Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Loanwords examined via Pozdniakov's Proto-Fula-Sereer

I recently finished Pozdniakov's Proto-Fula-Sereer, freely available through Language Science Press. This is obviously a very welcome and valuable contribution to West African historical linguistics, an area where much remains to be done. I have little experience of Atlantic languages as such, and therefore not much useful to say about most of the book (though it made me want to also read Merrill's work, with which much of it is in dialogue.) However, while proto-Fula-Sereer is dated by the author to 2000 years ago or more, some of the comparisons are relevant for studying contact with other regional families. Two forms are particularly interesting to me for exploring contact with Berber:

  • *xiris "slay (vb)": Sereer xiris 'couper le cou, décapiter, égorger' (Merrill: 'slit the throat') ~ Fula hirsa 'égorger; sacrifier (un animal, pour en rendre licite la consommation)' [p. 63]
    Sereer x- : Fula h- is a very well represented regular correspondence; however, Fula -r- in -rC- would normally be lost in Sereer (p. 173), and no regular pattern of vowel elision is given in the book. The word also looks like Soninke xùrùsi "to kill by cutting the jugular vein", yet the vowel correspondence is difficult there as well. The explanation is to be found in their common source as a loanword from widespread (non-Zenaga!) Berber əɣrəs, with the same meaning. The religious importance of slaughtering an animal for meat in this precise manner is sufficient to motivate the borrowing, which would thus have spread with Islam - presumably through northern Saharan travellers rather than Zenaga scholars, given the form.
  • *Guf "foam": Sereer kuf 'gonfler, écumer en bouillant', kuf a...al / kuf a... ak 'écume de la mer, à la marée montante' ~ Fula ngufo / (n)gufooji 'mousse, écume' (cf. Fula ƴufa 'mousser, écumer (trans.)', ƴufo 'mousse, écume) (Laala kuuɓ 'mousse', Nyun Gubaher gʊ-gʊfʊri 'mousse', Nyun Guñamolo tɪ-gʊf / tɪ-gʊf-ɔŋ 'écume, mousse', Joola Fonyi ka-gʊf 'bave, écume de mer, mousse du savon'). [p. 102]
    The correspondence of Sereer k to Fula ŋg (let alone ƴ) is completely irregular, with no other examples cited. A comparison to Berber forms such as Tamasheq tə-kuffe, Tamazight a-kuffi, Zenaga tu-ʔffukkaʔ-n "froth" is thus not ruled out, although the other Atlantic forms make it more likely that the resemblance is coincidental. Cp. also Zarma kùfú "écumer" and related forms in Songhay, which probably do derive from Berber.

Other forms are interesting to examine in the context of Songhay and Mande:

  • *bon "bad (svb)": Sereer bon 'être mauvais, être méchant, être maigre', ponu l / ponu k "le mal [la chose mauvaise]' ~ Fula bona 'être mauvais, être mal; être méchant', mbonki / bonkiji 'méchanceté ; malfaisance ; perversité' (widespread root in Atlantic and Mel) [p. 86]
    Also widespread well beyond; looks originally Atlantic, but the suffixed vowel in Bambara bɔ̀nɛ and Zarma bòné betrays a borrowing path via Soninke rather than directly from Fula.
  • *bul "blue (svb)": Sereer bule 'bleu' ~ Fula bula 'rincer au bleu (du linge blanc); passer au bleu de lessive; colorer en bleu pâle' (The root *bulu is common for Atlantic and Mel languages. It is not a European borrowing). [p. 86]
    If so, then this is also the source for Bambara búla and Zarma búlà "blue", and other forms across the region. But this is a widespread Wanderwort, and one wonders how a European source was ruled out.
  • *mbedd "road, path": Sereer mbed o...ong/ped k 'petit chemin laissé entre deux champs à l'hivernage, ruelle, rue, allée" ~ Fula mbedda / mbeddaaji 'grand route' (Wolof mbedd 'rue', Jaad mbɛdɛ 'grand route'; Manjaku umbɛra 'chemin carrossable, route'). May be an ancient Soninke borrowing: < béddè 'rue principale, route'. [p. 87]
    Gao Songhay has albedda / mbedda, with an interesting prefix alternation; Heath very tentatively suggests a link to Arabic blṭ, but that probably doesn't work.
  • *Birq (mb-/w-) "manure": Sereer mbiqi n 'fumier, tas de fumier' ~ Fula wirga 'labourer le sol en éparpillant la terre (en luttant au sol ou pour la mélanger ou encore pour brouiller des traces...); disperser du fumier (sur un champ)' [p. 88]
    The correspondence mb:w is not regular, arguably reflecting differences in consonant mutation; only four examples are found, although they look like plausible retentions. The loss of r in Sereer would be regular (p. 173). The correspondence of q to g does not appear regular either (p. 192), unless this is related to the preceding r; one would expect q:kk. It's just as well that the correspondence is irregular, since the Fula term is clearly at least in part a borrowing from Songhay, not vice versa: it reflects a merger of two tonally distinct verbs, found in Zarma as bírjí "fumer le sol; fumier" and bìrjí "mélanger, embrouiller", used in the expression laabu birji "mélanger la terre". Conceivably the "spread manure" sense could be original to Fula, with only the "mix" sense being borrowed; but it strains credulity to imagine Zarma borrowing the same verb but giving it two different tonal patterns depending on the intended meaning. Soninke boroko "manure" is suspiciously similar, but the vowels rule it out as an intermediary.
  • *gaw "hunt (vb); throw (vb)": Sereer xaƴ 'lancer, envoyer un projectile, tirer une arme à feu; lancer un dard, pêcher au harpon', nGawlax n / qawlax k ~ nGaƴlax n / qaƴlax k 'la chasse [gibier]' ~ Fula gawoo 'chasser, être chasseur (professionel)'. [p. 111; poorly justified correspondences - 5 words for x:g]
    The Fula term is certainly the same root as (Songhay) Zarma găw "hunter", gáwáy "hunt (v.)". The term doesn't seem to be used in Mande, from a quick look. If the Sereer form is related to the Fula one, then the direction of borrowing must be Fula to Songhay. However, the correspondence looks rather poorly justified. For x-:g-, only 5 correspondances are given, including such eminently borrowable words as "indigo" and "okra". For -ƴ:-w, the expected regular correspondence is rather ƴ:ƴ (p. 192), cf. "limp" (p. 180), "lick" (p. 174). The question of borrowing direction thus remains open.

The following cases may be only coincidentally similar, but perhaps they reflect contact at a much earlier period in prehistory, related to the spread of the practice of milking:

  • *Gang "chest": Sereer ngang n / kang k ~ Fula gannde / ganndeeje (Fula < gang-nde?) [p. 103; irregular initial correspondence with only two other examples found)
    Cp. Zarma gàndè "chest".
  • *gand "nipple": Sereer hand 'être pleine (femelle), être en gestation, porter [femelle]', hand l / qand a...ak 'mamelle (des animaux), pis', and l / and a...ak 'mamelle (des animaux), pis, téton, tétine' (to note a variety of Sereer forms: h-,q-,Ø-) ~ Fula ʔenndu ~ ʔenɗi 'sein, mamelle; pis, trayon'
    Cp. Zarma gánì "udder".

The Fulani abstract noun formative -(aa)ku is analysed (p. 231) as an "extension suffix" -aa- plus a class suffix -ku explained as a taboo-motivated allomorph of -ngu, citing Koval 2000:230 (a source in Russian). This requires further investigation; it certainly cannot be unrelated to Soninke -aaxu with the same function, but what was the direction of borrowing?

Efforts to exclude Arabic loanwords were largely successful, but even so, one crept in: Fula waabiliire "pluie d'orage" is from Arabic waabil rather than proto-Fula-Sereer *(b)waam/b (p. 79). On the other hand, Sereer tuɓaaɓ and Fula tuubako "European, white man" are derived from nonexistent Arabic *tubaab (pp. 115-116), following a long if poorly evidenced tradition connecting this to the real Arabic word ṭabiib "doctor".

1 comment:

David Eddyshaw said...

"The root *bulu is common for Atlantic and Mel languages. It is not a European borrowing"

Well, I can do better than that:

bòlú (Toende Kusaal); bʋlʋ (Agolle Kusaal); bulu (Mampruli); buluu (Dagbani);
búlà (Gulmancema);
bluu (Chakali.)

So the root *bul- is common to Oti-Volta and to Grusi and is thus evidently Central Gur ...

A minor problem is that Gulmancema l should correspond to Western Oti-Volta d or r rather than l, but as the semantic correspondence is exact, I think that is of little significance ...

It is interesting that all the Oti-Volta languages have a basic three-colour system, so the survival of this Niger-Congo root is all the more striking. The word does not inflect as an adjective in any of these Gur languages (it shows no agreement by number or noun class), but this simply shows that it is an ancient inherited ideophone.
It has, however, apparently been lost in most Gur languages.

[The claim that this is *not* a European borrowing is really an "extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence." At the very least, one needs to exhibit some cognate series in which the modern reflexes of the consonants are not simply b and l; by analogy, if Gulmancema actually had a *buna "blue", or a Western Oti-Volta language had *bud- or *bur- "blue", either of which would be regular sound correspondences between these two branches of Oti-Volta, then that might have counted as evidence.]