A Grammar of Goemai by Birgit Hellwig

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By Birgit Hellwig

This is the 1st description of Goemai, a West Chadic language of Nigeria. Goemai is spoken in a language touch sector, and this touch has formed Goemai grammar to the level that it may be thought of a pretty untypical Chadic language. The grammar offers the constitution of the present-day language, relates it to its diachronic assets, and provides a semantic viewpoint to the description.

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Extra info for A Grammar of Goemai

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Under this scenario, the existence of voiced obstruents in the Angas-Goemai group does need an explanation. They may go back to either prenasalized voiced consonants (as suggested by Greenberg 1958; Jungraithmayr and lbriszimow 1994: xx-xxix), or they may have entered the languages through recent borrowings from Chadic Bole-Tangale languages (as suggested by Yalwa 1998). Table (4) illustrates the presumed sound shifts (adapted from the discussion in Greenberg 1958; Hoffmann 1975; Jungraithmayr and lbriszimow 1994; P Newman 1977a; P.

Most gaps result from the diachronic process summarized in table (5) above: alveolar palatalized fricatives developed into palatal fricatives (thus accounting for the gap in the alveolar fricatives), and the new palatal fricatives cannot be palatalized again, nor can they be labialized since palatalization and labialization are mutually exclusive (thus accounting for the gap in the palatal fricatives). The gaps in lh/, /w/ and /j/ probably follow from their restricted occurrence (as summarized in table 6 above).

However, the analysis is complicated by the observation that there are no close front or back vowels in vowel-initial syllables. The glides, by contrast, show a complementary distribution in precisely this environment: /j/ precedes /i/, and /w/ precedes /u/. This distribution suggests that at least some glides are phonetically-conditioned variants, preceding close vowels in vowel-initial syllables. In other environments, however, glides do contrast, and are thus considered phonemes. A further complication is introduced by the glottal fricative: it is possible that it also plays a role in the realization of vowel-initial syllables, as it never precedes close front or back vowels.

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