Special issue on the Adamawa languages
Proceedings of the first Adamawa Conference (Mainz, September 9–11 2019)
Edited by Sabine Littig, Friederike Vigeland, Alexander Zheltov
Russell Norton, Nlabephee Othaniel
A lexicostatistical analysis divides the Jen language cluster into two primary branches Burak-Loo-Maghdi-Mak and Kyak-Moo-Leelau-Tha-Doso-Dza. This is also supported by extensive isoglosses, replacing the older Bikwin-Jen division at least for purposes of genetic classification. For vowels, a 9-vowel system is reconstructed, but its 3-way height contrasts appear unstable in some languages, either in the central vowels or in the front and back vowels. Front and back vowels also vary widely with diphthongs. Prosodic features of nasalisation, tone, and breathiness are reconstructed, with nasalisation developing in more roots in the second primary branch. For consonants, the large inventory includes particularly unstable coronals, and development of voiceless approximants in Doso-Dza. The comparative evidence is conflicting as to whether labialised and palatalised structures are secondary modifications or onset sequences, suggesting the need for a variationist approach. Overall, riverine Jen varieties Tha, Doso, Dza show unusually extensive sound change, in contrast to the more phonologically stable Bikwin varieties. Applications to orthography development include the need to represent implosives and /r/ in languages other than Dza, where they have been lost, and the need to represent vowel nasalisation and /h/ in languages of the second branch only. Initial stem consonant alternations seen in both nouns and verbs need more investigation in Jen languages.
Jen, language cluster, Bikwin, lexicostatistics, reconstruction, orthography
Dmitry Idiatov and Mark van de Velde
This paper provides proposals for the internal reconstruction of Bena-Yungur [Glottocode: bena1260]. The present-day three-tone system of Bena-Yungur with an opposition between H, M and L must result from a relatively recent process of tonogenesis in which L tones were reinterpreted as M whenever they were not realised extra low due to a preceding voiced stop that acted as a depressor consonant. Although subsequent changes have somewhat blurred the correlation between tones and segments, this correlation still proves highly relevant for the internal reconstruction of the laryngeal settings of stem-initial consonants. We also show that the contemporary Bena-Yungur lexical tone patterns are the result of the neutralisation of a higher number of previously existing patterns due to the application of tone rules. The former distinctions between different tone patterns are still observable in the genitive construction for nouns and in positive perfective forms and product nominalisations for verbs. This allows us to reconstruct the original tone patterns of nouns and verbs, as well as aspects of the genitive construction and perfective verb forms. Remarkably, the tonal reconstruction makes it clear that the direction of tonal interactions must have shifted from anticipatory to perseveratory in the history of Bena-Yungur.
internal reconstruction, tone, tonogenesis, depressor consonants, direction of assimilation, laryngeal settings
Plurality marking in Leko and Yendang groups (Adamawa, Niger-Congo) with some reference to noun classification
The article presents the available data about plurality marking in two groups (Leko and Yendang) of a hypothetical genetic unit known as Adamawa languages. It shows various strategies that languages of these two groups use in marking plurality. The main focus is made on Nyong and Maya (Bali) languages with which the author worked during field research in Adamawa state (Nigeria). The data of some other languages of these groups (Samba Leko, Kpasham (Sam), Kugama (Wam), Yendang and Waka) are also taken into consideration. This study offers a comparison of plurality strategies in these languages that helps in distinguishing conservative and innovative elements in plurality marking. It also shows some cases of possible plurality/noun class interaction.
Adamawa, Leko languages, Yendang languages, plurality, number, noun classification
The paper describes the phonology and nominal morphology of KItʊlε, an Adamawa language of the Tula-Waja group, spoken in East-Central Nigeria. KItʊlε has a restricted consonant inventory, marked by a loss of voicing contrast in most consonants. It has a system of ATR vowel harmony, which has begun to erode in many lexical items. There are three level tones plus rising and falling glides. The underlying system of nominal number marking is suffix alternation as with the other languages in the group, but this has undergone numerous alterations, in part due to the addition of prefix alterations, and fossilised suffixes which have been incorporated into the stem. Some of these then appear as infixes, although this is not the underlying system. A note on demonstratives is appended, which shows that these are not directly concordial, but which have a broad semantic logic.
KItʊlε, Adamawa, phonology, nominal morphology
Pascal Boyeldieu, Raimund Kastenholz, Ulrich Kleinewillinghöfer, Florian Lionnet
The way Bua languages express number on nouns mostly consists of alternating suffixes that bear witness of a former classification system. However, Kulaal is the only present-day language where these markers are not frozen but actually trigger agreement with free, optional determiners that follow the noun and may show some formal affinity with its suffix. For several reasons, previous attempts at reconstructing a historical noun morphology common to all Bua languages considered the sole suffixes and neglected the determiners present in Kulaal. But, as is argued in the present paper, more recent data show that, in some cases, present-day suffixes may result from the association of a former suffix with an element similar to one of the Kulaal determiners. In such cases the former determiner has simply lost its independence and been historically stacked onto the noun form.
historical linguistics, morphology, noun classes, agreement, suffix, determiner, stacking, Bua languages, Adamawa languages
This article gives an overview of the cardinal and ordinal numerals in Longuda, a language cluster in north-eastern Nigeria, belonging to the Adamawa branch of the Niger-Congo languages. It focuses on three of its five varieties, namely Deele, Guyuk and Gwaanda, analysing the morphology of the numerals, their behaviour in a noun phrase and the derivation of ordinal numerals from cardinal numerals. It becomes clear that numerals in Longuda are neither adjectives nor nouns but should rather be analysed as being on a scale in-between those lexical categories. The tendency in the languages of the world that lower ordinal numerals are suppletive forms while higher ones are regularly derived from cardinal numerals applies to Longuda as well. At the end of the article, the findings of Longuda numerals are compared to other Adamawa languages and the Niger-Congo family as a whole as compiled by Boyd (1989) and Pozdniakov (2018).
cardinal numerals, ordinal numerals, Longuda, Adamawa, noun phrase, agreement
The term na᷆ ~ na᷄w can only appear clause-finally in Samba Leko. Depending on the instance, it belongs to paradigms of either locative postpositions or expressive particles and must therefore be considered polyfunctional in the terminology of Robert (2003). na᷆ ~ na᷄w is identified by speakers as identical in all its attestations and is always glossed as ‘in hand’. The interpretation of na᷆ ~ na᷄w as an expression of control would need to be supported by further ethnolinguistic investigation but is still helpful for explaining its range of uses. The analysis of this term given in another paper is first summarized, and its implications in the wider context of Adamawa languages in general are then discussed.
grammaticalization, polyfunctionality, body part, postposition, expressive particle
A recurrent topic in language typology are adpositions within a cross-linguistic perspective. This paper questions whether there are similarities in form and function of spatial adpositions in Adamawa languages. Based on data of existing grammars and fieldwork results, form and function of the adpositions in question will be presented and discussed. The main result is that almost all languages show a generic adposition expressing spatial relations in general. First a theoretical overview about formal and functional features of adpositions is presented. This is completed with an excerpt of the relation between spatial marking and noun classes and a short introduction in spatial deixis. The theoretical explanations are followed by an empirical comparative study which attempts to empirically back up the theoretical conclusions and presents the results.
Adamawa, adpositions, spatiality, Samba-Duru
Bua languages in general are poorly documented and many aspects of their morphosyntax are still undescribed. The purpose of this paper is to outline a state of the art concerning the structure and operation of the personal pronoun systems. Largely based on unpublished or restricted documentation, it systematically reviews the systems of eight languages, commenting on both the identity of persons and the types of functional paradigms. Despite numerous shortcomings and uncertainties, interesting observations can be made concerning the 1st person plural ‘exclusive’/‘inclusive’ contrast, the logophoric pronouns, the tonal polarity of Subject and Object pronouns, and different types of personal possessive constructions.
personal pronouns, 1st pl. exclusive/inclusive, logophoric, reflexive, same referent, tonal polarity, possessive construction, Bua languages, Adamawa languages
Ideophone is a phenomenon dominant in African languages. Dzə is an under-investigated and under-documented Adamawa language found in Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe States, Northeastern Nigeria. It was noticed that the language has a lot of ideophones. It became necessary to study it to understand its importance in the language. This study is to draw the attention of scholars working on Adamawa languages and ideophones. It will also thus form part of the grammar of Dzə someday. The study of ideophone is not exhaustive, especially in the minority languages of Northeastern Nigeria. The study shows that Dzə ideophones express intensity, emphasis and description. Dzə ideophones have unique phonological features and some of the sounds found in the conventional phonology of Dzə are not found in the ideophones. The phoneme /ŋ/ is common in the coda position of the ideophones. Ideophones modify verbs, adjectives and nouns in Dzə. They also function as adverbs and are elements that constitute a noun phrase. They augment other word classes like nouns, verbs and adjectives.
Jenjo, ideophones, grammatical functions, Dzə, Adamawa languages, Taraba
In Pèdè, predicates consisting of multiple verbal elements are extremely frequent. In this context, verbs adopting a secondary function of modifying coverbs play an important role. It can be shown that this function has emerged from conceptualisation processes within serial verb constructions. Along the same lines, a very limited number of auxiliaries have been grammaticalized. The types of coverbs and auxiliaries under discussion display partially overlapping functional ranges (in the semantic domain of aktionsart), they clearly differ, however, on the syntactic level.
coverbs, auxiliaries, serialisation, manner, aktionsart
This paper provides a preliminary analysis of a few aspects of the phonology and morphosyntax of Kyak [bka], a largely undocumented Adamawa language spoken in the northern part of Taraba State in Nigeria. The paper is divided into four main sections. The first section deals with the phonology, focusing on consonant and vowel inventories, some phonetic processes, and syllable structure. The second section looks at nominal morphology, particularly nominal modifiers and possessive constructions, which show a distinction between alienable and inalienable possession. The third section describes the verbal morphosyntax, identifying the various forms that encode the expression of tense-aspect and person-number. The fourth part looks at a couple of clause/sentence level features, namely the clitic -ŋ, which is associated with the marking of assertiveness, and the use of logophoric pronouns. This is the first description of the phonological and grammatical features of the language, and one of the first for the Jen cluster. It thus adds to the knowledge of the cluster and to the evaluation of genealogical and areal hypotheses which involve languages of this region.
Kyak, Adamawa, phonology, morphology, tense, aspect, logophoric