Title of Work

The Diachronic Emergence of Retroflexion in Somali Bantu Kizigua: Internal Motivation or Contact-Induced Change?

Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

January 2015

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This paper addresses the diachronic development of a typologically unusual set of sound changes found in Somali Bantu Kizigua (SBK), an under-documented dialect of the Zigula language (Bantu, G31) from Tanzania. This dialect has also been referred to as Mushungulu or Mushunguli. The diachronic data show the emergence of three retroflex stops in SBK: a retroflex implosive, a voiced NC (homorganic nasal + consonant) cluster, and a voiceless NC cluster. What makes the SBK data remarkable is evidence for both internal and external motivation. On the one hand, the restriction of retroflex NC to inherited vocabulary and across-the-board sound changes make internal motivation seem possible. On the other hand, the history of migration from Tanzania to Somalia in the 19th Century and areal linguistics research showing retroflexion to be an areal feature in Somalia but not in Tanzania are facts that make an external explanation quite plausible. This paper will argue for a contact-induced account and show that it may actually be contact with genetically related Bantu languages historically present in Southern Somalia such as Chimwiini that may have been the most influential. Given the typological markedness of retroflexion, an analysis of its emergence in an under-documented dialect has important implications for research on sound change and phonological development.