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date: 19 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Atlantic family includes 40 to 50 languages spoken in the coastal countries of West Africa, from southern Mauritania to Liberia; the Fula language of the Fulbe people is dispersed over Sahelian Africa up to Sudan and Eritrea. The Proto-Mande (second half of the 3rd millennium bc) homeland can be hypothetically localized in the Southern Sahara; following the progressive drying up, speakers of Mande languages gradually migrated to the south, southwest, and southeast, and they created two medieval empires, Ghana and Mali, whose respective languages, Soninke and Manding, exerted considerable influence on their neighbors. Fula (Pulaar/Fulfulde) and Wolof, being languages of large polities, influenced Mande languages in the areas of their dominance. Smaller languages served as sources of substrata for the dominant languages.

In the study of Mande and Atlantic language contacts, the major interest is represented by lexical borrowings that can be subdivided into recent (2nd millennium ad) and ancient ones.

Among the recent borrowings, those from Mande to Atlantic languages are more numerous. The most visible layers are the following:

– from Soninke to Fula; these loans are quite numerous and date back mostly to the period of the mighty Wagadu/Ghana medieval polity (before the 12th to 13th centuries); the dispersion of Fulbe over West Africa took place afterward;

– from Soninke to Sereer. These loans are much scarcer; they go back to the period of coexistence of the ancestors of Soninke and Sereer in the Southern Mauritania or the lower Senegal, before the Sereers moved further to the south;

– from Mandinka to numerous Atlantic languages of the Southern Senegambia, since the end of the 1st millennium ad;

– from Maninka to Atlantic languages of Guinea (especially those of the Tenda and Jaad groups, but also to the Futa-Jallon Fula);

– from Kakabe to Pular, since the 18th century, when Kakabe (and probably other varieties of the Mokole group) served as substrata for the dominant Pular language;

– from Susu (and probably Jalonke) to Atlantic languages of the Maritime Guinea: Baga Fore, Baga Pukur (Mboteni and Binari), Nalu, Basari, but also to the Futa-Jallon Fula.

The main groups of Atlantic loans into Mande are the following:

– Fula loans in Kakabe constitute up to 30% of the vocabulary of the language (with the exception of the southeastern dialects, much less influenced by Fula);

– there are numerous Fula loans in Soninke dating back to the same period of coexistence of the ancestors of Fulbe and Soninke in Takrūr and Futa-Toro;

– much less numerous Sereer loans in Soninke, most probably dating back to the same period as Sereer > Soninke borrowings;

– borrowings from Wolof to Soninke, but also to Bambara and Mandinka, dating back mainly to the colonial or postcolonial periods;

– Mandinka words from the substrata of minor Atlantic languages of Senegambia.

Cases of chain borrowing (e.g., Soninke > Fula > Kakabe) are attested.

Ancient borrowings are often difficult to distinguish from the common Niger-Congo stock, and it is not evident, in many cases, in what direction the borrowing occurred.

In the phonology and morphosyntax, several important features of Soninke may be due to the Fula or Fula-Sereer influence: the 5-vowel (instead of 7-vowel) system, initial consonant alternation, presence of geminated consonants. There are instances of borrowing of derivational suffixes from Fula to Soninke and from Soninke to Fula. In Kakabe, massive Fula loans have resulted in borrowing of implosive consonants ɓ, ɗ, ƴ and in the emergence of geminated consonants. In the northwestern dialect of Kakabe, a suffix of passive voice has been borrowed from Fula.

Keywords: language contacts, Mande languages, Atlantic languages, Fula, Sereer, Wolof, Manding, Mandinka, Kakabe, Susu, Jalonke

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