thing we need to check is what happens to *Vh there; it turns out that there too it yields long vowels:

small cattle tākšin tākšən
calf īrku īrki
ewe tīyyi tīyih
nostril tīnhart tīnẕ̌ärt
nose tīnharin tīnẕ̌ärän

The regularity of these correspondences is a testimony to the accuracy of both parties' work, and confirms the value of Zenaga as a data source for Berber historical phonology.


ibarrere said...

Who are these two people? I see from your last post that Ismail has been posting on a Facebook group, but I couldn't make any sense of the content. Are they language informants? Linguists? Both?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Catherine Taine-Cheikh is a linguist (and colleague at my unit of the CNRS, LACITO), who has published a dictionary of Zenaga. All I know about Ahmadou Ismail is that he's a middle-aged man in Mauritania who seems to speak Zenaga; he's clearly studied grammar in some context, but I don't see any reason to suppose he's a linguist.

John Cowan said...

Is it possible that this might be a listener rather than a speaker difference? People who aren't used to postvocalic glottal stops might well hear them as vowel length. I feel uneasy about drawing conclusions from phonology studied by just one linguist (professional or otherwise).

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

It's always possible, but he should be familiar with glottal stops from Standard Arabic, and he clearly hears them in some final syllables; it's hard to imagine why he would systematically fail to hear them only in non-final syllables. Catherine should be putting her recordings online sometime over the next year or so, so when that happens you can hear for yourself. However, the presence of a glottal stop phoneme in Zenaga is also confirmed by the earlier work of Nicholas, as well as by 19th century manuscripts like the one discussed here a few years back: 18th century Zenaga poetry and language change.

Anonymous said...

Just ask Ahmadou Ismail to record [voice] some texts and post them :-)

David Marjanović said...

People who aren't used to postvocalic glottal stops might well hear them as vowel length.

Hard to imagine. As nonlinguistic pauses, sure, but as vowel length?