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Title: Phonology and Morphology of Mambay (Niger-Congo, Adamawa)
Authors: Anonby, Erik John
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Universiteit Leiden
Abstract: To the north of the Adamawa Massif and approximately eight hundred kilometres from the Gulf of Guinea, the Mambay ethnic group straddles the border of Cameroon and Chad. Members of the group, numbering about fifteen thousand, live along the Mayo Kebbi (Kebbi River) at the point where it flows south-west from Chad toward its confluence with the Benue River in Cameroon. The Mambay language belongs to the Adamawa-Ubangi family, a group which has been considered “probably the most poorly documented of all the major divisions of Niger- Congo” (Bennett 1983:23). Researchers have overlooked this language family— especially the Adamawa branch of which Mambay is a part—due to its distance from the coast, the small populations of many of its constituent groups, and their dispersal among larger, unrelated languages. Other possible reasons for this situation include the Adamawa languages’ distance from urban centres as well as the sheer number and diversity of languages in this linguistically fragmented area of west-central Africa (Bennett 1983:23, Boyd 1978:190, Samarin 1971:217). Consequently, despite Strümpell’s identification of the language as early as 1910, Mambay has long managed to elude serious investigation. Those studies in which Mambay is mentioned ( 1.2.1) are for the most part concerned with the still-unresolved genetic structure of the larger language groupings of which it is a part, and give little information on the language itself. The present research responds to this lacuna by providing an in-depth description of the Mambay language, with a focus on phonology and morphology. In the following sections of this chapter, the Mambay ethnic group is introduced within its historical context ( 1.1). This is accompanied by an overview of the Mambay language which gives attention to the current sociolinguistic situation and existing linguistic exploration, including genetic classification ( 1.2). Finally, the framework and methodology of this study are presented ( 1.3).
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