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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

21.05. Colloquium on African linguistics: Consonant mutation in Atlantic (Merril)

"Functional motivations for consonant mutation in the Atlantic languages of West Africa" - Talk by Jack Merril (University of Berkeley) given within the colloquium of African linguistics and languages
When May 21, 2019 from 04:15 PM to 05:45 PM (Europe/Berlin / UTC200) iCal
Where Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, room 410
Contact Name Christfried Naumann

Consonant mutation is a linguistic phenomenon whereby two or more sets of consonant phonemes alternate systematically within roots (or other morphemes) in a way that is not entirely predictable from the phonological environment. In the Atlantic languages of West Africa, the original function of consonant mutation has in many cases changed from signaling the presence of specific morphemes to marking grammatical features independently of the segmental morphemes that do (or did) mark these features. We will examine four phenomena from four Atlantic languages: subject number agreement in Sereer, verbal mutation in Kobiana, relative clause marking in Kasanga, and mutation in Wolof derived nouns. We will see that mutation patterns are very susceptible to analogical reanalysis, and can ultimately assume a broad range of functions more akin to grammatical tone than segmental affixes. This has implications for synchronic theoretical analyses of mutation, which have often treated mutation in much the same way as segmental affixes.