Dynamics of interacting populations language contact in the Lwoo languages of Bahr el-Ghazal


  • Anne Storch


Number inflection, Western Nilotic, Ubangi, language contact


Number inflection systems in Western Nilotic languages appear highly complex and diverse. Comparative work on Nilotic and other Nilo-Saharan families has shown that these languages have a morphologically tripartite system with marked plurals and a bare root singular, marked singulatives constructed from unmarked collectives, and a replacement pattern with morphologically marked singulars and plurals. Historical comparison of the formatives used to construct the different number categories has proven difficult. A number of little-explored Western Nilotic languages of Bahr el-Ghazal have been in contact with Niger-Congo (predominantly Ubangi) languages and have undergone typological as well as specific grammatical changes. An investigation into the historical and present contact situations is needed in order to shed light on how the number inflection systems of these languages were created historically. Sprachbund phenomena include the diffusion of a ka- plural prefix into the Belanda languages, while a convergence phenomenon whose origin is probably more recent is the gradual loss of suffixing singulatives in the Lwoo languages that are in contact with Niger-Congo, which itself does not use singulatives. Retentions and innovations within the system of, number inflection of certain Lwoo languages of Bahr el-Ghazal are discussed and analysed in terms of the history of these languages. This paper argues that crucial changes and differences within Western Nilotic noun morphology cannot be understood without taking into account the long and complicated contact history of these languages.