LINGUIST List 5.1490

Tue 20 Dec 1994

Disc: Comparative syntax

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  1. benji wald, Re: 5.1484 Comparative Syntax

Message 1: Re: 5.1484 Comparative Syntax

Date: Mon, 19 Dec 94 22:06 PST
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.1484 Comparative Syntax

Since Chet Creider's posting of 8 Dec rightly corrected some misinformation
I gave in my off-the-top-of-the-head posting about Karamojong,
I decided to make amends by doing a little research (very
little) to check the rest of what I said. Consider it a Xmas gift.

Below is the relevant section of recent Nilo-Saharan classification
 (Sudanic: Nilotic). It's basically the same as Greenberg
(1963) with some refinements in further branching but no
rearrangement of limbs. East Sudanic has four branches,
including Eastern and Western, then Nilotic with three branches,
including West, East and South. KARAMOJONG belongs to the East
branch of the Nilotic branch of East Sudanic. It is therefore
classified as closer to Maasai (Maa-Lotuko branch) and Bari
(Bari branch) than to the Lwo branch of the West branch of
 Nilotic, but no closer to Kalenjin, a group in the South branch
(e.g., Nandi) than to the West branch.

The following is a relatively recent classification, such as found in
Schadeberg's (1981) article on Nilo-Saharanisch.

 Central Sudanic:
 Moru-Madi-Lugbara
 etc
 East Sudanic:
 Eastern: Nubian
 Western: Tama, Daju
 Kuliak: Ik, So
 Nilotic:
 West:(some call it North Nilotic)
 Burun: idem
 Nuer-Dinka: idem
 Lwoo:
 North: Shilluk, Anwak
 South: Achooli, Luo
 East:(some call it Central Nilotic)
 Bari: Bari, Kakwa etc
 Maa-Lotuko: Maasai etc
 Teso-Turkana: KARAMOJONG, JIE etc
 South:
 Kalenjin:
 Nandi-Markweta: Nandi, Tuken
 Elgon: Sapiny, Pok
 Okiek/Dorobo: Sogoo etc
 Datoga: etc

Beside the bewildering array of East and West branches of branches down
the Sudanic line I can trace my inaccuracy to Conolly's mention
of JIE. As a language, Jie, along with Karamojong and various
other languages such as Teso, are part of the Teso-Turkana
branch of EAST Nilotic. However, in an earlier classification,
e.g., Crazzolara (1938), JII is the name used for WEST Nilotic
(or at least the current Lwo and Nuer-Dinka branches). JII
means "people" (or "ordinary people") in most of the West
Nilotic languages, hence the classificational name . The Dinka
call themselves "Jieng'". I suspect that the East Nilotic Jie
(also spelled "Jiye") is the same word, but I haven't checked
if the Jie actually call themselves that. African language
nomenclature is full of terms NOT used by the speakers
themselves (but often by sarcastic neighbors, so that, for
example, while the Dinka evidently see no stigma in their
autonym, the Achooli use the term somewhat like English uses the
term "the masses", cf. hoi polloi).

Just for fun let's see how accurate what I said was about the numbers
from one to ten are. We don't need six through nine, because
they are compounds of five plus numbers under five. The data
for most languages are restricted to what I happened to have
within reach without doing library research. However, the data
for Bari and Teso (Ateso, in my experience) are from
transcriptions of recordings I made a long time ago in East
Africa before I even knew how these languages were classified.
I don't have published linguistic data on hand for them.
 In all cases I have simplified orthography for typographical
ease (losing information). For example, the "h" following a
vowel refers to the retracted (lax- sounding) tongue root
position of that vowel. The Nilotic languages have complex
vowel systems with "tense" and "lax" subsystems.

Of course, lexical numbers by themselves do not prove anything about
genetic af finities. Nevertheless, some interesting patterns
emerge to compare with the currently accepted classification scheme.

West Nilotic:

 Achooli Anwak Luo Dinka Nuer
1 ace:hl achyehloh achiel tok kehl
2 aryo:h areahu ariyo rou rahu
3 adeek adahgoh adehk diak dyohk
4 ang'we:hn ang'wehnoh ang'wen ng'wan ng'wan
5 abiic abiyuh abihch dhiec dye:ch
10 apaar apar apar thiaar wahl

The first consonant in '5' seems to be diagnostic of the distinctness of
 Nuer-Dinka from the Lwoo group. Otherwise, Dinka '1' is
wierd, and so is the first consonant of Dinka '10' (cf.
Dinka-Nuer '5'), but not much wierder than a comparison of
Indo-European numbers (cf. Germanic '4-5' or Slavic '9-10').
Reconstruction is not difficult, although you don't have an
accurate transcription of the vowel distinctions (or tone).

East and South (Nandi) Nilotic: (Afro-Asiatic: Cushitic)
 Bari Teso Maasai Nandi Somali
1 kyeling' diopeti -bo akenge kow (Southern also 'hal')
2 morehk iyere -re aeng lamma
3 msala: iu~li -uni somok siddaH
4 ingwan iwong'wahn -ong'uan angwan afar
5 mukanad ikany imiet mut shan
10 pwahk itomony tomon taman tommon

The numbers '2' and '4' are consistent with West Nilotic. Otherwise,
lexicon appears to be areally defined. First Maasai and Nandi
seem to have a cognate for West Nilotic '5'. However, Maasai
is classified with Bari and Teso as East Nilotic. Thus, Bari
and Teso seem to share an innovation for '5' which does not
extend to Maasai or South Nilotic. Meanwhile the cognacy of
Bari '3' with Teso and Maasai is questionable, and Nandi '3' is
beyond the pale. Interestingly, my data for Bari has '10' as
given, while Greenberg gives Bari '10' as "mere" in one of his
mass cognate sets (p.106). "pwahk" fits in with the West Nilotic
set, but presumably G's data comes from a published source.
(I haven't loo ked at my data since I transcribed it --several
decades, but I relistened to my Bari tape to make sure I hadn't
transposed the word for '10' with some other word like
'toothbrush'.) By the way, Teso is closely related to
KARAMOJONG so I would expect the numbers to be similar,
including the Cushitic loan for '10', but with doubts about
whether Karamojong '5' would follow the Maasai or Bari-Teso
pattern. (Gotta go to the library for this one. any volunteers?)

The word for '10' in the other East and South Nilotic languages
was recognised by G as a loan from Somali or one of the mutually
intelligible Galla languages of Cushitic. That's why I gave the
Somali numbers above. Easy to see it would be a lot more
difficult to argue for Somali as Nilotic than for the other
languages [uhm, if their other lexical correspondences behave
like their numbers -- which they do.. . G actually uses the
example of Cushitic multiple of ten in Maasai in his arguments
against Meinhof's Nilo-Hamitic hypothesis. Cushitic was part
of "Hamitic" in the older terminology ("Afro-Asiatic" is G's
coinage for older "Semito-Hamitic"). .Note Nubian '10' below..
Thus, G has been as sharp to use arguments about borrowing
against his opponents as have his opponents against him. What to do?

 East Sudanic Central Sudanic
 Nubian Lugbara
1 we:rum aluh
2 awum iri
3 toskum na
4 kemsum su
5 dijum towi
10 dimnum muhdri

Wow! Numbers don't help unite Nubian as a branch of East Sudanic
with Nilotic. Obviously other criteria were used. For
superifical impression Nubian '10' looks promising as cognate
with South and most of East Nilotic, and maybe it is, but that
card has already been played non-genetically above -- and with good
 reason. .G, p106 again, compares Bari'10' "mere" with
Khordofan Nubian "bure" for the same).

As Central Sudanic, Lugbara might be expected by the naive to be
even more different from Nilotic than Nubian, but the numbers
don't show that. G uses Lugbara '2' in his mass cognate sets
for the unity of Central and East Sudanic. Interestingly, he
also uses Dinka '1', the wierd one for West Nilotic, in the same
 mass cognate sets -- for comparison with '10' in some Central
Sudanic groups. Lots of interesting claims there, e.g., the most
common West Nilotic word for "one" is not Proto-West Nilotic,
let alone Proto-Nilotic (despite the suggestiveness of Bari and
Nandi '1' above). G could be right, for all I know. Anyway,
I'm just as interested in the areal cross-currents as in the
hypotheses about genetic relationships. Thus, other
implications emerge from G's mass comparison s, e.g., the
pan-Nilotic word for '4' must be an areal innovation (maybe in
 Proto-Nilotic) since it does not occur elsewhere in Nilo-Saharan,
or in any other known language group for that matter.

So, OK. We have some pretty strong hypotheses. I haven't followed
Nilo-Saharan studies closely, though Nubian, but the numbers
don't show that. G uses Lugbara '2' in his mass cognate sets
for the unity of Central and East Sudanic. Interestingly, he
also uses Dinka '1', the wierd one for West Nilotic, in the same
 mass cognate sets -- for comparison with '10' in some Central
Sudanic groups. Lots of interesting claims there, e.g., the
most common West Nilotic word for "one" is not Proto-West
Nilotic, let alone Proto-Nilotic (despite the suggestiveness of
Bari and Nandi '1' above). G could be right, for all I know.
Anyway, I'm just as interested in the areal cross-currents as
in the hypothese about genetic relationships. Thus, other
implications emerge from G's mass comparisons, e.g., the
pan-Nilotic word for '4' must be an areal innovation (maybe in
 Proto-Nilotic) since it does not occur elsewhere in
Nilo-Saharan, or in any other known language group for that matter.

So, OK. We have some pretty strong hypotheses. I haven't
followed Nilo-Sahara n studies closely, though West African
Niger-Congo (actually the Benue-Kwa grou
p of Niger-Congo). Greenberg (1963) notes that Westermann also used the label
for various East Sudanic languages (W had done some fieldwork on Nilotic), beli
eving that they were related to the West African Niger-Congo (i.e. "Sudanic") l
anguages. Since I have come across occasional grumblings, begrudging G's Niger
-Congo hypothesis as lifted from Westermann, it is fair to mention that G had t
o separate W's beliefs about "Niger-Congo" from his beliefs about "Sudanic". W
 was, of course, not influential in his beliefs about East Sudanic anyway, as t
he Nilo-Hamitic hypothesis was the more influential theory, given the ritual fa
scination of European civilisation with its debt to Ancient Egypt and the Near
East, until G came along. Anyway, to this day there is East and Central Sudani
c, but after G no *West Sudanic.

In sum, the unity of West Nilotic would be evident to even the most rigorous Ne
o-Grammarians, and was, West African Niger-Congo (actually the Benue-Kwa group
of Niger-Congo). Greenberg (1963) notes that Westermann also used the label fo
r various East Sudanic languages (W had done some fieldwork on Nilotic), believ
ing that they were related to the West African Niger-Congo (i.e. "Sudanic") lan
guages. Since I have come across occasional grumblings, begrudging G's Niger-C
ongo hypothesis as lifted from Westermann, it is fair to mention that G had to
separate W's beliefs about "Niger-Congo" from his beliefs about "Sudanic". W w
as, of course, not influential in his beliefs about East Sudanic anyway, as the
 Nilo-Hamitic hypothesis was the more influential theory, given the ritual fasc
ination of European civilisation with its debt to Ancient Egypt and the Near Ea
st, until G came along. Anyway, to this day there is East and Central Sudanic,
 but after G no *West Sudanic.

In sum, the unity of West Nilotic would be evident to even the most rigorous Ne
o-Grammarians, and was, of them do not practice the selective circularity metho
d which G's method is best equipped to attack. They do not seem to be in a hur
ry or even primarily concerned with lumping languages into deeper and deeper pr
oto-families. These were, after all, more primary concerns for the use of ling
uistic data in the "history-explains/justifies-everything" intellectual climate
 of the 19th century. Given the current emphasis on typological detail and uni
versals, and the counter-concern with cultural relativity and composite cultura
l uniqueness, at least as cherished by Amerindists as by any other linguists be
cause of the Amerindist anthropological tradition, accuracy of data is a paramo
unt concern, even if errors are overwhelmed by reliable facts in drawing "big p
ictures" by the mass comparison method. So, G's final destination may be a bump
 on the road for Amerindists, or even a different road leading in a different d
irection, and an unwelcome distraction -- like a flat tire. Benji
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