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Morphological Evidence for the Coherence of East Sudanic

  • Author(s): Blench, Roger M.
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.5070/D67052250Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license
Abstract

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.

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