Thursday, June 19, 2014
Historical Linguistics and African Languages
Linguistic resemblances denote a historical relationship. This suggest that resemblances in fundamental vocabulary and culture terms can help one reconstruct the culture of the speakers of related languages. We use historical linguistic methods to document the history of a language in both vocabulary and grammar.
The historical linguist looks at language across languages and uses the knowledge he learns to reconstruct the Proto (hypothetical)-language form of a present language traced back to ancient times. Each lexical item traced back to the Proto-language is called a cognate.
This makes it clear that a person's language provides us with evidence of the elements of a group's culture. Using semantic anthropology we can reconstruct Paleo-terms. Paleo-terms can help us make inferences about a culture going backwards in time to an impenetrable past undocumented by written records. This is semantic anthropology, a linguistic approach which seeks to discover aspects of man's culture from his language. Thusly, linguistic resemblances can help the anthropologist make precise inferences about a groups culture elements.
Phonology is the study of changes, transformations, modifications, etc., of phonemes or speech sounds during the history and development of a language. To denote these changes the linguist considers each phoneme in the light of the part it plays in the structure of speech forms.
There are no clearly established linguistic markers that can measure language change. Languages are not constrained by a preprogrammed reproductive cycle. This means that language can undergo extensive and radical changes over a either a short, or long time span.
This makes it very difficult for historical and comparative linguist to chart linguistic changes based solely or archaeologi
-cal data. Thusly, borrowing and convergence are important factors which must be accounted for in any discussion of language change. Linguists therefore, can not examine language change in isolation from the social and historical factors affecting the speaker of the language(s) being examined and discussed.
The socioderme is the transitional unit in language change. This view is especially true, given the fact that language is communal property, i.e. the property of the social or ethnic group which speaks it.
It is the group that identifies aspects of a language and legitimize its proper usage in society. Group membership not only produces variations across gender and ethnic groups, it also helps establish the norms of language spoken by that particular group.
In Historical linguistics, you reconstruct the Proto-Language of the the Super-Language Family and the proto-language of the subgroups or branches in the family tree.
In Historical linguistics the goals of comparative and internal reconstruction differ. Comparative reconstruction seeks to recover the prehistoric linguistics elements of a language or group of languages and establish a genetic relationship between or among language speakers. Linguistic reconstruction is used to establish specific relationships between and among language speakers.
Internal Reconstruction is used to compare languages with corresponding forms--that must be attested by a review of earlier stages of a language documented in text. Having text of earlier stages of a language for comparative purposes provides credibility to the methods used in internal reconstructions. Thisn is why many of the reconstruction proposed by Saussure of Proto-Indo European were not empirically confirmed until the discovery of Hittite.
To confirm a genetic relationship you must reconstruct the proto-language. A proto-language is a term used to refer to the earliest form of a language established by means of the comparative method of reconstruction.
Reconstruction of the proto-language allows us to discover the superordinate proto-language (SPL) which represents the 'mother language'of a Super Family of languages. It can also lead to the establishment of reconstructed descendant languages closely related to one-another that form a subgroup in the Super Family of languages like Proto-Indo-European, which would represent a intermediate proto-language (IPL).
As a result, we can reconstruct the Proto-language of the Super Family: Negro/Black African-Egyptian (BAE) the SPL, while reconstructing the proto-language of the the languages in each subgroup, e.g., Mande, which includes a variety of dialects and represent the IPLs. But neither Proto-Bantu or Proto-Mande forms any sort of hierarchy for BAE, the Mande and Bantu language families are simply sub-groups in the much larger BAE Super Family of African languages.
A person's language provides us with evidence of the elements of a group's culture. Diop has noted that reconstruction of Paleo-African terms can help us make inferences about a group's culture going backwards in time to an impenetrable past undocumented by written records. This is semantic anthropology, a linguistic approach which seeks to discover aspects of man's culture from his language. Thusly, linguistic resemblances can help the anthropologist make precise inferences about a groups culture elements.
Linguistic resemblances denote a historical relationship. This suggest that resemblances in fundamental vocabulary and culture terms can help one reconstruct the culture of the speakers of genetically related languages.
The rate at which languages change is variable. It appears that linguistic change is culture specific. Consequently, the social organization and political culture of a particular speech community can influence the speed at which languages change.
Based on the history of language change in Europe most linguists believe that the rate of change for all languages is both rapid and constant.(Diagne, 1981,p.238) The idea that all languages change rapidly is not valid for all the World's languages.
African languages change much slower than European languages. (Armstrong, 1962) For example, African vocabulary items collected by Arab explorers over a thousand years ago are analogous to contemporary lexical items.(Diagne,1981, p.239) In addition there are striking resemblances between the ancient Egyptian language and Coptic, and Pharonic Egyptian and African languages.(Diagne, 1981; Diop, 1977; Obenga, 1993)
The political stability of African political institutions has caused languages to change very slowly in Africa. Pawley and Ross (1993) argue that a sedentary life style may account for the conservative nature of a language.
African oral traditions and the eye witness accounts of travelers to Africa, make it clear that African empires although made up of diverse nationalities illustrated continuity. To accomodate the plural nature of African empires Africans developed a Federal system of government. (Niane , 1984) In fact we can not really describe ancient African state systems as empires, since this implies absolute rule or authority in a single individual. This political state of affairs rarely existed in ancient Africa, because in each African speech community local leadership was elected by the people within the community. (Diop, 1987) For example the Egyptians often appointed administrators over the conquered territories from among the conquered people. (Diop ,1991)
The continuity of many African languages may result from the steady state nature of African political systems, and long standing cultural stability since neolithic times. (Diop, 1991 ; Winters 1985) This cultural stability has affected the speed at which African languages change.
In Africa due to the relative stability of socio-political structures and settled life, there has not been enough pressure exerted on African societies as a whole and African speech communities in particular, to cause radical internal linguistic changes within most African languages. Permanent settlements led to a clearly defined system of inheritance and royal succession. These traits led to stability on both the social and political levels.
This leads to the hypothesis that linguistic continuity exist in Africa due to the stability of African socio-political structures and cultural systems. This relative cultural stability has led African languages to change more slowly then European and
Asian languages. Diop (1974) observed that:
First the evolution of languages, instead of moving everywhere at the same rate of speed seems linked to other factors; such as , the stability of social organizations or the opposite, social upheavals. Understandably in relatively stable societies man's language has changed less with the passage of time.(pp.153-154)
There is considerable evidence which supports the African continuity concept. Dr. Armstrong (1962) noted the linguistic continuity of African languages when he used glottochronology to test the rate of change in Yoruba. Comparing modern Yoruba words with a list of identical terms collected 130 years ago by Koelle , Dr. Armstrong found little if any internal or external changes in the terms. He concluded that:
I would have said that on this evidence African languages are changing with glacial slowness, but it seems to me that in a century a glacier would have changed a lot more than that. Perhaps it would be more in order to say that these languages are changing with geological slowness. (Armstrong, 1962, p.285).
Diop's theory of linguistic constancy recognizes the social role language plays in African language change. Language being a variable phenomena has as much to do with a speaker's society as with the language itself. Thus social organization can influence the rate of change within languages. Meillet (1926, 17) wrote that:
Since language is a social institution it follows that linguistics is a social science, and the only variable element to which one may appeal in order to account for a linguistic change is social change, of which language variations are but the consequences.
THE BLACK AFRICAN ORIGIN OF EGYPT
Diop has contributed much to African linguistics. He was a major proponent of the Dravidian-African relationship (Diop 1974, 116), and the African substratum in Indo-European languages in relationship to cacuminal sounds and terms for social organiza-tion and culture (1974, 115). Diop (1978, 113) also recognized that in relation to Arabic words, after the suppression of the first consonant, there is often an African root.
Diop's major linguistic effort has been the classification of Black African and Egyptian languages . Up until 1977 Diop'smajor area of interest were morphological and phonological similarities between Egyptian and Black African languages. Diop (1977, 77-84) explains many of his sound laws for the Egyptian-Black African connection.
In Parènte Génétique de l'Egyptien pharraonique et des Langues Négro Africaines (PGEPLNA), Diop explains in some detail his linguistic views in the introduction of this book. In PGEPLNA , Diop demonstrates the genetic relationship between ancient Egyptian and the languages of Black Africa. Diop provides thousands of cognate Wolof and Egyptian terms in support of his Black African-Egyptian linguistic relationship.
African languages are divided into Supersets (i.e., a family of genetically related languages, e.g., Niger-Congo) sets, and subsets. In the sets of African languages there are many parallels between phonological terms, eventhough there may be an arbitrary use of consonants which may have a similar sound. The reason for these changes is that when the speakers of Paleo-African languages separated, the various sets of languages underwent separate developments. As a result a /b/ sound in one language may be /p/ or /f/ in a sister language. For example, in African languages the word for father may be baba , pa or fa, while in the Dravidian languages we have appan to denote father.
Diop has noted that reconstruction of Paleo-African terms can help us make inferences about an ethnic group's culture going backwards in time to an impenetrable past undocumented by written records. This is semantic anthropology, a linguistic approach which seeks to discover aspects of man's culture from his language. Thusly, linguistic resemblances can help the anthropologists make precise inferences about a linguistic group's cultural elements.
BLACKS IN WEST ASIA
In PGEPLNA Diop makes clear his views on the role of African languages in the rise of other languages. Using archaeological evidence Diop makes it clear that the original West Asians: Elamites and Sumerians were of Black origin (1974, 1977, xxix-xxxvii).
Diop (1974, 1991) advocates the unity of Black Africans
and Blacks in West Asia. Winters (1985,1989,1994) has elaborated on the linguistic affinity of African and West Asian languages.
This view is supported by linguistic evidence. For example these languages share demonstrative bases:
Proximate Distant Finite
Dravidian i a u
Manding i a u
Sumerian bi a
Wolof i a u
The speakers of West Asian and Black African languages also share basic culture items:
Chief city,village black,burnt
Dravidian cira, ca uru kam
Sumerian Sar ur
Manding Sa furu kami,"charcoal'
Nubia sirgi mar
Egyptian Sr mer kemit
Paleo-African *sar *uru *kam
Obenga (1978) gives a phonetic analysis of Black African and Egyptian. He illustrates the genetic affinity of consonants within the Black African (BA) and Egyptian languages especially the occlusive bilateral sonorous, the occlusive nasal apico-dental /n/ and /m/ , the apico-alveolar /r/ and the radical
proto-form sa: 'man, female, posterity' in Black Africa.
Agaw asau, aso 'masculine
Sidama asu 'man'
Oromo asa id.
Caffino aso id.
Yoruba so 'produce'
Meroitic s' man
Fonge sunu id.
Bini eso 'someone'
Kikongo sa,se,si 'father'
Swahili (m)zee 'old person'
Egyptian sa 'man'
Manding si,se 'descendant,posterity,family'
Azer se 'individual, person'
Obenga (1978) also illustrated the unity between the verbs 'to come, to be, to arrive':
Egyptian ii, ey Samo, Loma dye
Mbosi yaa Bisa gye
Sidama/Omo wa Wolof nyeu
Caffino wa Peul yah, yade
Yoruba wa Fonge wa
Bini ya Mpongwe bya
Manding ya,dya Swahili (Ku)ya
between t =/= d, highlight the alternation patterns of many Paleo-African consonants including b =/= p, l =/= r ,and
g =/= k.
The Egyptian term for grain is 0 sa #. This corresponds to many African terms for seed,grain:
Malinke se , si
Egyptian sen 'granary'
Egyptian ssr 'corn'
id. ssn 'lotus plant'
id. sm 'herb, plant'
id. isw 'weeds'
In conclusion, Diop has done much to encourage the African recovery of their history. His theories on linguistics has inspired many African scholars to explain and elaborate the African role in the history of Africa and the world. This has made his work important to our understanding of the role of Black people in History.
In summary, Historical linguistics, you reconstruct the Proto-Language of the the Super-Language Family and the proto-language of the subgroups or branches in the family tree. As you can see, historical linguistics is not used to explain the use of a specific term, in a specific language it is used to determine term proto-terms used in a family of languages. This means tha you can not use terms from cognate languages to explain the meaning of: ‘Ba”. The meaning of Ba has already been determined by the Egyptians themselves.
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