Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.
[PANEL] 0806 HISTORICAL AND COMPARATIVE LINGUISTICS
Orin D. GENSLER, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Jan RETSÖ; Leonid KOGAN; FISSEHA Hailu; Lutz EDZARD; Orin D. GENSLER; FISSEHA Feleke;
TEKABE Legesse Feleke; Maria BULAKH
A SEMITIC PERSPECTIVE ON GEEZ. [Abstract ID: 0806-04]
Geez is classified as one of the classical literary languages within the Semitic group. Its position within that group, however, is debated. According to the old classification it belongs to the southern branch of the West Semitic group, thus closely related to Arabic and the languages of South Arabia and more distantly to Hebrew and Aramaic. According to the new classification developed since the 1950ies by scholars like G. Garbini, R. Voigt and R. Hezron Geez belongs to the peripheral Semitic languages together with South Arabian and Akkadian, thus distinct from teh Central Semitic group consisting of Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic & co. The discussion has mainly been concentrated on classificatory problems, paying less attention to diachronic developments. This paper will discuss two main issues in the debate, viz. the structure of the verbal system and the case-marking system in Geez, comparing them with the Semitic complex as a whole and suggesting some new ideas about the position of Geez in the history of the Semitic languages. The main claim will be that Geez, in some respects, is more archaic than usually assumed.
ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS TO WOLF LESLAU’S COMPARATIVE DICTIONARY OF GE‘EZ (1987–2017) [Abstract ID: 0806-05]
In 2017, the scholarly world has celebrated the 30th anniversary of Comparative Dictionary of Ge‘ez (CDG) by Wolf Leslau. A major achievement for its time, CDG remains by far the most quoted tool of Semitic lexical comparison and, indeed, the only dictionary of a “classical” Semitic language which explicitly defines itself as “comparative” – which, in this context, is practically tantamount to etymological. Due to the impressive development of several branches of Semitic lexicography in the past decades, upgrading Leslau’s magnum opus inevitably suggests itself. The following additions and corrections to CDG derive from many years of its intensive use in my own scholarly work as well as in classroom. Most of the additional material pertains to the following areas of Semitic linguistics and philology.
● Ugaritic studies.
● Modern South Arabian linguistics. A great deal of additions and corrections pertaining to Soqotri go back to the author’s fieldwork research on this language, particularly on its exceedingly rich lexical treasures, from 2010 up to the present day. In 2017, the scholarly world has celebrated the 30th anniversary of Comparative Dictionary of Ge‘ez (CDG) by Wolf Leslau. A major achievement for its time, CDG remains by far the most quoted tool of Semitic lexical comparison and, indeed, the only dictionary of a “classical” Semitic language which explicitly defines itself as “comparative” – which, in this context, is practically tantamount to etymological. Due to the impressive development of several branches of Semitic lexicography in the past decades, upgrading Leslau’s magnum opus inevitably suggests itself. The following additions and corrections to CDG derive from many years of its intensive use in my own scholarly work as well as in classroom. Most of the additional material pertains to the following areas of Semitic linguistics and philology.
● Ugaritic studies.
● Modern South Arabian linguistics. A great deal of additions and corrections pertaining to Soqotri go back to the author’s fieldwork research on this language, particularly on its exceedingly rich lexical treasures, from 2010 up to the present day.
ARGUMENT AGAINST THE HYPOTHESIS: ALMOST ALL ROOTS IN OLD AND MODERN ‘ETHIOPIAN SEMITIC’ EITHER A OR B (OR C): THE CASE OF TIGRINYA [Abstract ID: 0806-03]
This paper presents A- and B-type Tigrinya verbs under the thought B-type is semi-predictable semantics vis-à-vis A-type. This classification is based on non-geminated the second radical (consonant) in perfect and geminated in imperfect (A-type), and geminated everywhere (B-type). As is well known, the Ethiopian “Semitic” verbs basically grouped into the two basic types termed ‘A’ and ‘B’ considering “Semitic” and Afroasiatic classification of verbs into stative/intransitive-suffixing and active/transitive prefixing verbs. Considering this thought, this paper brings Tigrinya verbs into a workable focus. In Tigrinya, very often a given verb-root occurs in both pattern ‘A’ and ‘B’ with a meaning difference. Choice of ‘A’ versus ‘B’ (or other types) does usually imply something about the semantics. Type B (geminating stem) is typically intensive or transitivized, causative or denominative when compared to type A. Each pattern (binyan) has several numbers of patterns (binyanim) and each pattern (binyan) has a fixed, predictable form, usually semi-predictable semantics. The type B stem counts as a distinct pattern (binyan). A root does often appear as type A and type B, then the two variants are transparently semi-predictable semantics. Hence, this justification challenges the conclusion, that is, if a root does, exceptionally, appear as both type A and type B (or other types) in Tigrinya, then typically either the two variants are synonyms, or they are totally different (homonyms) but not semi-predictable semantics. The question is why do some linguists arrive at this conclusion? I suggest that perhaps the existence of frequentative verbs generally in Ethiopian “Semitic” and particularly in Tigrinya disguise themselves to hardly examine the other direction.
CASE-MARKING IN ETHIO-SEMITIC AND CUSHITIC IN THE LIGHT OF LINGUISTIC CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE [Abstract ID: 0806-10]
Linguistic convergence and divergence constitute recognized phenomena in the Semitic linguistic landscape, as demonstrated, e.g., in a seminal paper by Werner Diem (1978), “Divergenz und Konvergenz im Arabischen“, Arabica 25: 128-147. An issue currently debated again is the question of whether case can be generally reconstructed to early stages of Semitic. In this presentation, I will look at the distribution of case markers in both historical and modern Ethio-Semitic as well as in selected Cushitic languages. Thereby, I will resort to a unified model that pays tribute to the competing tendencies of convergence and divergence. Of special importance is the tension between a three-case model "nominative–accusative–genitive", typically assumed for early stage sof Semitic, and a two-case model "nominative-absolutive" as widely recognized to be relevant at the Afroasiatic level.
GRAMMATICALIZATION OF QӘL ‘GOURD’ IN AMHARIC [Abstract ID: 0806-02]
There would seem to exist two homonymous words qәl in Amharic:
(a) a noun meaning ‘gourd’ (not in Ge’ez, but widespread in Ethiopian languages in this meaning)
(b) an emphatic grammatical particle appearing in several constructions: [exx. from Leslau 1995]
• ərsu qəl-u he himself (p. 59)
• bäyyä-qəl, əyyä-qəl separately, apart (146)
• s-irəbäw qəl-u (yəbälall) when he is hungry (he will eat) (670)
• X-m b-ihon qəl-u even if it is X; as for X (683)
• b--m qəl-u even though (684-85)
Can these two qәl’s be connected via grammaticalization? At first glance this would seem improbable, even bizarre: grammaticalization paths do not normally start from ‘gourd’. But qәl also means ‘head’, by an unproblematic metonymic extension: ‘gourd’ and ‘head’ have a similar shape, size, and hard but breakable exterior (cf. also English ‘he’s off his gourd’ = ‘he’s out of his head, crazy’); a rough parallel exists in Indo-European, where one source of words for ‘skull’ is ‘shell’ (Buck 1949:212-14). And a grammaticalization from ‘head’ to an intensive-reflexive particle (‘he himself’) is a normal path of change crosslinguistically (Heine & Kuteva 2002). Indeed, in Amharic the ordinary word for head, namely ras, undergoes just this change, i.e. ras-u ‘he himself’, lit. his-head (Leslau 1995:58). The grammaticalization path is then:
gourd → head → emphatic particle.
As far as I know, this grammaticalization has not been noted before (unmentioned in Abinet’s 2014 PhD dissertation). Of particular interest is the fact that two different words with the same meaning ‘head’ (ras, qәl) seem to have undergone parallel grammaticalization to an intensive particle.
LETTING EARLY GE’EZ FREE: GRAMMATICAL FEATURES OF THE ABBA GARIMA GOSPEL OF MARK [Abstract ID: 0806-06]
There is a strong tendency in Ge’ez studies to interpret variation in spelling or grammar as the result of scribal error, whether due to traditional scribal lapses or a scribe’s deficient understanding of the language. In light of the early dating of the Abba Garima Gospels, however, this view is historically and philologically untenable. If the manuscripts are the oldest non-epigraphic witness to the Ge’ez language—by centuries—we are obligated to take their linguistic evidence more seriously. This paper will highlight a number of grammatical variations in the text that seem to be at odds with the accepted grammar or writing convention of Ge’ez and discuss how we should analyze these issues.
LINGUISTIC DISTANCE AND MUTUAL INTELLIGIBILITY AMONG SOUTH ETHIOSEMITIC LANGUAGES: A COMBINED APPROACH [Abstract ID: 0806-01]
Ethiosemitic languages are variants of the Semitic language family which are spoken in Ethiopia and in Eritrea. They are classified into North and South Ethiosemitic. The North branch consists of Ge'ez, Tigre and Tigrigna while the South Ethiosemtic includes Amharic, Argoba, Harari and several Gurage varieties. Many of the Ethiosemtic languages are closely related, and the speakers of one variety can sometimes communicate with the speakers of other varieties. The relative distance (Bender, 1971; Fleming, 1968; Hudson, 2013) and mutual intelligibility (Gutt 1980; Ahland, 2003) among the languages previously received some attention. There were also attempts to classify the languages based on shared features (e.g. Demeke, 2001; Hetzron, 1972, 1977; Laslau, 1969). However, previous studies have some shortcomings. First, not all languages were included the studies. Second, the classification proposals were not supported by sufficient data. Third, the classification attempts were hampered by a complex intermingling among the languages and inherent limitations of the methods. Hence, the reported results are somehow inconsistent and often debatable. The present study employed combinations of lexicostatistics, Levenshtien distance, intelligibility measures and geographical distance to determine the distance and mutual intelligibility among 13 South Ethiosemitic languages: Chaha, Geyto, Harari, Silt’e, Wolane, Mesmes, Soddo, Amharic, Argoba, Muher, Innor. Zay, and Mesqan. The study intended to (1) re-examine the previous classification of the languages; (2) determine the relationship between geographical and linguistic distance; and (3) examine the relationship between language distance and mutual intelligibility. Lexical and Levenshtien distances were computed based on 80 lists of vocabularies. The intelligibility scores were taken from Ahland, (2003) and Gutt (1980). The lexical distance was determined by computing the average of the percentage of non-cognate words in pairs of languages. The Levenshtein distance was determined by computing the cost-insertion, substitution, and deletion required to transform a pronunciation of one word to another. GabMap was employed for computation of the distance, cluster analysis, and multidimensional scaling. The geographical distance among the language areas was obtained from Google Earth. The results show that the lexical and phonetic distances among the languages are almost consistent with the typological classifications proposed by Demeke (2001) and Hetzron (1972). However, Harari, Mesmes and Soddo have shown deviations from the previous classifications. This deviation is associated with the influence of substrate Cushitic languages. Strong association was also found between language distance and geographical distance which implies a complex areal diffusion among the languages. There is also a significant relationship between lexical distance and mutual intelligibility, but no significant relationship is found between the phonetic distance and mutual intelligibility. This result implies a crucial role the meaning of words play in determining the mutual intelligibility among the South Ethiosemitic languages.
THE FIRST PERSON PREFIXES IN SOUTH ETHIO-SEMITIC [Abstract ID: 0806-08]
In proto-Ethio-Semitic, the verbal paradigms of the prefix conjugation employ *ʔə- as the 1 sg. index and *nə- as the 1 pl. index. In a number of South Ethio-Semitic prefixes, some paradigms of prefix conjugation employ one and the same prefix in 1 sg. and in 1 pl. Yet, even a cursory glance reveals that the syncretism of 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes exhibit a great deal of variation. In the first place, the lack of distinction between 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes can be found in different subparadigms of prefix conjugation. It is most widespread in the short prefix conjugation (= jussive) and in the negative long prefix conjugation (= negative imperfect). In some languages, the distinction between 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes is lacking in the Inlaut long prefix conjugation. Some languages exhibit syncretism of 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes in the affirmative long prefix conjugation of the main clause. Second, the direction of the syncretism is from 1 sg. to 1 pl. in some languages and from 1 pl. to 1 sg. in the others. Third, the syncretism between the prefixes is often, but not alway, accompanied by the introduction of an innovative 1 pl. suffix which distinguishes between 1 sg. and 1 pl. forms. This lack of common pattern suggests that the syncretism between 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes in South Ethio-Semitic is not a genetic inheritance but rather a result of parallel development and, at least in some cases, of areal diffusion. The present contribution will discuss the various patterns and paths of development which have led to the merge between the 1 sg. and 1 pl. prefixes in South Ethio-Semitic. Due attention will be paid to the factor of language contact which has certainly contributed to the spread of the feature under discussion in South Ethio-Semitic.