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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Songhay is a language group of the West African Sahel region with more than four million speakers, distributed mainly in western Niger and northeastern Mali along the Niger River, but including outlying pockets scattered as far afield as Algeria, Ghana, and Sudan. Strong contact effects along the periphery—notably involving Berber in the north and Bariba and Hausa in the southeast, and Mande languages at an earlier stage—have resulted in a remarkable situation where different varieties may have nearly identical basic vocabularies but conspicuously different typologies. Cladistic and lexical evidence shows that much of the observed variation reflects contact influences quite different from those obtaining today. This chapter examines particularly morphology and syntax across the family. Special attention is given to innovations distinguishing the three principal subgroups (Eastern, Western, and Northern), and to the motivations for these changes.

Keywords: Songhay, West African Sahel, contact influence, innovation, variation

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