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The Niger-Congo Languages

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1 The Niger-Congo Languages

2 General Information According to Ethnoloque 1,532 languages
→ largest phylum in the world Occupies larger area than any other African phylum subclassifications has been continuously modified large number of languages inaccessibility of much of the data lack of able researchers

3 Classification 1 Kordofanian Kordofanian as fist branch
→lexical evidence for uniting with Niger-Congo languages is poor Kordofanian are most poorly documented languages within Niger-Congo Small languages Spoken in Nuba mountains (Rep. of Sudan) Many have been replace by political insecurity

4 Greenberg: 5 groups of languages, grouped together as Kordofanian assigned them to Niger-Congo
Schadeberg (1981c) removed Kadugli-Krongo/Kadu from Kordofanian, added it to Nilo-Saharian → 4 remaining groups classified by Schadeberg (1989)

5 Schadeberg showed that the noun class affixed correspond in a regular way to those of the rest of Niger-Congo Schadeberg (1989)

6 2 Mande Extend over greater part of the western half of West Africa (Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, also in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauretania, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria) 10 to 12 million speakers Over 50% speak Manding Most classifications based on lexicostatistics → problems pointed out by Kastenholz (1991/2) → studied lexical innovations to gain improved classification

7 Mande as part of Niger-Congo
Dwyer(1998): Excamination of 603 comparative lexical entries →leads to table of cognates From: Dwyer.(1998) The place of Mande in Niger-Congo. In: Language History and Linguistic Description in Africa. Maddison, Hinnebush (Editors.).

8 Niger-Congo Cognate Types:
Total Set examined: 603 Probable cognates: 187 Likely cognates: 124 Possible cognates: 128 Conclusion: Western Nigrit, Benue-Congo and Mande are lexically related →lexical coherence

9 (West-Atlantic in Westermann’s classification)
Spoken along Atlantic coastline of West Africa Largest languages: Fulfulde (several million speakers) Wolof (2 million speakers) Diola (400,000 speakers) Serer (600,000 speakers) Temne (600,000 speakers) Classification by Sapir (1971) based on lexicostatistics Three-way division: Northern, Southern, Bijago

10 Small family, only spoken in Niger Delta Languages:
4 Ijoid Small family, only spoken in Niger Delta Languages: Defaka (endangered), Ijo - language cluster with over one million speakers Closely related internally, very distinct from other Niger-Congo languages 5 Dogon About half a million speakers in Mali & Burkina Faso Often referred as single language Bertho (1953) proposed at least 4 languages Calame-Griaule (1978) list 5 groups of dialects Ethnologue: 14 Dialects

11 6 Volta-Congo 6.1 West Volta-Congo Contains three families: Kru, Gur, Adamawa-Ubangi 6.1.1 Kru Spoken in the south-west quadrant of Côte d'Ivoire, greater part of Liberia Between 1 and 2 million speakers Main division: East and West-Kru First classified within Kwa (Westermann (1927) and Greenberg (1963)) Bennett and Sterk (1977) suggested is as part of North/West Volta-Congo Body of Kru languages are closely related Additionally three Kru isolates: Kuwaa (north-west) Tiegba & Abrako (from Aizi group) (east), Sεmε (north)

12 6.1.2 Gur Very large family Spoken in south of Mali, northern parts of Côte d'Ivoure, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria About 5,5 million speakers at least 1,7mio speak Mõõre Relationship of the body is quiet clear Membership of others is more doubtful

13 6.1.3 Adamawa-Ubangi  Extend from north-west Nigeria through northern Cameroon, southern Chad, Central African Republic northern Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, south-west Sudan about 1,5 million speakers of Adamawa 2,3 million speakers of Ubangi Greenberg (1963a) divided Adamawa into 14 groups, "Eastern" into 8 groups Bennett added group 3 (containing Daka) to Benue-Congo

14 6.2 East Volta-Congo Greenberg (1963a:39) doubted the division between Kwa & Benue-Congo 6.2.1 Kwa Spoken along Atlantic coast of West Africa, south western corner of Nigeria, south-eastern quadrant of Côte d'Ivoire About 20 million speakers Greenberg (1963a) divided into 8 groups, intigrated Central Togo languages into his group Benett & Sterk (1977) reassigned Ijoid and Kru to Benue-Congo

15 6.2.2 Benue-Congo  Occupy a vast area  Greenberg divided into 4 branches: Platoid Jukunoid Cross River Bantoid Shimizu (1975) and Gerhardt (1989) integrated Jukunoid to Platoid Bennett and Sterk (1977) added eastern branches of Greenberg's Kwa → grouped together as "West Benue-Congo" → former "Benue-Congo" was named "East Benue-Congo"

16 Term Bantoid First used by Krause in 1895
→ describing languages with similarity in vocabulary of Bantu Guthrie (1948) used it for languages with noun class systems resembling Bantu (no regular sound correspondence) → established “Guthrie Zones” Standart referential scheme Most zones not genetic groups → geographical Present meaning goes back to Greenberg → Bantu together with its closest relatives ("non-Bantu Bantoid")


18 Classification Benue-Congo working group tried to define in the 1970s and 1980s "Narrow Bantu" - the languages recognised by Guthrie as Bantu - as a subgroup of "Wide Bantu" Blench and Williamson (1988) proposed a basic division within Bantiod is between North Bantoid (old "non-Bantu Bantiod" without Tivoid) and South Bantoid (all remaining Bantu languages) → North Bantu consisting of Mambiloid and Dakoid → Dakoid includes Chamba Daka Classified by Greenberg as Adamawa, by Bennett (1983) as Benue-Congo Blench assigned it to North Bantoid Classification of Narrow Bantu is based on lexicostatistics → not overall agreed Mostly agreed, that there is North-West Bantu (Zones A, B, C and parts of D) → those languages are more distinct from the rest and one another → ancient splits Definition of boundaries between West and East Bantu differs a lot Even suggestions for Central Bantu

19 Problem with these classifications
Accept arbitrary boundaries of Guthrie Piron (1998) presented most recent lexicostatistic classification, including samples of all Bantiod groups Because of various problems (defective lists, inadequate or unrepresentative data) the work suggests different levels of relationships South Bantoid appears as coherent group Furthest Neightbor method shows a break between (Narrow) Bantu and the rest Average method splits East and South Bantu from all the rest → further work needed

20 Typology and Reconstructions
 1 Vowels Niger-Congo languages often show vowel harmony Maximal systems: [+ATR] Vowels: / i e ɜ o u/ [-ATR] Vowels: / ɪ ɛ a ɔ ʊ / Some systems with only oral vowels, some with both, oral and nasalised Always fewer nasalised than oral vowels Westermann reconstructed #a #i #u for Proto-West-Sudanic → midvowels as later developments from coalescence or assimilation Steward (1998) reconstructed *i *ɪ *a *ʊ *u as oral and *ĩ̃ *ɪ̃ *ã *ʊ̃ *ũ as nasal vowels for Proto-East Volta-Congo Doneux (1975) even reconstructed a system of ten vowels with ATR harmony for Proto Northern Atlantic →it is possible that Proto-Niger-Congo had ten vowels

21 2 Consonats Typically five contrasting places of articulation:
Labial Dental/alveolar Palatal (incl. post-alveolar) Velar Labial-velar Almost always voiceless and voiced plosives (often affricates) Usually voiced implosives (except for Kordofanian, Dogon, parts of Benue-Congo) Occasionally unvoiced implosives Often labialisation as secondary articulation Sometimes palatalisation Very rarely verlarisation

22 Westermann(1927): Very small consonant inventory
Reconstruction Westermann(1927): Very small consonant inventory Mukarovsky (1976-7:37) richer one, including a series of consonants represented as Ch (might have been aspirate plosive, implosive, affricate or fricative) Stewardt(1973): reconstructed the consonants of Proto-Bantu-Potou-Tano from sound correspondences 4 series of stops Voiceless and voiced lenis 1993: proposed that lenis consonants were rather implosives →more promising given wide distribution of implosives in Niger-Congo Non-implosive/implosive contrast has not been confirmed as going farther back than Proto-Potou-Tano Possibly the voiced plosives found in daughter languages of Proto-Bantu-Potou-Tano go back to voiced implosives

23 Steward (1973) showed regular sound correspondence between Potou-Tano and Bantu
Also possible between Proto-Ijo and Bantu

24 Mande as instance for exception
3 Noun Classes Doubtlessly Proto-Niger-Congo must have had a grammaticalised noun-class-system every family shows at least traces of the system Mande as instance for exception But initial consonant mutation in nouns suggest conditioning by earlier prefixes


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