A diachronic analysis of Ndut vowel harmony

Ursula Drolc


Ndut is spoken in Senegal and belongs to the Cangin languages, a subgroup of the (West-) Atlantic languages (Sapir 1971). Unlike the other Cangin languages Noon, Laala and Saafi, Ndut, as well as closely related Pal or, exhibits apparently bidirectional vowel harmony. However, a phonological analysis suggests that there are two independent phenomena that have to be kept separate: regressive vowel assimilation, which is probably a very archaic feature of the Atlantic languages, and progressive root-controlled harmony, which may be a contact-induced innovation. In Senegal, the dominant language is Wolof, a Senegambian language that is part of a different subgroup of Atlantic languages. As Wolof is the major medium of interethnic communication, most Ndut speakers are Wolofbilingual. Consequently, contact-induced language changes are likely to appear in Ndut.

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