Nubian studies needs a platform in which the old meets the new, in which archaeological, historical, and philological research into Meroitic, Old Nubian, Coptic, Greek, and Arabic sources confront current investigations in modern anthropology and ethnography, Nilo-Saharan linguistics, and critical and theoretical approaches present in postcolonial and African studies.
The journal Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies brings these disparate fields together within the same fold, opening a cross-cultural and diachronic field where divergent approaches meet on common soil. Dotawo gives a common home to the past, present, and future of one of the richest areas of research in African studies. It offers a crossroads where papyrus can meet internet, scribes meet critical thinkers, and the promises of growing nations meet the accomplishments of old kingdoms.
Volume 7, 2020
Northern East Sudanic Comparative Linguistics
Since its inception, the Union for Nubian Studies has been committed to opening up Nubiological research to a wider audience and broadening access to source materials. Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies was launched in 2014 as an open-access journal, with free access for both authors and readers. …
Thanks to the use of linguistic comparison and analyses of new inscriptions, Meroitic, the extinct language of the kingdom of Meroe, Sudan, has become increasingly well known. The present article deals with the identification of personal markers and verbal number. It shows how Meroitic, like many other languages, used a former demonstrative, qo, as a 3rd person independent pronoun. An in-depth analysis of the royal chronicles of the kings and princes of Meroe, compared with their Napatan counterparts written in Egyptian, further yields the 1st person singular dependent pronoun e- (later variant ye-), which can be compared with 1st person singular pronoun found in related languages. A stela of Candace Amanishakheto found in Naga is the starting point for identifying the 2nd person singular and plural independent pronouns are and deb. These two morphemes are linked with the most recent reconstructions of Proto-Nubian pronouns and conrm the narrow genetic relation between Nubian and Meroitic. Finally, the reassessment of the so-called “verbal dative” ‐xe/‐bxe shows that this morpheme is simply a former verbal number marker with integrated case endings. This makes it a rare instance of transcategorisation in the cross-linguistic typology of verbal number.
Ama verbs are comparable with Nubian and other related languages in their clause-final syntax, CVC root shape, and some affixes. However, there is also considerable innovation in adjoined relative clauses, a shift from number to aspect marking traced by T/K morphology, and other changes in the order and meaning of affixes. These developments show a unique trend of concretization of core clause constituents, and internal growth in the complexity of verbs in isolation from other languages. On the other hand, Ama’s stable distributive pluractional represents a wider Eastern Sudanic category. The late loss of pronominal subject marking supports a hypothesis that the Ama language was used for inter-group communication with Kordofan Nubians.
Having a historical-comparative approach this paper is concerned with the reconstruction of some Proto-Nubian derivational morphemes comprising two causatives, two applicatives, and two suffixes deriving verbal plural stems, as well as a now defunct causative prefix. When discussing applicatives in the Nile Nubian languages, it is argued that they involve converbs, i.e., dependent verbs, which in Old Nubian and Nobiin are marked by the suffix -a. This verbal suffix is considered to be distinct from the homophonous predicate marker -a which occurs as a clitic on various other hosts. The paper also points out that some of the Nubian verb extensions correspond to Nyima (mostly Ama) extensions, thus providing strong evidence of the genetic relationship between Nubian and Nyima. Perhaps the most striking evidence of Nubian–Ama relations and the coherence of the Nilo-Saharan phylum as a whole is provided by the archaic Nilo-Saharan *ɪ-. The reflexes of this prefix in Nubian and Ama, along with the archaic Nubian prefix *m-, which serves as verbal negation marker, supports Dimmendaal’s hypothesis that these languages have undergone a restructuring process from originally prexing to predominantly suxing languages.
Restoring “Nile-Nubian”: How to Balance Lexicostatistics and Etymology in Historical Research on Nubian Languages
The paper offers a critical analysis of the proposal to dismantle the genetic unity of the so-called Nile-Nubian languages by positioning one of its former constituents, the Nobiin language, as the earliest oshoot from the Common Nubian stem. Combining straightforward lexicostatistical methodology with more scrupulous etymological analysis of the material, I argue that the evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Nobiin is the earliest offshoot may and, in fact, should rather be interpreted as evidence for a strong lexical substrate in Nobiin, accounting for its accelerated rate of change in comparison to the closely related Kenuzi–Dongolawi (Mattokki–Andaandi) cluster.
East Sudanic is the largest and most complex branch of Nilo-Saharan. First mooted by Greenberg in 1950, who included seven branches, it was expanded in his 1963 publication to include Ama (Nyimang) and Temein and also Kuliak, not now considered part of East Sudanic. However, demonstrating the coherence of East Sudanic and justifying an internal structure for it have remained problematic. The only signicant monograph on this topic is Bender’s The East Sudanic Languages, which uses largely lexical evidence. Bender proposed a subdivision into Ek and En languages, based on pronouns. Most subsequent scholars have accepted his Ek cluster, consisting of Nubian, Nara, Ama, and Taman, but the En cluster (Surmic, E. Jebel, Temein, Daju, Nilotic) is harder to substantiate. Rilly has put forward strong arguments for the inclusion of the extinct Meroitic language as coordinate with Nubian. In the light of these difficulties, the paper explores the potential for morphology to provide evidence for the coherence of East Sudanic. The paper reviews its characteristic tripartite number-marking system, consisting of singulative, plurative, and an unmarked middle term. These are associated with specific segments, the singulative in t- and plurative in k- as well as a small set of other segments, characterized by complex allomorphy. These are well preserved in some branches, fragmentary in others, and seem to have vanished completely in the Ama group, leaving only traces now fossilized in Dinik stems. The paper concludes that East Sudanic does have a common morphological system, despite its internal lexical diversity. However, this data does not provide any evidence for the unity of the En languages, and it is therefore suggested that East Sudanic be analyzed as consisting of a core of four demonstrably related languages, and ve parallel branches which have no internal hierarchy.