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Language Death in Mesmes (SIL International and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, 145) (Publications in Linguistics (Sil and University of Texas))

Language Death in Mesmes (SIL International and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics, 145) (Publications in Linguistics (Sil and University of Texas))

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  • ISBN-13: 9781556712272
  • Publisher: SIL International
  • Release Date: Dec 18, 2009
  • Edition: annotated edition
  • Pages: 156 pages
  • Dimensions: 0.36 x 9.0 x 6.0 inches


In this book, Language Death in Mesmes: a sociolinguistic and historical-comparative examination of a disappearing Ethiopian-Semitic language, the author presents an historical examination of sound change and other developments in the very-nearly extinct Gurage language known as Mesmes while also considering the linguistic and social environments in which the language has been lost. The study provides evidence for Mesmes' linguistic relatedness with the other Gurage languages and with the Peripheral West Gurage subgroup in particular. The account also considers the impact of phenomena related to language loss and the linguistic effects of contact with Hadiyya, the language to which the Mesmes people have shifted today.

The comparative work relies on previously published sources as well as unpublished fieldnotes and also provides the first fully annotated and interlinearized Mesmes text. This examination underscores that historical-comparative work may benefit from serious consideration of external, contact-related phenomena while at the same time not compromising a commitment to shared innovations as determined by the Comparative Method.

Table of Contents

List of Maps
List of Figures
List of Tables

  1. Introduction
  2. 1.1 The Gurage Cluster and Mesmes
    1.2 The Gurage language survey of 2001
    1.3 The Identification of the Lects in the Gurage Cluster
    1.4 Historical Work on the Gurage Varieties
    1.5 The Debate over the Semitic Homeland
    1.6 Previous Research on Mesmes

  3. Establishing the Socio-Historical Context
  4. 2.1 The Importance of the Social Setting
    2.2 The Gurage-Hadiyya Contact Situation
    2.3 The Recent History and Current Status of Mesmes

  5. The Implications of Language Death
  6. 3.1 The Reliability Question
    3.1.1 The Challenge of a Terminal Speaker
    3.2 An Evaluation of the Reliability of the Mesmes Data
    3.3 Linguistic Implications
    3.4 The Modes of Language Death
    3.5 The "Later Loss" Hypothesis and "Rusty Speakers"
    3.6 An Examination of the Mesmes Text in Light of the Linguistic Implications

  7. The Genetic Position of Mesmes
  8. 4.1 The Establishment of Mesmes as a Gurage Language
    4.1.1 The Ethnonym as Evidence of Guragoid Placement
    4.1.2 The Main Verb Marker Retention Attesting to a Genetic Link with Gurage
    4.1.3 Morpho-Syntactic Evidence of Guragoid Relationship
    4.1.4 Lexical Evidence of Close Relationship with PWG
    4.2 Shared Innovations Linking Mesmes with PWG
    4.2.1 Innovations in the Pronominal Paradigm
    4.2.2 Markedness Reversal and the Beginnings of an Obstruent Chain Shift
    4.2.3 An Examination of the Systematicity of Relative Chronology in the Mesmes Data
    4.2.4 Additional Links Between Mesmes and PWG

  9. Evidence of Contact-Induced Change in the Mesmes Data
  10. 5.1 The Nature of Externally-Induced Change
    5.2 Loanwords in the Mesmes Wordlist
    5.3 Paradigmatic Leveling in Mesmes
    5.4 The Mesmes Final Vocalism
    5.5 Vocalic Phenomena in Mesmes
    5.6 Possible Syntactic Change as a Result of Contact
    5.7 Cushitic Stop-Attacks in Endegeny and Mesmes

  11. Conclusion
  12. 6.1 Subgrouping Internal to PWG
    6.2 Unerscoring the Holistic Approach


A Peripheral West Gurage Wordlist Comparison with Mesmes
B Mesmes, Hadiyya and Kambaata Comparison
C The Mesmes Text
D Notes on the Analysis of the Mesmes Text
E Gurage language survey Map with Principal Towns


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