LINGUIST List 21.3304

Mon Aug 16 2010

Review: General Ling: Ojo & Moshi (2009)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

        1.    Gian Batic, Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African Linguistics

Message 1: Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
Date: 16-Aug-2010
From: Gian Batic <>
Subject: Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
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EDITORS: Ojo, Akinloye; Moshi, LiobaTITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African LinguisticsSUBTITLE: Linguistic Research and Languages in AfricaSERIES TITLE: Cascadilla Proceedings ProjectPUBLISHER: Cascadilla PressYEAR: 2009

Gian Claudio Batic, Department of African Studies, University of Naples''L'Orientale''


The sixteen selected papers included in the volume were presented at the 39thAnnual Conference on African Linguistics at the University of Georgia (Athens,April 2008). The aim of the conference was to focus on African languages fromthe point of view of linguistic research and fieldwork (in its broadest sense),paying particular attention to endangered languages. The languages analysed inthe selected papers are Emai (Benue-Congo branch), Luganda (Bantu branch), Shona(Bantu), Sheng (Swahili-based slang), Arabic (Semitic), Shanjo and Fwe (Bantu),Oko (West Benue-Congo), Yoruba (Benue-Congo), Swahili (Bantu), the Agaw branchof the Cushitic family and the Bantu branch.

The book consists of a short introduction and five sections: plenary session,historical linguistics, morphology and syntax, phonology and phonetics,sociolinguistics and stylistics.

The book begins with Ronald P. Schaefer's paper ''Why do descriptive fieldwork?Dictionaries, Precedence Types and Verb Argument Order'', in which the authorinvestigates verb argument alternations in Emai. Employing the concepts ofFigure and Ground as formulated by Talmy (2000), the author demonstrates that inEmai only the basic precedence is allowed (Figure-Ground order).

The second paper, ''The Velar Ejective in Proto-Agaw'' by Paul D. Fallon,questions one aspect of the reconstruction of Proto-Agaw given by DavidAppleyard (2006), namely the absence of glottalized consonants in Proto-CentralCushitic. The author argues that 1) Proto-Agaw did have glottalized (ejective)consonants, and 2) the presence of such consonants gives a more naturalexplanation for some sound changes in Agaw languages. The analysis employs bothcomparative and internal reconstruction, considering data from other languagesof the Agaw branch.

Franca Ferrari-Bridges in her ''A Quantitative And Qualitative Analysis of theFinal Vowels [i] and [a] in Luganda deverbal nouns'', proposes a new insight intoLuganda derived nominals. The author bases the proposal on a reference corpus of642 Luganda deverbal nouns, focusing on the morpho-semantic role of the finalvocalic segments [a] and [i]. The paper demonstrates that final vocalic segmentshave no semantic content and that there is no evidence to state that finalvowels are N-marked heads.

Carmela Toews's paper, ''The Expression of Tense and Aspect in Shona'', takes intoaccount the relations between speech time, reference time and event time,demonstrating that Shona has a class of morphemes which mark either tense oraspect: such morphemes, previously seen only as tense markers, play a role inthe coding of precedence and subsequence. The author argues against thepast/present/future framework in Shona.

''Investigating the Shona Reflexive zvi'' by Dennis Ryan Storoshenko deals withthe atypical position of zvi, an object marker which behaves at the syntacticlevel like a valence operator. The discussion of zvi is supplemented by a briefsurvey of reflexivity in other Bantu languages (Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana and Kikamba).

Laura McPherson and Mary Paster in their ''Evidence for the Mirror Principle andMorphological Templates in Luganda Affix Ordering'' present the results of asystematic study of the ordering of four verbal extensions in Luganda. Afterillustrating the previously accepted analysis of Luganda extension order (theMirror Principle and the ''CARP'' template), they give the possible combinationsof extensions based on work carried out with three Luganda consultants. Theauthors draw an important hypothesis about the innovative features existing inthe young generation of speakers.

In ''Object Marking in wh-questions in Bantu'', Kristina Riedel shows that objectmarking patterns in questions in Bantu are due to the semantic features of theobject noun. Source languages for her analysis are Sambaa, Swahili and Haya.

Mokaya Bosire's paper, ''What Makes a Sheng Word Unique? Lexical Manipulation inMixed Languages'', deals with the nature of Sheng, a language used by Kenyanyouth in urban contexts. The author analyzes the role played by Sheng in termsof code switching (CS), arguing that CS offers a poor explanation for thespreading of this urban vernacular. Sheng seems to make use of a set of lexicalmanipulations (semantic and morphological) that fit the performative andcreative needs of the speakers.

''Agree in the Functional Domain: Evidence from the Morphosyntax of Positive andNegative Imperatives in Standard Arabic'', by Usaman Soltan, shows that positiveimperatives in Standard Arabic appear without person agreement. The authorfocuses on the problem of compatibility between imperatives and negation. Asection of the paper is devoted to a cross-linguistic check of the phenomenon(with data taken from Modern Greek, Spanish, French, German, Bulgarian,Serbo-Croatian and Slovak), drawing the conclusion that languages with preverbalnegation do not allow negative imperatives, whereas languages with postverbalnegation always allow negative imperatives.

The last contribution of the section is ''Comparing APPLs and Oranges: The Syntaxof Shona Applicatives'' by Heather Bliss. The author's aim is a description ofthe asymmetries between locative versus other applied objects in Shona. Objectasymmetries are analyzed through the discussion of word-order and c-command andthe co-occurrence restrictions on applied objects and causee. The frameworkfollowed to analyze the asymmetries between locative and other applied objectsconsiders the concept of ''lexical case'' and ''inherent case'' (respectivelyChomsky's structural and non-structural case). Finally, the author proposes toreconsider the apparent symmetry of other Bantu languages, essentially due toinformation structure.

The next section, 'Phonology and Phonetics', commences with Koen Bostoen's paper''Shanjo and Fwe as Part of Bantu Botatwe: A Diachronic Phonological Approach'',which considers the historical position of Shanjo and Fwe's sound system withinthe Bantu Botatwe (BB) group. After an extensive introduction, the authordiscusses the sound system of Shanjo and Fwe from a synchronic point of view.Then, by means of a comparative study of six other BB languages (Totela, Subiya,Lenje, Soli, Ila and Plateau Tonga), the analysis focuses on the diachronicsound changes which Shanjo and Fwe underwent. Finally, the author illustratesthe position of the target languages within the BB group. He argues that thesetwo languages are by far the most conservative within the group and that theirsound systems underwent very few internal developments. Rather, the innovationsexisting in the two sound systems are due to contact with other Bantu andnon-Bantu languages.

In ''On Nasals and Nasalization in Oko'', Joseph Dele Atóyèbí claims that the mostlikely source of nasalized vowels in Oko is a nasal consonant. The author seemsto accept Greenberg's (1966) claim on nasalization, but whereas Greenbergclaimed the deletion of the syllable-final nasal, Dele Atóyèbí shows that Oko,preserving the nasal consonant, behaves differently.

The following contribution, ''Singing in a Tone Language: Shona'' by MurraySchellenberg, analyzes the influence of tone on the composition of song melodyin Shona. The author considers three Shona songs (a biblical hymn, the nationalAnthem of Zimbabwe and a traditional song) performed by a native speaker andcompares them from the point of view of melodic transitions. Exhaustive tablesshow the correlations between the speech melody and the sung melody.

Ashleigh Gonzales in ''Intrinsic F0 in Shona vowels: A Descriptive Study'' focuseson the correlation between vowel height and pitch in Shona. After a shortoverview of the intrinsic fundamental frequency (iF0) and the presentation ofthe results obtained by previous studies (among others, Whalen & Levitt 1995,Connell 2002), the author illustrates hypotheses concerning the gradiency ofiF0, neutralization of low tone vowels for iF0 and significance of frequencydistinction between front and back vowels. Section three of the paper is devotedto explaining the experimental method (speech material, measurements andstatistical analyses), and the results are given in the next section. The finaldiscussion revisits the original hypotheses.

The final section of the volume, Sociolinguistics and Stylistics, begins withAdesola Olateju's paper ''Jedi O M'Akowe (Hemorrhoid Respects Not Even theEducated Elite): A Sociolinguistic-Stylistic Analysis of the Language of YorubaHerbal Medicine Practitioners''. The paper analyzes the kind of language employedin hawking herbal medicines as well as its communicative and stylistic effects.The contribution is the result of fieldwork carried out over a period of sixmonths; it pays particular attention to the expressive strategies used by herbalhawkers in order to advertise their products, such as, for examples, proverbs,prayerful expression and newly-created formulaic language.

The last paper, ''Linguistic Identity (re)Construction in Electoral Politics: TheCase of 2005 Tanzanian Parliamentary Campaigns'' by Charles Bwenge, focuses onthe language used by parliamentary candidates in Tanzania. The author arguesthat Swahili is employed as a vehicle of linguistically-oriented identity, thatis, that in political discourse Swahili is enriched with linguistic elements inorder to emphasize the ethnic, national or elitist nature of the electoral message.


The Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African Linguisticscovers a broad range of topics and languages. Nevertheless, special attention isgiven to Niger-Congo languages (Benue-Congo and Bantu) and, among them, toShona. Afro-Asiatic is represented by Standard Arabic and Agaw languages only,whereas the Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan phyla are not covered at all. From aqualitative point of view, the proceedings are Benue-Congo and Bantu-oriented,making the volume a useful source for researchers working on these branches. Itshould also be pointed out that the Niger-Congo languages are by far the mostnumerous; thus, their preponderance in the selected papers mirrors thisquantitative feature. In the same way, the number of papers devoted todiscussions on Bantu morphology reflect the morphological richness of theselanguages. Rather than representing the linguistic variety of African languages(an almost impossible task), the volume attempts a presentation of the newestresearch approaches followed by African linguistics.

The length of the articles is more than reasonable and allows the authors tooffer an exhaustive picture of their research topic (which is quite rare inproceedings publications).

The papers included in the volume analyze some minority languages underperspectives usually reserved to well-described languages (such as, for example,Hausa or Swahili). This aspect is particularly valuable, since the condition ofendangerment of many African languages dictates the research agenda almostexclusively from a descriptive point of view.

Even if the articles are intended for the relatively narrow audience ofAfricanist linguists, specialists from other areas will find interesting ideasand methodological frameworks as well as useful data for comparative,contrastive or typological analysis.


Appleyard, David L. 2006. A comparative dictionary of the Agaw languages.(Cushitic Languages Studies, 24). Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

Connell, Bruce 2002. Tone languages and the universality of intrinsic F0:evidence from Africa. Journal of Phonetics, 30:101-129.

Greenberg, Joseph H. 1966. Synchronic and diachronic universals in Phonology.Language 42. 2:508-517.

Talmy, Leonard 2000. Toward a Cognitive Semantics. Vol 1 and 2. Cambridge: MITPress.

Whalen, Douglas H. and Levitt, Andrea G. 1995. The universality of intrinsic F0of vowels. Journal of Phonetics, 23:349-366.


Gian Claudio Batic completed a doctorate in African linguistics at the University of Naples 'L'Orientale' (Italy). He is currently researching into the semantic and lexico-grammatical interface of metaphorical structures in Bole-Tangale (West Chadic) languages.

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