Cécile Lux: Le tetserret, langue berbère du Niger – Description phonétique, phonologique et morphologique [PDF]


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Description phonétique, phonologique et morphologique, dans une perspective comparative
BS Berber Studies Volume 38

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560 pp.
3 colour photographs, 4 sonagrams, numerous tables and charts, Appendices: 1. Carte de la région d’Akoubounou, 2. Groupes verbaux tetserret, 3. Gloses et morphèmes grammaticaux, 4. Glossaire, 5. Extraits de corpus: phrases élicitées, 6. Extraits de corpus: textes

Text language: French

Tetserret is one of the last remaining undescribed languages and is spoken in Niger by two ethnics groups only. Its sociolinguistic situation is indeed rather special, since it has survived up to now, despite the dominance of Tamacheq. The place it occupies in the Berber linguistic family is rather paradoxical: it is spoken in an area which it shares with Tamacheq, and was long considered as simply a variety of Tamacheq, and yet it has many original features that set it clearly apart from Tamacheq. Surpris­ingly, some of these features are shared with other languages, in particular with Zenaga, spoken in Mauri­tania, and thus geographically quite distant.

This grammar has a double aim, the first being to give a detailed description of this language, and the second to consider this description in relation with other, languages in order to find objective elements towards a more accurate assessment of the place of Tetserret in the Berber linguistic family, and perhaps to discover a few data-based elements concerning the history of the speakers. Three languages have been chosen for this comparative study: Zenaga, which is suspected to be genealogic­ally linked with Tetserret; Tamacheq, a language in permanent contact with Tetserret; and Tachelhit, to which Tetserret has sometimes been linked.

The phonetics, phonology and prosody, as well as the morph­ology of Tetserret, are described in as much detail as possible, always with a comparative perspective. This description has established the genealogical link between Tetserret and Zenaga, based on objective criteria. The link implies a common history for the speakers, and this contradicts all the previous historical hypoth­eses. It now appears quite likely that these two languages may be derived from a residual group once located between Niger and Mauritania. Furthermore, this study casts a doubt on the supposed unicity of the Berber linguistic family, which appears to be divided into two groups, northern and southern languages.

Finally, an analysis of previous studies on the sociolinguistics of Tetserret has provided a better understanding of the reasons why Tetserret was preserved over a fairly long period, and why the parts of the language described in this study have been preserved better than some parts of the vocabulary or of the syntax. This study shows how linguistics, history and sociolinguistic may be linked, and provides essential information on the lan­guage itself as well as on its environment.

Under these links you will find publications by the author and descriptions of further West African languages and cultures:

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