Linguistics Languages of Africa
by
Tucker Childs
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0092

Introduction

The study of African languages has a history dating back to the 17th century when Europeans first began exploring the continent. This long history, unfortunately, has been marred by ideological biases persisting into the mid-20th century. Early studies were written by missionaries and explorers, and Christian missionaries today continue such work. The 19th century featured the birth of the “Hamitic Hypothesis” in the publications of Lepsius, developed later by Meinhof, another famous German scholar. Lepsius, for example, attributed the more “advanced” features of African languages to influences from Caucasian languages. The expanded study of African languages is relatively recent, advancing with the spread of generative theory, which used African languages importantly in its development. Scholarship on African languages qua African languages is more prolific in Europe than in North America not only because of the colonial past but also because of the greater focus on African studies versus theoretical linguistics. (It should be mentioned that the following references do not treat Malagasy, spoken only on the island of Madagascar, or the many varieties of Arabic spoken in the northern part of the continent, and may depend more heavily on European rather than North American sources.)

General Overviews

Overviews of African languages have tended to be fairly technical in nature until the Textbooks described below began to appear. Their focus had previously been on classification, but more and more they treat issues in typology and language contact. Blench 2006 is particularly remarkable in that it uses findings in linguistics (and other fields) to reconstruct an African past. The earliest overview, Berry and Greenberg 1971, provides assessments of each major family, as well as additional chapters on the history of African-language study and a summary of missionary work on African languages. A single-authored work, Welmers 1973, offers a unique overview of a productive life’s work on African languages. Bendor-Samuel 1989 offers brief sketches, mostly focusing on classification, of the major genetic groups of Niger-Congo, a phylum containing the majority of Africa’s languages.

  • Bendor-Samuel, John, ed. 1989. The Niger-Congo languages: A classification and description of Africa’s largest language family. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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    This collection briefly presents in a nontechnical way the major families within Africa’s and the world’s largest phylum. For each family there is some historical background to its study, the classification of its members, and its basic features.

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    • Berry, Jack, and Joseph H. Greenberg, eds. 1971. Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Current Trends in Linguistics 7. The Hague: Mouton.

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      Begun as the only comprehensive introduction to African languages, it was later superseded by the textbooks described in the following section. The commissioned articles survey the major language families and more, including African pidgins and creoles, a chapter on language policy, and another on missionary work. Two chapters treat the history of African linguistics up to the time of the book’s publication.

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      • Blench, Roger M. 2006. Archaeology, language, and the African past. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

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        This learned and comprehensive treatise synthesizes much of Blench’s provocative work since the 1990s. In addition to using the findings of linguistics, primarily classification and language contact, Blench combines with them the findings from archaeology, DNA studies, and comparative ethnography to piece together the ancient history of Africa.

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        • Welmers, William E. 1973. African language structures. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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          This is one of the classic introductions to African languages written by a brilliant fieldworker associated with missionary work (an ordained minister in the Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church). It includes chapters on classification, phonology, tonology, morphology, and syntax, referencing more than 130 languages, more than half of which he worked on personally. The book has been used as a textbook for introducing students to the study of African languages.

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          Textbooks

          Textbooks covering the totality of African languages at an elementary level are rare. They range from an early, relatively basic introduction (Alexandre 1972), which also covers sociolinguistic issues, and the politically correct and accessible treatment of Webb and Kembo-Sure 1999, to Heine and Nurse 2000, a highly technical volume with individual chapters by world experts. Most are written in English, but there are introductions in French (Creissels 1989, Creissels 1991), German (Heine, et al. 1981), and even Polish. Mutaka and Tamanji 2000 is limited in its focus but provides an extensive treatment of Bantu phonology from a theoretical and problem-based approach. Childs 2003 is a more general book covering all of Sub-Saharan Africa and most subdisciplines of linguistics.

          • Alexandre, Pierre. 1972. Languages and language in black Africa. Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press.

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            A basic and now relatively dated introduction to African languages more from an anthropological perspective than a linguistic one.

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            • Childs, G. Tucker. 2003. An introduction to African languages. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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              Covers the less-familiar features of African languages but introduces the reader to all aspects of African linguistics, including contact phenomena, areal linguistics, and sociolinguistics. It is written in an accessible style and is accompanied by a CD. It has been used primarily by graduate students in North and South America, Africa, and Europe but is also appropriate for advanced undergraduates and linguists unfamiliar with African languages.

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              • Creissels, Denis. 1989. Aperçu sur les structures phonologiques des langues négro-africaines. Grenoble, France: Éditions littéraires et linguistiques de l’Université Stendhal.

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                The first of two volumes (see Creissels 1991) introduces African languages to advanced students and linguists unfamiliar with African languages. It offers a general overview of phonological structures from a descriptive-typological perspective based primarily on the author’s extensive fieldwork and data from theses he has supervised.

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                • Creissels, Denis. 1991. Description des langues négro-africaines et théorie syntaxique. Grenoble, France: Éditions littéraires et linguistiques de l’Université Stendhal.

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                  The second of two volumes (see Creissels 1989) introduces the variety and complexity of African morphosyntactic structures. The approach is basically descriptive-typological but the author also discusses how African structures as noun-class marking challenge syntactic theory. The text is appropriate for beginning students of African languages and for trained linguists who are not familiar with African languages.

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                  • Heine, Bernd, and Derek Nurse, eds. 2000. African languages: An introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                    Contains contributions from world experts on African linguistics. Much of it is quite technical, thus making it suitable only for fairly advanced linguistics students: nonetheless, it is an essential reference work. It contains one chapter on each of the four major language families, five on linguistic domains, and two on hyphenated areas (language and history, sociolinguistics).

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                    • Heine, Bernd, Thilo C. Schadeberg, and H. Ekkehard Wolff, eds. 1981. Die Sprachen Afrikas. Hamburg, Germany: Buske.

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                      A textbook designed by three leading scholars for German-speaking students introducing them to the study of African languages; it has been widely used at the various African studies centers in Germany.

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                      • Mutaka, Ngessimo M., and Pius N. Tamanji. 2000. Introduction to African linguistics. Munich: Lincom Europa.

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                        This is an accessible introduction somewhat limited in its focus on Niger-Congo and on Bantu within Niger-Congo. It furthermore concentrates on phonology, especially tone, although it does survey most components of grammar.

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                        • Webb, Vic, and Kembo-Sure, eds. 1999. African voices: An introduction to the languages and linguistics of Africa. Cape Town: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                          A basic book designed to introduce South African students to the linguistic study of African languages.

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                          Historically Important Texts

                          This category includes seminal texts that may not be relevant today but were important to the development of the study of African languages (and are not mentioned elsewhere). Clement Doke (Doke 1935) worked in southern Africa, where he set the standards for the description of African languages. A typical grammar is Doke 1927, which can be contrasted with other early grammars of Gola (Westermann 1921) and Lomongo (Hulstaert 1961). Guthrie 1967–1971, Meeussen 1967, and Meeussen 1980 treat Bantu. Koelle 1854 represents one of the earliest sets of word lists for West Africa.

                          • Doke, Clement M. 1927. Text-book of Zulu grammar. London: Longmans.

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                            One of Doke’s earliest grammars, the book illustrates Doke’s Bantu-based orientation toward language description, as set out in Doke 1935.

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                            • Doke, Clement M. 1935. Bantu linguistic terminology. London: Longmans, Green.

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                              In this important work Doke sought to free the study of Bantu languages from the confines of standard European terminology by proposing terminology for the many Bantu languages with which he was familiar.

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                              • Guthrie, Malcolm. 1967–1971. Comparative Bantu. 4 vols. Farnborough, UK: Gregg.

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                                It has been said that this work set the stage for all future comparative work on Bantu. It has served as the standard referential classification of Bantu languages.

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                                • Hulstaert, Gustaaf. 1961. Grammaire du lomongo, 1: La phonologie. Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale.

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                                  Révérend Père Gustaaf Hulstaert published extensively on Lomongo and many other Congo languages. This book is one of three he wrote describing the language: this one is on the phonology of Lomongo; the other two treat the morphology and syntax.

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                                  • Koelle, Sigismund Wilhelm. 1854. Polyglotta Africana: Comparative vocabulary of nearly three hundred words and phrases in more than 100 distinct African languages. London: Church Missionary House.

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                                    Koelle’s informants were Africans “freed” and dropped off in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by antislaving interests. On the basis of interviews with these people, Koelle was able to assemble impressive sets of data. These lists provide fairly reliable segmental data (tone is not marked, and his transcription system was limited) and some time depth for languages investigated many years later.

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                                    • Meeussen, A. E. 1967. Bantu grammatical reconstructions. Annalen van het Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika/Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale 61:79–121.

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                                      This is the first of two books, both standard reference works (see Meeussen 1980), in which a thorough and knowledgeable Bantu scholar reconstructs Proto-Bantu. Author bases many of his reconstructions on his own extensive research.

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                                      • Meeussen, A. E. 1980. Bantu lexical reconstructions. Tervuren, Belgium: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.

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                                        Completed and published after the author’s death, this work represents the second major opus (see Meeussen 1967) by one of Bantu’s finest comparativists. A standard reference for anyone interested in Proto-Bantu and Bantu classification in general.

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                                        • Westermann, Diedrich. 1921. Die Gola-Sprache in Liberia: Grammatik, Texte, und Worterbuch. Hamburg, Germany: L. Friederichsen.

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                                          Represents one of the many fine original descriptions by Westermann. During his lifetime he produced many such works on a diverse set of languages that are still useful today.

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                                          Databases and Bibliographies

                                          A great number of online African linguistic databases have been installed on servers at a research group specializing in African languages (Langage, langues et cultures d’Afrique noire [LLACAN] of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique [CNRS] in Paris), including Les marques personnelles dans les langues africaines, Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, and Typologie des adjectifs et de la qualification dans les langues africaines. Web-BALL is the most general bibliographic database, but there are also typological and phonological databases as well.

                                          Conferences and Conference Proceedings

                                          The major world conference specializing in African linguistics is the World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL) held triennially since its first meeting in Kwaluseni, Swaziland, in 1994, the proceedings of which were published as Herbert 1997. The conference is held sequentially in Africa, Europe, and North America, and a special WOCAL conference was once held in Brazil. The second-largest meeting of specialists in African linguistics is the Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL), convening primarily in the United States but occasionally in Canada. The conference has sometimes been held jointly with the African Languages Teachers Association. Its proceedings, a typical volume being Mugane 2003, are now published by Cascadilla Press, for example, Arasanyin and Pemberton 2006, and are available online. Another regular conference is the Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics, held annually at Leiden University but with no publication of its proceedings. Other regionally based and language-based conferences include, for example, the West African Linguistic Society and the Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium. Publication of the proceedings of these conferences is irregular.

                                          • Arasanyin, Olaoba F., and Michael A. Pemberton, eds. 2006. Selected proceedings of the 36th annual conference on African linguistics: Shifting the center of Africanism in language politics and economic globalization. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                            An example of the published proceedings of ACAL, containing some thirty papers culled from those presented at ACAL 36. Proceedings since ACAL 35 are available online.

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                                            • Herbert, Robert K., ed. 1997. African linguistics at the crossroads: Papers from Kwaluseni (papers from the First World Congress of African Linguistics). Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

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                                              The first meeting of WOCAL (1994) featured a broad range of papers, both theoretical and applied, a selection of thirty-six being published in this volume.

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                                              • Mugane, John, ed. 2003. Linguistic typology and representation of African languages. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

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                                                Exemplifies the form and content of published proceedings of ACAL, a conference that accepts papers on any topic dealing with African languages. This conference was held at Harvard and contains twenty-five articles on diverse topics, all treating African language data.

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                                                Journals

                                                The two most important linguistics journals that cover all languages of Africa are Studies in African Linguistics and the Journal of African Languages and Linguistics. Two regionally important and well-established journals are the Journal of West African Languages, Mandenkan, and the South African Journal of African Languages.

                                                History of the Study of African Languages

                                                Few books devote themselves exclusively to the history of African linguistics, the exception being Doneux 2003. Snippets or relatively brief characterizations can be found in several introductions, and there are a few articles devoted to how the linguistic study of African languages has progressed. Two works treating the study of African languages in general are Cole 1971 and Schachter 1971, but they cover the period only up to 1971, as does Welmers 1971, which is an account of missionary work in the same volume. Bamgbose 2000–2001 covers the period up to 2000 but only for West Africa. Herbert 1993, though also more recent, treats only southern Africa, and the related Doke 1993 concentrates on one researcher. Doneux 2003 is more recent and more critical of African-language research.

                                                • Bamgbose, Ayo. 2000–2001. New directions in West African language studies. Journal of West African Languages 28.1: 115–116.

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                                                  The author presents an overview of the West African linguistic scene since the founding of the West African Linguistic Society in 1965 up to the 21st century.

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                                                  • Cole, Desmond T. 1971. The history of African linguistics to 1945. In Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Jack Berry and Joseph H. Greenberg, 1–29. Current Trends in Linguistics 7. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.

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                                                    Covers African linguistics up to 1945; Schachter 1971 covers the period up to the 1970s at the dawn of the generative era.

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                                                    • Doke, Clement M. 1993. Trekking in south central Africa 1913–1919. Edited by Robert K. Herbert. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand Univ. Press.

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                                                      This lively and entertaining account of Clement Doke’s several linguistic expeditions through his diary entries expertly illustrates the nature of early work on Africa languages.

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                                                      • Doneux, Jean-Léonce. 2003. Histoire de la linguistique Africaine. Aix-en-Provence, France: Publications de L’Université de Provence.

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                                                        Doneux critically appraises the study of African languages from a postcolonial perspective in this posthumously published work. He evaluates the methodology and underlying assumptions of his coworkers and predecessors. Doneux suggests that African languages have not been studied more extensively due to a past of slavery and colonization and to the ideological legacy of those practices.

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                                                        • Herbert, Robert K. 1993. Not with one mouth: Continuity and change in southern African language studies. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand Univ. Press.

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                                                          Provides a history of the study of southern African languages by focusing on an early and incredibly prolific researcher. Even today Doke remains one of the most productive scholars around, describing African languages in a unique and relatively unbiased way free of European models. Herbert calls him “the single most important figure in the history of Southern African linguistics” (p. 1).

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                                                          • Schachter, Paul. 1971. The present state of African linguistics. In Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Jack Berry and Joseph H. Greenberg, 30–44. Current Trends in Linguistics 7. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.

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                                                            A companion to Cole 1971 that treats the study of African languages from 1945 to the time of its publication.

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                                                            • Welmers, William E. 1971. Christian missions and language policies. In Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Jack Berry and Joseph H. Greenberg, 559–569. Current Trends in Linguistics 7. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.

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                                                              From the perspective of a scholar intimately involved with the training of Christian missionaries, Welmers characterizes the missionary effort to describe African languages up to the 1970s.

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                                                              Classification

                                                              The classification of African languages has been controversial and influenced, some would say, by a racist ideology from the late 19th century on, as suggested in Doneux 1975, a thesis illustrating a less ideological approach. Certainly the study has been controlled by Europeans and driven by European ideas of what a language should be. Basing himself on these Europeans, especially Westermann 1927, Joseph Greenberg began his massive work classifying African languages in the late 1940s, for example, Greenberg 1949, which was later consolidated with its seven successors in Greenberg 1963. Consensus has emerged as to the major phyla following Greenberg, albeit with some reservations and criticisms. There has been extensive work on the classification of Bantu, a politically important subgroup of a subgroup, and on other isolated subgroups, but few works have treated the entirety of African languages. The four chapters on the major phyla in Heine and Nurse 2000 provide overviews of the state of the classificatory enterprise in each phylum.

                                                              • Doneux, Jean-Léonce. 1975. Hypotheses pour la comparative des langues atlantiques: Thesis, Africana Linguistica VI (Annales, Série In-8, Science Humaines, 88). J. L. Van Schaik.

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                                                                Although this work is relatively limited in what it treats, the constituency and relatedness of (North) Atlantic, a subgroup of Niger-Congo, it illustrates the classical approach to language classification relying solely on detailed linguistic data.

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                                                                • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1949. Studies in African linguistic classification. Part 1: Introduction, the Niger-Congo family. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 5.2: 79–100.

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                                                                  This is the first of an eight-part series on Greenberg’s classification of African languages later realized in a single volume as Greenberg 1963.

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                                                                  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. The languages of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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                                                                    This is the compiled version of Greenberg’s classification of African languages, using the approach first presented as “mass comparison” and later changed to “multilateral comparison.” It has been widely accepted and has not been significantly changed over the years, although there have been challenges to the unity of Khoisan and the inclusion of Mande and other groups and languages in Niger-Congo.

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                                                                    • Heine, Bernd, and Derek Nurse, eds. 2000. African languages: An introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                      Four chapters in this volume treat the classification of languages in Africa’s major language phyla: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatic, and Khoisan.

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                                                                      • Westermann, Diedrich. 1927. Die westlichen Sudansprachen und ihre Beziehungen zum Bantu. Berlin: De Gruyter.

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                                                                        Westermann was a student of the ideology-driven Meinhof and was reluctant to challenge his teacher but proposed a classification that was later incorporated into Greenberg’s proposal.

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                                                                        Historical and Comparative Linguistics and Language Typology

                                                                        There is much excellent recent work on the comparison of African languages from genetic, typological, and areal perspectives, the most extensive being Dimmendaal 2011. Greenberg 1959, Heine and Mechthild 1984, and Heine 1976 are all significant publications on the typology of African languages, and Voeltz 2005 collects a set of papers offering a tribute to the two typologists and follows their lead.

                                                                        • Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. 2011. Historical linguistics and the comparative study of African languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                          This represents the most extensive treatment of historical linguistics using African language for its presentation. It is an incredibly rich compilation of the author’s thinking on historical-comparative issues replete with data from his own research. The book was designed for advanced students studying African linguistics.

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                                                                          • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1959. Africa as a linguistic area. In Continuity and change in African cultures. Edited by William R. Bascom and Melville J. Herskovits, 15–27. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                            One of the first articles to consider areal phenomena in Africa by one of the leading researchers on language classification and contact phenomena in Africa.

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                                                                            • Heine, Bernd. 1976. A typology of African languages based on the order of meaningful elements. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.

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                                                                              This pioneering work by one of the leading scholars on African languages was the first to survey African languages from a typological perspective.

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                                                                              • Heine, Bernd, and Mechthild Reh. 1984. Grammaticalization and reanalysis in African languages. Hamburg, Germany: Helmut Buske Verlag.

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                                                                                Applied the grammaticalization framework to African languages and led to further works on grammaticalization as a cognitive phenomenon.

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                                                                                • Voeltz, F. K. Erhard, ed. 2005. Studies in African linguistic typology. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                  Publishes the contributions of invited participants to a conference organized as a tribute to Joseph Greenberg, who had recently died, but paid more attention to work of the Africanist Bernd Heine, whose many publications on typology and grammaticalization were influential in determining the direction of current research on language typology.

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                                                                                  Sociolinguistics

                                                                                  Research on sociolinguistics tends more toward the applied side, as represented by Bamgbose 1991, Bamgbose 2000a, and Bamgbose 2000b, in considering issues in language planning and policy. No studies exist that document the entirety of the sociolinguistics of African languages—few probably could do so because of the vastness of the continent and the vastness of its sociolinguistic issues. The richest work on sociolinguistic topics, aside from those discussed elsewhere in this section, come from South Africa, where that country’s unique history and system of apartheid created something of a sociolinguistic laboratory, much as did colonization elsewhere and slavery in the United States. Herbert 1992 contains an introduction to sociolinguistics in South Africa, but some of the papers treat other parts of the continent; Mesthrie 2002 contains more general papers covering the same area. Calvet 1992 and Calvet and Moreau 1998 concentrate on language attitudes in Francophone Africa, particularly with regard to French and vehicular languages, and Adegbija 1994 treats language attitudes more generally.

                                                                                  • Adegbija, Efurosibina. 1994. Language attitudes in Sub-Saharan Africa: A sociolinguistic perspective. Clevedon, UK, and Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.

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                                                                                    Presents a survey report on the attitudes of West Africans toward European languages and both majority and minority African languages. It also summarizes the different types of language planning that are done in West Africa.

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                                                                                    • Bamgbose, Ayo. 1991. Language and the nation: The language question in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

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                                                                                      Treats the many problems of language policy in Africa with regard to both minority and majority languages, as well as to pidgins.

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                                                                                      • Bamgbose, Ayo, ed. 2000a. Sociolinguistics in West Africa. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 141. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                        This edited volume contains articles that deal with the macro side of sociolinguistics, broadly in the area of the sociology of language.

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                                                                                        • Bamgbose, Ayo. 2000b. Language and exclusion: The consequences of language policies in Africa. Beiträge zur Afrikanistik, 12. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag.

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                                                                                          The author criticizes language planning as it has been effected on the African continent. It provides some suggestions as to what should be done in terms of governmental actions to deal with the continent’s rampant multilingualism.

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                                                                                          • Calvet, Louis-Jean, ed. 1992. Les langues des marchés en Afrique. Aix-en-Provence, France: Institut d’Études Créoles et Francophones, Université de Provence.

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                                                                                            This edited volume contains articles surveying the languages that are used in African markets.

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                                                                                            • Calvet, Louis-Jean, and Marie-Louise Moreau, eds. 1998. Une ou des normes? Insécurité linguistique et normes endogènes en Afrique francophone. Aix-en-Provence, Paris: CIRELFA—Agence de la Francophonie.

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                                                                                              Features articles on linguistic insecurity, whether speakers feel the presence of more than one set of norms, particularly when they are speaking French.

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                                                                                              • Herbert, Robert K., ed. 1992. Language and society in Africa: The theory and practice of sociolinguistics. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                The articles in this volume represent papers from invited participants at a conference held soon after Nelson Mandela was freed, thus harkening from the beginning of the postapartheid era. Most of the papers deal with the sociolinguistics of southern African languages but a few deal with topics from other parts of Africa. The variety of topics is wide and range from the social side to the linguistic.

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                                                                                                • Mesthrie, Rajend, ed. 2002. Language in South Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                  The articles treat South African sociolinguistic topics rather than purely linguistic ones. For example, the fine article by Traill, “The Khoesan languages of South Africa,” is really a story of language death—detailing how many Khoesan (Khoisan) languages disappeared. There are papers on interactional sociolinguistics and language policy, as well as many other sociolinguistic topics, exhibiting the wide variety of work being done in South Africa.

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                                                                                                  Family Overviews and Representative Language Studies

                                                                                                  This section contains a selection of grammars from each of the four major phyla of Africa. The four are wildly disproportionate in size, ranging from some 1,500 languages in Niger-Congo (the largest phylum in the world) down to some eighty in Nilo-Saharan and perhaps as few as twenty in Khoisan. The fourth phylum, Afro-Asiatic, has two hundred to three hundred of its languages inside Africa but many outside Africa. For the three smaller phyla this section gives a few sources for overviews, some of them articles within the edited volumes already listed above, as well as some representative grammars. The same is done for each of the families within Niger-Congo.

                                                                                                  Khoisan

                                                                                                  The Khoisan or “click” languages hardly represent a coherent genetic group yet are treated as one because of the prevalent use of the velaric speech mechanism in producing clicks. All of them are highly endangered and most have disappeared in historic times. Dickens 1994 and Dickens 2005 exemplify the results of an extended and close relationship with a Khoisan language and its speakers. Güldemann and Vossen 2000 presents some of the controversy surrounding the unity of Khoisan. Hagman 1977 illustrates the grammar of a still vital language, and Collins and Namaseb 2011 represents the sketch of a grammar with only a few speakers left.

                                                                                                  • Collins, Christopher T., and Levi Namaseb. 2011. A grammatical sketch of N/uuki with stories. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

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                                                                                                    With only twelve speakers, N/uuki is unlikely to survive. This grammar represents a welcome, although preliminary, documentation of the language.

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                                                                                                    • Dickens, Patrick. 1994. English-Ju/’hoan/Ju/’hoan-English Dictionary. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

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                                                                                                      The Dickens dictionary is the product of an extensive association with the Ju/’hoan people and forms the basis of the pedagogical materials for the language.

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                                                                                                      • Dickens, Patrick. 2005. A concise grammar of Ju/’hoan: With a Ju/’hoan-English glossary and a subject index. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

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                                                                                                        Dickens lived and worked among the Ju/’hoan for many years in developing a literacy program and educational materials. This grammar, dictionary, and other materials represent an intimate and thorough understanding of the language and its use.

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                                                                                                        • Güldemann, Tom, and Rainer Vossen. 2000. Khoisan. In African languages: An introduction. Edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse, 99–122. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                          The non-Khoe languages are quite different from the Khoe languages, and the authors question the grouping of the two together. An interesting feature of this article is a representation of the precolonial distribution of Khoisan and the documentary status of the languages—only three have reached a state of full documentation.

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                                                                                                          • Hagman, Roy S. 1977. Nama Hottentot grammar. Bloomington: Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies, Indiana Univ.

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                                                                                                            One of the few full grammars of a Khoisan language.

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                                                                                                            Nilo-Saharan

                                                                                                            Nilo-Saharan is the second-oldest family in terms of the time depth of its separation. Bender 2007 has shown that this controversial group actually does have some genetic unity, an analysis that has been controversial since the classification in Greenberg 1963 (cited under Classification). Particularly troublesome has been the position of Songhay within the group, for example, Nicolaï 2003. Two representative and detailed grammars are Dimmendaal 1983 and Heath 1999.

                                                                                                            • Bender, M. Lionel. 2007. The Nilo-Saharan languages. Munich: Lincom Europa.

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                                                                                                              Bender’s detailed study vindicates Nilo-Saharan as a phylum against the three other phyla of Africa using a lexical database of more than six hundred items from all of the documented languages. He establishes isoglosses showing that the languages are related and presents negative evidence showing that they are not related to other language families.

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                                                                                                              • Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. 1983. The Turkana language. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.

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                                                                                                                Turkana is an Eastern Nilotic language spoken in Kenya. This description is based on fieldwork conducted over several years. The language is typologically interesting for its extensive vowel harmony and for its particularly complicated morphology, especially with regard to gender, case, number, and verbal morphology in general. Word order is also challenging for Turkana is a nonconfigurational language, having no VP constituent.

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                                                                                                                • Heath, Jeffrey. 1999. A grammar of Koyra Chiini, the Songhay of Timbuktu. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                                                  A description of a controversially classified Nilo-Saharan language. The author makes no claims as to its genetic status but presents a thorough description of a language that has undoubtedly been influenced by language contact, according to Nicolaï 2003.

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                                                                                                                  • Nicolaï, Robert. 2003. La force des choses ou l’épreuve ‘nilo-saharienne’: Questions sur les reconstructions archéologiques et l’évolution des langues. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

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                                                                                                                    Nicolaï questions the inclusion of Songhay in Nilo-Saharan contra Bender and others, suggesting it may be closer to Afro-Asiatic.

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                                                                                                                    Afro-Asiatic

                                                                                                                    The major families of Afro-Asiatic are Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Semitic, and Omotic. It is the only family whose languages are spoken outside the African continent. It includes important African languages such as Hausa and Amharic but also Arabic, spoken in a wider area. Hayward 2000 represents an overview of the family, and the four grammars listed below, Heath 2005, Mous 1993, Newman 2000, and Schuh 1997, are well-written and detailed representative descriptions of languages in the phylum.

                                                                                                                    • Hayward, Richard J. 2000. Afroasiatic. In African languages: An introduction. Edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse, 74–98. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                      Hayward provides an overview of a relatively uncontroversially classified language group. The author details the linguistic evidence for the “Afroasiatic Hypothesis,” beliefs about the constituency, and relatedness of the phylum’s members. The history of the controversy has been tinged with some ideology clouding the linguistics, much as with Niger-Congo.

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                                                                                                                      • Heath, Jeffrey. 2005. A grammar of Tamashek (Tuareg of Mali). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1515/9783110909586Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Written by one of the world’s best fieldworkers, this detailed grammar characterizes the structure of a Berber language.

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                                                                                                                        • Mous, Maarten. 1993. A grammar of Iraqw. Kuschitische Sprachstudien, 9. Hamburg, Germany: Helmut Buske.

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                                                                                                                          Mous provides a thorough description of a South Cushitic language.

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                                                                                                                          • Newman, Paul. 2000. The Hausa language: An encyclopedic reference grammar. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                            A Chadic language within Afro-Asiatic, Hausa is one of the most important languages in Africa, both as a first and second language. This grammar covers Hausa in fine detail, informed by a lifetime of work on the language.

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                                                                                                                            • Schuh, Russell G. 1997. A grammar of Miya. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                              Miya is another Chadic language, and this voluminous grammar reflects the author’s long and extensive work on the language family, as seen in the many comparative comments he includes.

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                                                                                                                              Niger-Congo

                                                                                                                              Niger-Congo has traditionally been thought of as consisting of at least the following major families: Kordofanian, Atlantic, Mande, Gur/Voltaic, Kru, Kwa, Adamawa-Ubangi, and Benue-Congo. Some of the most common morphological features across the phylum are a system of noun classes and verb extensions, verbal suffixes that allow for changes in argument structure. Basic word structure is SVO but varies with some OV structures. A typologically unusual word order, S-Aux-O-V-X is distributed unevenly in Niger-Congo and likely represents an areal phenomenon. Each of these families will be referenced by an overview article and at least one representative grammar. Williamson and Blench 2000 provides the most recent overview of the family.

                                                                                                                              • Williamson, Kay, and Roger M. Blench. 2000. Niger-Congo. In African languages: An introduction. Edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse, 11–42. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                This is the latest overview of the world’s largest language phylum and briefly considers the features of each subgroup.

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                                                                                                                                Kordofanian

                                                                                                                                Kordofanian is the smallest group of Niger-Congo with only some twenty languages spoken by some 165,000 speakers in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Its languages are poorly described and their current status is under question because of the continued instability of the region. Some work is currently being done on Moro by Sharon Rose and her coworkers, for example, Gibbard, et al. 2009, but no complete grammar exists. Schadeberg 1989 provides an overview.

                                                                                                                                • Gibbard, George, Hannah Rohde, and Sharon Rose. 2009. Moro noun class morphology. In Selected proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Edited by Masangu Matondo, Fiona McLaughlin, and Eric Potsdam, 106–117. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                  This is the first appearing publication of the “Moro Language Project,” a long-term study of a highly endangered Kordofanian language.

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                                                                                                                                  • Schadeberg, Thilo C. 1989. Kordofanian. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 66–80. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                    Provides an overview of an underresearched language group but is based on fieldwork from the 1970s. The relatedness of the group is controversial and the status of the speakers of its member languages is uncertain due to ongoing strife.

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                                                                                                                                    Atlantic

                                                                                                                                    The unity of Atlantic has been questioned, with most scholars agreeing that the group should be broken up into North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the isolate Bijogo. Nonetheless, many still speak of the (West) Atlantic languages as forming a genetic group. Some ten or so of the languages are severely threatened and several have died in recent times. The languages all have operant noun class systems, some in North Atlantic containing more than twenty classes, and verb extensions, North Atlantic once again having the largest systems. Childs 2011 presents a description of a highly endangered South Atlantic language, Ngom 2003 characterizes a widely spoken North Atlantic language known as Wolof, and Segerer 2002 describes the isolate Bijogo. Wilson 1989 is an overview of the three branches seen as a single family.

                                                                                                                                    • Childs, G. Tucker. 2011. A grammar of Mani. New York and Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110265019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Mani is a threatened language belonging to the South Atlantic group with the typical linguistic features of that group: labialvelars, prenasalized stops, closed syllables, the use of tone in both the grammar and lexicon, a relatively limited set of noun classes and verb extensions, and varied word order.

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                                                                                                                                      • Ngom, Fallou. 2003. Wolof. Munich: Lincom.

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                                                                                                                                        Wolof is the most widely spoken language of Senegal and The Gambia, used as both a first and second language. This is a relatively recent grammar, written by a native speaker.

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                                                                                                                                        • Segerer, Guillaume. 2002. La langue Bijogo de Bubaque (Guinée Bissau). Louvain, Belgium, and Paris: Peeters.

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                                                                                                                                          Bijogo is now seen as an isolate and perhaps a cluster of languages spoken on a group of islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, which may have closer links to non-Atlantic languages of Niger-Congo.

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                                                                                                                                          • Wilson, W. A. A. 1989. Atlantic. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 81–104. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                            Wilson recognizes the problems with the coherence of the Atlantic group, stating “The two features that make Atlantic a meaningful entity are typology and geographical distribution” (p. 81).

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                                                                                                                                            Mande

                                                                                                                                            Although the group has long been recognized as a coherent and even close-knit unit, there is some controversy over the group’s relation to Niger-Congo, that is, whether Mande belongs in Niger-Congo. Valentin Vydrine and his many coworkers have documented numerous languages of the Mande Group, for example, Vydrine 2004, and continue to do so. Dwyer 1989 is a brief overview of the family, Kastenholz 1996 treats Western Mande, and both Lüpke 2005 and Welmers 1976 contain descriptions of representative grammars.

                                                                                                                                            • Dwyer, David J. 1989. Mande. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 47–66. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                              An early overview of the group that presents some evidence for its classification, the history of the group’s study, and some of its most notable features: tone, S-Aux-O-V-X word order, and the absence of many criterial Niger-Congo features.

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                                                                                                                                              • Kastenholz, Raimund. 1996. Sprachgeschichte im West-Mande: Methoden und Rekonstruktionen. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

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                                                                                                                                                Kastenholz provides a classification for the western Mande languages.

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                                                                                                                                                • Lüpke, Friederike. 2005. A grammar of Jalonke argument structure. PhD diss., Nijmegen, The Netherlands: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

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                                                                                                                                                  Although Lüpke’s study focuses on only one part of the grammar of a typical Western Mande language, it reveals much more than argument structure. The grammar is thorough and employs a varied and sophisticated set of data-collection tools.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Vydrine, Valentin. 2004. Areal and genetic features in West Mande and South Mande phonology: In what sense did Mande languages evolve? Journal of West African Languages 30.2: 113–125.

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                                                                                                                                                    Forms part of a set of papers examining areal and genetic structures in West Africa and exemplifies the sort of extensive survey and descriptive studies undertaken by Vydrine and his coworkers.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Welmers, William E. 1976. A grammar of Vai. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                      Vai belongs to the Manding subgroup of Mande, a tightly related subgroup emerging after the fall of the Mali Empire. This is the last of Welmers’s publications, and some consider it his best. Like all of his earlier work it is clear in exposition, attentive to descriptive detail, and useful to linguists of any theoretical persuasion.

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                                                                                                                                                      Gur/Voltaic

                                                                                                                                                      Gur represents a group of nearly a hundred languages spoken in the interior savannah region of West Africa. Naden 1989 presents an overview, and representative grammars are Carlson 1994, Lébikaza 1999, and Rennison 1997.

                                                                                                                                                      • Carlson, Robert. 1994. A grammar of Supyire. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1515/9783110883053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        A Senufo language spoken at the intersection of the borders of Mali, Burkina-Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire. This rich description presents some of the typologically marked features of Supyire, including four phonemic tones within a three-level register, serial verbs, a rarity of “true” embedding, and a system of switch-reference conjunctions.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Lébikaza, Kézié Koyenzi. 1999. Grammaire kabiyè: Une analyse systématique. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

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                                                                                                                                                          A description written by a native speaker, rich in linguistic detail and examples.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Naden, Anthony J. 1989. Gur. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 140–177. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                                            Naden presents information on the group’s classification, phonology, morphology, and syntax (including discourse).

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                                                                                                                                                            • Rennison, John R. 1997. Koromfe. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                              Koromfe is a threatened language spoken by less than ten thousand people, but Rennison’s detailed grammar of this North Gur language makes the description well worth reading. Rennison shows how Koromfe shares grammatical features with other Gur languages, thus qualifying Koromfe for inclusion in the group.

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                                                                                                                                                              Kru

                                                                                                                                                              The Kru languages number some thirty to forty languages and dialect clusters spoken in coastal regions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Marchese 1989 presents an overview; Innes 1966 and Zogbo 1981 represent some of the features of this fairly unified group.

                                                                                                                                                              • Innes, Gordon. 1966. An introduction to Grebo. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, Univ. of London.

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                                                                                                                                                                An early but still excellent description of a Kru language with some typologically unusual features, including a complex tone system (five level tones in some analyses) and a great number of modal distinctions. Nasality functions importantly in the phonotactics, all syllables are open, and there is extensive vowel harmony.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Marchese, Lynell. 1989. Kru. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 119–139. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Marchese introduces the family as something of an isolate group within Niger-Congo. Languages generally have nasal and nonnasal vowels, tongue-root vowel harmony, open syllables, and four level tones. Noun class marking is suffixed and word order is mixed OV-VO, including the S-Aux-O-V syntagm.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Zogbo, Gnoléba Raymond. 1981. Description d’un parler bété (Daloa): Morpho-syntaxe et lexicologie. PhD diss., Univ. de Paris III.

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                                                                                                                                                                    As a native speaker, the author provides considerable insights into the language; this represents the beginning of work that continued as he prepared pedagogical materials to develop local literacy in the language.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Kwa

                                                                                                                                                                    The Kwa languages are spoken along the West African coast from Cote d’Ivoire to Nigeria. These languages have systems of noun classes and verb extensions, as characterized in the overview article, Stewart 1989. Ansre 1966 and Lefebvre and Brousseau 2002 are typical grammars.

                                                                                                                                                                    • Ansre, Gilbert. 1966. The grammatical units of Ewe: A study of their structure, classes and systems. PhD diss., Univ. of London.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The scholarship on Ewe, a widely spoken Kwa language of Ghana, is extensive, but this is still useful as an introduction to the language’s structures.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Lefebvre, Claire, and Anne-Marie Brousseau. 2002. A grammar of Fongbe. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1515/9783110880182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        The study of Fongbe functioned importantly in a long-term research project on Haitian Creole, which contains many structures from Fongbe, for example, serial verbs and many semantic structures, and thus hypothesized to be a “relexified” Fongbe. This extensive grammar represents the culmination of that research effort, a thorough description of the language’s structures.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Stewart, John M. 1989. Kwa. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 217–246. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Stewart’s article introduces the scholarship on Kwa, concentrating on classification issues. Two important features of the group are the tone patterns, especially downstep, and tongue-root vowel harmony.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Adamawa-Ubangi

                                                                                                                                                                          There are about fifty languages in this group spoken in Central Africa. The Adamawa languages are generally spoken in western Central Africa and the Ubangi languages in the east. Boyd 1989 is an overview, and Bohnhoff 2011 represents a particularly rich description of an Adamawa language. Henrix, et al. 2007 is a recent grammar of an Ubangi language.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Bohnhoff, Lee E. 2011. A description of Dii phonology, grammar, and discourse. Dallas: SIL International.

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                                                                                                                                                                            The product of Bohnhoff’s life work among the Dii people. His knowledge of the language is extensive, and the grammar is thorough.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Boyd, Raymond. 1989. Adamawa-Ubangi. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 178–216. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Boyd introduces the scholarship on the group, including some discussion of classification issues. The Adamawa languages and the Ubangi languages differ slightly in terms of syllable structure but share processes of vowel harmony and the play of nasality. Tone systems feature 2–4 contrastive tones, and vowel length is also important. Noun class systems are distributed unevenly but verb extensions are widespread. Sentence word order is SVO, but some Adamawa languages have S-Aux-O-V.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Henrix, Marcel, Karel van den Eynde, and Michael Meeuwis. 2007. Description grammaticale de la langue Ngbaka: Phonologie, tonologie et morphosyntaxe. Munich: Lincom.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The description of this Ubangi language is complete and based on Henrix’s fieldwork and linguistic immersion of more than fifty years in the Ngbaka community.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Benue-Congo

                                                                                                                                                                                Benue-Congo, more generally South Volta-Congo, contains the bulk of the Niger-Congo languages, including the numerous Bantu languages, and covers an extensive geographic area extending from Nigeria down to South Africa. The research on these languages, especially Bantu, has been intense and productive. Particularly prolific is the work on the noun class systems of the group reconstructed in De Wolf 1971. Williamson 1989 contains an overview of the family and subsequent chapters in the same edited volume go into detail about some of the group’s subdivisions. Numerous grammars exist; included is one from a widely spoken non-Bantu language (Bamgbose 2010) and one from a properly Bantu one (Bentley and Kulemeka 2001). Major languages from West Benue-Congo are Yoruba and Igbo. The Bantu languages are a prolific subgroup of East Benue-Congo spread over Africa as part of the Bantu expansion, as discussed by the many papers in Bouquiaux 1980 (three volumes).

                                                                                                                                                                                • Bamgbose, Ayo. 2010. A grammar of Yoruba. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Although written in a framework that not all readers might be familiar with, the grammar remains a clear and thorough treatment of the language’s structure written by a native speaker. Originally published in 1966.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bentley, Mayrene, and Andrew Kulemeka. 2001. Chichewa. Munich: Lincom.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    The authors (Kulemeka being a native speaker) carefully describe Chichewa, an eastern Bantu language spoken in Malawi. Chichewa features a CV syllable structure, five vowels, and approximately forty consonant sounds. It has an extensive noun class system, verb extensions, and a highly inflected verbal system. Tone is used to mark both lexical and grammatical distinctions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Bouquiaux, Luc, ed. 1980. L’expansion bantoue: Actes du colloque international du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Viviers 4–16 avril 1977. Paris: Société des Etudes Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      This three-volume set reveals much about the history of the Bantu Expansion and its languages, how Bantuists do their work, and the many controversies among Bantuists. Many of the articles are linguistically technical but constitute a rich source of information about Bantu. The first volume treats noun classes; Volumes 2 and 3 contain important contributions on methodology and classification. Three volumes: Volume 1 is jointly edited with Larry M. Hyman and Jan Voorhoeve.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • De Wolf, Paul P. 1971. The noun-class system of Proto-Benue-Congo. The Hague: Mouton.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Reconstructs the noun classes of Benue-Congo, a well-known and well-documented feature of the group.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Williamson, Kay. 1989. Benue-Congo overview. In The Niger-Congo languages. Edited by John Bendor-Samuel, 246–274. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Williamson presents the classification issues surrounding the group, its defining features, including lexical innovations, and its eleven subdivisions. She locates the origin or “dispersal center” at the Niger-Benue confluence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Language Contact

                                                                                                                                                                                          The literature in the area of language contact has expanded greatly in recent years (e.g., Heine and Kuteva 2001), some of it due to the increased funding available for the study of endangered languages, discussed in Endangered Languages. In addition to the expected phenomena of multilingualism, new contact varieties (Berry 1971), and code switching (Myers-Scotton 1993), this subfield includes the emergence of new urban varieties (Kiessling and Mous 2004), signaling nontraditional identities, and the study of lingua francas or vehicular languages (Heine 1969). Another result is mixed languages, as described in Mous 2003. Childs 2010 reviews the literature on language contact and Heine and Nurse 2008 contains articles on areal phenomena.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Berry, Jack. 1971. Pidgins and creoles in Africa. In Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Jack Berry and Joseph H. Greenberg, 510–536. Current Trends in Linguistics 7. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Catalogues the pidgins and creoles in Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Childs, G. Tucker. 2010. Language contact in Africa, a selected review. In Handbook of language contact. Edited by Raymond Hickey, 695–713. Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/9781444318159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Childs provides an overview of a number of contact phenomena on the African continent and reviews the relevant literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Heine, Bernd. 1969. Status and use of African lingua francas. Munich: Weltforum Verlag.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Presents a first evaluation of the lingua francas used in Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Heine, Bernd, and Tania Kuteva. 2001. Convergence and divergence in the development of African languages. In Areal diffusion and genetic inheritance: Problems in comparative linguistics. Edited by Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon, 393–411. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Illustrates well-known areal phenomena with data from African languages and continues Heine’s earlier work on African lingua francas (Heine 1969).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Heine, Bernd, and Derek Nurse, eds. 2008. A linguistic geography of Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    With contributions by the world’s leading experts, this book documents the great importance of areal factors and language contact in understanding the distribution of linguistic phenomena on the African continent. Several articles specifically identify linguistic areas on the continent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kiessling, Roland, and Maarten Mous. 2004. Urban youth languages in Africa. Anthropological Linguistics 46:303–341.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Surveys the new varieties of Africa arising in urban environments. With the increase in urbanization more and more Africans are becoming urbanites and very often losing their first languages in favor of some more cosmopolitan city variety.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Mous, Maarten. 2003. The making of a mixed language: The case of Ma’a/Mbugu. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mous’s book is the culmination of a lengthy study of a mixed language.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Social motivations for codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Much of Myers-Scotton’s work on code switching has been based on African data. This book identifies the reasons why people choose to use one code rather than another primarily from a social-psychological perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Endangered Languages

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Another result of language contact is language shift, endangering the less commonly spoken languages and often culminating in language death. Brenzinger, et al. 1991 is a first comment on language endangerment in Africa. Brenzinger 1998 contains an overview and many case studies of language death on the African continent. Dimmendaal and Voeltz 2007 contains an updated survey. Traill 1995 is a discussion of Khoisan that looks at why many languages are disappearing in this group.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Brenzinger, Matthias, ed. 1998. Endangered languages in Africa. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            This volume, edited by one of the world’s leading scholars and activists, contains an assessment of threatened languages on the African continent, as well as some important case studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Brenzinger, Matthias, Bernd Heine, and Gabriele Sommer. 1991. Language death in Africa. In Endangered languages. Edited by Robert H. Robins and Eugenius M. Uhlenbeck, 19–44. Oxford and New York: Berg.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Represents one of the first assessments of language endangerment in Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Dimmendaal, Gerrit J., and F. K. Erhard Voeltz. 2007. Endangered languages of Africa. In Encyclopaedia of the world’s endangered languages. Edited by Christopher Moseley, 579–634. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                This encyclopedia article situates language endangerment in the broader context of language contact on the African continent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Traill, Anthony. 1995. The Khoesan languages of South Africa. In Language and social history: Studies in South African sociolinguistics. Edited by Rajend Mesthrie, 1–18. Cape Town and Johannesburg: David Philip.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The telling stories behind the death of many languages in Khoesan reveal how quickly and how abruptly some of them have disappeared.

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