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Phonology and Morphology of Mambay (Niger-Congo, Adamawa)

This dissertation provides a description of the phonology and morphology of Mambay, an Adamawa (Niger-Congo) language spoken by 15,000 people in Chad and Cameroon.

Erik Anonby
22 May 2008
Full text in Leiden University Repository

Mambay is an Adamawa (Niger-Congo) language spoken by 15,000 people in Chad and Cameroon. The study opens with historical and linguistic background. A phonological inventory of the language is then presented and distribution patterns are examined. Some striking phenomena include a profoundly phonologized labial flap and a rich vowel inventory with contrastive length, nasalization, glottalization and pharyngealization. Special consideration is given to nasality and an underlyingly two-level tone system which exhibits tonal downstep as well as pragmatic employment of intonational register shift.

In the description of the morphology, nouns are treated first, with attention dedicated to a “free vs. linked” distinction in noun forms and a series of noun prefixes unrelated to wider Niger-Congo noun class prefixes. A rich system of TAM (tense/aspect/mode) inflection is marked on both pronouns and verbs. Adverbs, adjectives and ideophones are treated together, as are the remaining minor word classes of numerals, demonstratives, and prepositions. A section on clauses and clause combinations concludes the dissertation, situating word classes within the context of syntax and discourse. Interlinearized texts rich in cultural information are selected from a variety of genres: song, legend, fable and proverb. The appendices catalogue inalienable noun possession paradigms and verb conjugations. 

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