Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 10 00:34:43 UTC 2008

At 8:20 PM -0400 3/9/08, Mark Mandel wrote:
>On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 4:33 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>>  One I've always liked, although it involves venturing outside
>>  English, is the Swahili word for 'book', _kitabu_, a borrowing from
>>  Arabic, although I suppose the final vowel is epenthetic.  Anyway, if
>>  you ignore that, it's a good candidate for the category because the
>>  ki- has been clearly reanalyzed as the singular form of the ki-/vi-
>>  noun class (typically inhabited by inanimate objects of precisely the
>>  kind exemplified by books), with -tabu understood as the stem.  How
>>  can we tell there's been a reanalysis?  The plural form is _vitabu_
>>  'books', which is definitely not Arabic.
>Nice. But I wonder whether that -u is strictly epenthetic.  There's a form
>_kitabun_  (indefinite? 'a book'?). I don't know Arabic, so I ask those
>listies who do, how plausible it is that Swa. _kitabu_ was borrowed not just
>from _kitab_ but from _kitabun_, or from some other Ar. form with -u.
I don't know Arabic, but Swahili, which prefers (C)V syllables, does
insert epenthetic /u/ after labials (and /i/ after non-labials) to
break up clusters and avoid final consonants.


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