A phylogenetic analysis of stable structural features in West African languages


  • Kristoffer Friis Bøegh
  • Aymeric Daval-Markussen
  • Peter Bakker


typology, historical linguistics, West African languages


Lexical comparison has long dominated the study of West African language history. Ap-proaching the subject from a different perspective, this paper compares a sample of West African languages based on a selection of typological features proposed to be temporally stable and hence possible markers of historical connections between languages. We utilize phylogenetic networks to visualize and compare typological distances in the language sample, in order to assess the extent to which the distributional properties of the selected features reflect genealogy, areality, or no plausible historical signal. Languages tend to cluster in accordance with genealogical relationships identified in the literature, albeit with a number of inconsistencies argued to reflect contact influences and chance resemblances. Results support the contention that typology can provide information about historical links between West African languages.