Sunday, May 21, 2017

Case Prefixes: Dagurib and Solgır

Dagurib was the first branch in the ĆŊ family to diverge from the rest. Through its history, however, it has been in extensive contact with the Ŋʒädär branch, and due to its relatively small number of speakers - for most of the time, only about 5% of the ĆŊ population - it generally does not provide much data with regards to early ĆŊ or even ĆŊD linguistics. However, many Dagurib languages have conserved a feature that is also shared by Solgır (a Ŋʒädär language), and which also has left traces throughout the family. These are the case prefixes.

The case prefixes are always single segments - in Solgır a-, n-, r-, e-, ä-, o-, q-, k-, f-, in Banar (a Dagurib language) m-, l-, z-, i-, a-, -ä-, u-, k-, k'-, p-, in Dagurib m-, l-, s-, i-, a-, ä-, u-, ü-, k'-, p'-. Some words just take them in some cases, and what cases they take them with differs from noun to noun. Sometimes, a noun whose stem begins in any of these is reanalyzed, and the segment is lost in all forms but a few.

A system of this kind seems unlikely to develop by itself twice in separate branches, and would therefore rather seem likely to be a reduced retention of a previous system. This is further supported by the fact that in other Ŋʒädär, Dagurib and even Ćwarmin languages, there are words where cognates have random-looking losses of initial elements. (Or is that random additions of initial elements?) Further down, we'll see some examples of cognate-sets where potential prefixes could explain some of the alternations between forms.

The Solgır and Dagurib prefixes do not seem to mark anything – the distribution is lexically determined. Essentially, for some nouns, some cases for that noun take some prefix. An extreme example would be the Solgır noun ermi, rope.

The particular prefixes do not belong to any particular case and can appear with different cases for different nouns. Mostly though, any noun with these prefixes will only showcase one particular prefix - tho' in some Dagurib languages, a certain free variation between two prefixes or between a prefix and none is well attested.

The historical origin for these prefixes is shrouded in mystery - they probably have communicated something in proto-ĆŊD, but the lack even of hints as to what that might have been prevents reconstruction of it.

Nouns that hint of the presence of such a system in proto-ĆŊ can be found. Some of these also have cognate examples even in Dagurib. Such examples will be marked with a + in the Ćwarmin cell or Ŋʒädär cell.
Here are some examples within the Ćwarmin branch:

+ruanashairwanoshairronasa hairuonohfur
'flag' on

The Dagurib cognates are:
ruanas - (r)ouno
nitis - (l)iti
els - (k')eili
ənve - (m)einyi
maso - (m)eizyi (due to random vowel harmony reassignment)

Within the Ŋʒädär branch these are a few examples:

*Süwdän has had an unusually large share of seemingly random vowel harmony changes; in ĆŊ, the vowel-harmony conservation ratio for 1000 years is something like 98%; for Süwdän, however, it seems the percentage is closer to 90%.
The Dagurib cognates are
soman - (p')amai- (house)
anək - (m)aŋu- (reindeer)
iqe(-k) - (i)q- (member of the tribe)
ästil - (ü)t(:)i- (clothing)

The situation seems to be that the prefix has been generalized to all the forms or none of the forms in the languages that have lost the prefixes, and rather randomly at that.

More examples can be found between the branches, and the Dagurib family itself is particularly rich with these, and especially with traces in those languages that only more recently have lost the prefixes as a grammatical feature.

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