Bainouk contact, concord and classification - a research paradigm for language documentation in multilingual areas

Lüpke, Friederike
Lüpke, Friederike
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Baïnouk is a severely endangered and undocumented language cluster spoken in the Casamance area of Senegal (West Africa). As typical for the region (Childs, 2004), the Baïnouk language area is characterised by a complex multilingual situation, and the different varieties are partly in contact with each other and with additional languages. Depending on their location, speakers use two varieties of the Atlantic language cluster Joola and/or the Mande language Mandinka. All of them are fluent to some extent in the national lingua franca Wolof, an Atlantic language, and many of them speak the official language French. The complex contact situation results in massive (and partly different) linguistic interferences. Evidence points to language contact playing a crucial role in explaining typologically highly unusual traits of its noun-class system: some nouns without an overt class prefix copy the first syllable of the stem onto agreeing elements, thus creating a potentially open class of agreement markers. Baïnouk is one of only two undisputed cases exhibiting this so-called literal (Dobrin, 1995), productive (Dimitriadis, 1997) or radical (Aronoff, 1998) alliterative concord/agreement. Literal alliterative concord (LAC) challenges our understanding of NC systems, since it creates a potentially open class of agreement affixes or target genders (Corbett, 1991, Corbett, 2006), only limited by constraints on syllable structure. In addition, it constitutes an apparent counterexample to the principle of phonology-free syntax (PPFS) (Zwicky, 1969, Zwicky and Pullum, 1986), stating that no syntactic rule can have recourse to phonology. Data I collected during a pilot project on Gunyaamolo point to more complex factors governing LAC than admitted so far. The nouns concerned by LAC are not always morphologically simple but can be blends out of loanwords and fossilised class markers that are still attested in related languages. In order to understand LAC in Baïnouk, it is crucial to model the complex contact situation and to consider data not just from the different Baïnouk varieties, but also from the main contact languages. The talk will outline a research paradigm taking these data into account for the description and documentation of Baïnouk. This issue is expected to be relevant for documentation projects in multilingual areas in general, where an essentialist view of the concepts of ‘language’ and ‘speech community’ fail to capture the complex ways in which linguistic structure is shaped in a multilingual environment.
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