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Lexico-Phonological Comparative Analysis of Selected Dialects of the Meru-Tharaka Group


Fridah Kanana Erastus

This study is an investigation into the comparative phonology and lexicon of six barely-known Bantu varieties spoken in Kenya. These varieties (Imenti, Igoji, Tharaka, Mwimbi, Muthambi and Chuka) belong to the so-called Meru group. The study develops a new classification of these six dialects. Therefore, a dialectological approach is used, which includes the analysis of wordlists and lists of short phrases elicited in the field. From the data, isoglosses and similarities concerning morpho-phonological processes are drawn. The results show in which respects the dialects differ from each other. Thus, the present work contributes to comparative Bantu linguistics.
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Chapter 1: Introduction – Background to the Study


Chapter 1: Introduction – Background to the Study

Various approaches have been used to classify languages, among them genealogical, areal, historical and typological. The choice of the method of classifying languages is governed by the aim of the classification and the linguistic data available. If the aim is to describe the dialectal and sociolinguistic situation obtaining in a certain area, one will give preference to linguistico-geographical criteria. This method, based on the areal distribution of languages, indicates the presence of certain underlying relations of intercommunication between the languages concerned. If the aim of classification is to describe the underlying historical connections of languages, one may give preference to phonological data that best reflects the presence or absence of genetic relationship, or stratificational relationships from common donor or proto-languages (Möhlig 1980).

The historically oriented comparison is also called Comparative Historical Linguistics. It is done to infer the historical development of languages with the aim of reconstructing the parent language (proto-language). The typological approach entails comparison of structural features of different languages with an aim of establishing any linguistic contact, or to point out and explain the differences without any particular historical considerations. A typological comparison is synchronic whereas a historical one is diachronic. Genealogical classification groups languages into families on the basis of shared features or innovations which have been retained during a process of divergence from a common ancestor. Areal classification, on the other hand, groups languages into linguistic units on the basis of shared features...

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