Historical Linguistics of Korandjé.

Back in 2015 I posted about Lameen Souag’s comparison of Berber and Korandjé, the language of Tabelbala, an oasis village in western Algeria; now he’s given a talk in the SOAS Linguistics Seminar Series, online here, about the odd situation of a Songhay language so far from the rest of the family, with details of its borrowings from Berber and Arabic and much else. It’s absolutely fascinating — I haven’t finished watching it yet, I have to keep stopping to read the slides carefully and think about them — and I wanted to share it here for those who don’t follow him on Facebook.


  1. Very interesting.

    One thing I learnt is, don’t free your slaves, they’ll reject you and learn the language of outsiders.

    It reminds me of a young woman of the Hlai ethnicity I knew in Hainan. She spoke Hlai, obviously, and was quite happy to learn Mandarin, the national language of her country — China. But she had no desire to learn Hainanese, the local Chinese “dialect”, to which she appeared to feel some antipathy. The Hlai are known to be traditionally closed to outsiders.

    (Hainanese, incidentally, originally appears to have been brought from further east (Fujian?) by fishermen.)

  2. Very common attitude for minorities actually.

    She was being looked down upon by local Chinese as uncultured barbarian, but then she realized that they themselves were only rural trash who can’t even speak proper Chinese.

    I bet she would assert herself by speaking better Mandarin than local Chinese.

  3. David Marjanović says

    See also: Highlands English. Apart from [eː] for FACE and [oː] for GOAT, it’s RP.

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    Rhotic, though. I think it’s more Standard Scots (as opposed to Lallans.)

    My own idiolect, though rhotic, is almost always taken for RP, except by the occasional Henry Higgins out there.

    (Not that I am a Highlander. Perish the thought.)

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Just got round to watching. Very interesting, as you’d expect. Songhay is an extraordinary group of languages.
    Korandjé is evidently a sort of anti-creole (as Lameen points out in the Q&A at the end.)

    I hereby put in an order for the reference grammar when it comes out …

  6. LH: Thanks for the link, and glad you liked it!

    David: The term “anti-creole” is new to me, but the concept seems promising in the context of Northern Songhay. Apparently most of the literature using it is in Portuguese, so it may take me a bit longer to figure out what they mean by “anti-crioulo”, but the founding article on it is online

    A propos of nothing, a few of the speakers and heritage speakers watched it – I’m hoping my section on the modern era wasn’t too controversial , but I did get a little flack afterwards for suggesting that Sidi Yahia might have spoken Zenati. (His patrilineage is Arab according to his descendant’s manuscript genealogy, but of course ancestry does not correspond straightforwardly to language at any given time). Not many people in Tabelbala seem to care much about the details of historical linguistics per se, but ancestry is a more sensitive issue.

  7. I liked it very much, and I was glad you got to finish the slides (which were great).

  8. So it looks like, for Couto, an “anti-creole” is supposed to be a language with substrate lexicon and superstrate grammar, which doesn’t exactly fit Korandje either – sounds more like Angloromani (if that were a language rather than a register). Anthony Grant calls languages like Korandje “core-periphery mixed languages”, which I’ll take, but that doesn’t seem to quite get at the historical parallels with creoles…

  9. John Cowan says

    My own idiolect, though rhotic, is almost always taken for RP, except by the occasional Henry Higgins out there.

    Fiddling with your vowels is something that anglophone dialect-switchers have to do all the time, but changing your consonants, that’s a whole nother ball of wax! (Insert Voltaire’s wisecrack about them.)

    (Not that I am a Highlander. Perish the thought.)

    Indeed. After all, there can be but one, and what if it weren’t you? All the Hattics would be quite devastated.

Speak Your Mind