Sally Thomason sally at
Sun Mar 7 15:39:23 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------

First, a few comments on Benji Wald's recent post on Ma'a:

   Christopher Ehret identifies at least one causative suffix in
Ma'a as of Cushitic origin; Mous cautions that Ehret's etymologies
need careful checking, but in any case it doesn't appear to be a
Bantu suffix, and Ehret says that it is -- or was, ca. 25 years
ago -- very productive.  He says the same thing about two or
three other non-Bantu suffixes in Ma'a.  People differ on the
subject of derivation vs. inflection for things like causative
affixes, and likewise for collectives like the one I mentioned
for Ma'a; in some languages they are treated as inflectional, in
others as derivational, and no doubt their behavior differs from
language to language.

   The pronominal possessive suffixes are certainly inflectional
(at least that's how such affixes are generally analyzed in languages
that have them), so indeed there is evidence of Cushitic inflection
in (earlier) Ma'a.

   Maarten Mous has suggested (p.c. 1993) the possibility that the
pre-bantuized Ma'a language originated as a mixture itself, the
language of a people coalesced from an escaped group of cattle
herders who had been (semi-?)enslaved by the Masai.  This scenario
could explain the lexical mixture in Ma'a.  But, as Mous notes, it's
hard to imagine a way in which this hypothesis could be tested, given
the total lack of social information about the Ma'a people from the
period before they arrived in the Pares.

Second, Alexis Manaster Ramer asks for references.  The most
useful source on the present linguistic & social status of Ma'a is
Maarten Mous's 1994 article "Ma'a or Mbugu", in the book Mixed
Languages, ed. by Peter Bakker & Maarten Mous, pp. 175-200
(published by IFOTT at U. Amsterdam, but see Bakker's recent
conference announcement on this list for a new distributor).
Mous's analysis of the Ma'a lexicon may not be published: he
included it in a conference paper, "The making of Ma'a", presented
at the Colloquium on Synchronic and Diachronic Sociolinguistic
Methods and Interpretations, Universitaet Bayreuth, 1993.

   The most extensive published Ma'a lexical material is (as far
as I know) in Christopher Ehret's big 1980 book The Historical
Reconstruction of Southern Cushitic Phonology and Vocabulary
(Koelner Beitraege zur Afrikanistik, 5; Berlin: Dietrich Reimer).
As reviewers cautioned, the etymologies and reconstructions in
Ehret's book need to be handled with care, but there is a lot of
Ma'a lexical data in the book, and many of the proposed etymologies
survive scrutiny.

   Morris Goodman was, I think, the first person who brought this
interesting case to the attention of general linguists, in his 1971
article "The strange case of Mbugu", in Dell Hymes, ed., Pidginization
and creolization of languages, pp. 243-54 (Cambrige Univ. Press).

   There are a number of other sources, including all the older
materials from the 1960s and earlier.  Bibliographies can be found
in my two articles on the subject: "Genetic relationship and the case
of Ma'a (Mbugu)" (Studies in African Linguistics 14.195-231, 1983); and
"Ma'a (Mbugu)", in S. G. Thomason, ed., Contact languages: a wider
perspective (Benjamins, 1997).  I've also discussed the genesis of
Ma'a in a case study in Thomason & Kaufman, Language contact, creolization,
and genetic linguistics (U. Calif. Press, 1988) -- where most of the
arguments I gave to Benji Wald  to support the claim of grammatical
borrowing appear -- and in an article called "On reconstructing
past contact situations", in Jane H. Hill et al., eds., The life of
language: Papers in linguistics in honor of William Bright (Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter, 1997).

   -- Sally Thomason

P.S.  I don't think there's general agreement any more that Sandawe
      and Hadza belong to the Khoisan family.  Bonny Sands' recent
      UCLA dissertation failed to find solid support for the
      hypothesis.  (For that matter, there seems to be considerable
      doubt among Khoisan specialists that even the southern members
      of the proposed family are related to each other.)

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